11 July, 2012

Home, Sweet Homeless

My junior year of college, I moved off campus with three of my friends, into an ugly little white ranch house with garishly painted teal doors and windows. The Bronze, which took its name from a bar on one of our favorite tv shows, became our home over the course of the next two years. We spent many drunken nights at the bar in the walk-in basement, and plenty of other [slightly less] drunken evenings dressed in semi-formal attire upstairs in the living room with our friends. The beat up television showed us many a Ryan Gosling film, and the wall by the kitchen soon became home to our handmade 'Theme of the Week' posters.

In the days following graduation, my roommates left The Bronze to go back home with their parents and prepare for their own, much more exciting adventures in Grownupland. I, however, remained in the house to live out the remainder of the lease by myself, with only Dennis the Ghost and Steve the Mouse for company. (For further details about said companions, see my video blog entry.)

The lease ended on June 30th, and late that night, I moved in with a friend from work, Lizzy. Lizzy lives in an apartment complex that also houses roughly 30% of the staff from the restaurant where I work. It's been an interesting adjustment, especially for someone who usually prefers to keep her work and personal lives pretty separate.

I'm sleeping on an air mattress in Lizzy's living room, which is admittedly very comfortable, except for when her two kittens, Bella and Sadie, use it as a trampoline when I'm trying to sleep. Lizzy's Internet only works with an Ethernet cable, which does not bode well for my Tumblr and Netflix addictions.

Lizzy is doing everything she can to make me feel at home here, and for that I am extremely grateful. When she talks about me to other people she refers to me as her roommate, and tells people at work that I live with her, with no mention of how long I will continue to do so. But I still feel like a guest here. I refer to her as "the friend I am staying with," and though I have a key and my food is in the fridge, my toiletries in their own cupboard under the bathroom sink and even a couple pieces of my furniture integrated into the house, I don't feel like this is home. Because it's not.

So amidst this interesting little vacation I have been grappling with what to do next. This coming weekend I leave Ithaca for Sprucelands Camp, a place where I spent a great chunk of my childhood. Eight weeks every summer, and weekends all through the school year. It's been a refuge for me and my entire family, really, and I owe a lot of who I am today to this place. Long story short, it's closing down this year, and so I am heading back to stay for three weeks, hoping I can get some closure and clarity during a summer that is saturated in turmoil and change and big decisions in every aspect of my life.

For a few months now, I've been trying to decide what I want to do after camp. Should I move back home with my parents? Should I try and find an apartment in Ithaca? Should I pack up and move to London, or Boston, or New York, and try and find gainful employment in publishing or journalism? I'm 22 years old, and the possibilities are essentially endless. But which to choose? I'm awful at decisions, I really am, because as a highly imaginative person I tend to look at making a single decision as rejecting every other option. I see a fork in the road and fully imagine what lies down each path, knowing full well that I can only choose one, and knowing just as well that I will always wonder about the other.

My mother and I had a conversation last weekend in which she gave me some very good advice. "Choose what will give you the least amount of regrets," she told me.

In this I am still torn, because I know that no matter what I choose I will have regrets. No choice stands out at me right now as THE RIGHT CHOICE, and so I know that whatever I choose will mean sacrifice in one way or another.

Moving home means comfort, being with my family and the dogs, around people and places I know and love. It means being able to go to my Aunt Cookie's house on weekends to watch Sabres games and eat junk food and see my cousins and their babies on a regular basis. It means snuggling with the dogs and a book in front of the fireplace during the winter, and getting my own bedroom back from my sister. It means home-cooked meals and proximity to my friends. On-premises [free!] laundry machines and having my auto technician father around whenever my car craps out on me. It means sleeping in my own bed and waking up to the dogs barking at a deer, or the garbage man, or Dave the Bunny. It means being able to sit down with my mom and talk to her about my life whenever I want, and being able to sit on the couch with my dad watching Family Guy, laughing, not at the show, but at how funny he thinks it is.

And I want this. But it also means losing some of the independence I've gained over the past four years. A very good friend of mine graduated a year ago, and upon asking her for advice, she offered me this:

"There's different sorts of expectations. And after being on your own and as independent as people like you and I are, that takes some getting used to. And if you get to the point where you DO get used to that, you're probably going to have another issue... You're out of school, you made it through an ENTIRE four years of college and then you would (as many, many do) move back home. It feels like you're going backwards."

And I worry about this. I have a lot of living left to do, a lot of dreams waiting to be fulfilled and a lot of places left to see. It's no time for me to be moving backward.

It's difficult right now for me to do what so many of my friends are doing, moving out to big cities and starting exciting new lives, because financially I'm not in a great place to do that. And I have a good job in Ithaca, albeit waiting tables, but it's decent money. And I have the barn. Stoneybrook Farm has become sort of a second home to me, one I am hesitant to leave. The people there (and the horses too!) are like family, and I feel like leaving them now would be like only reading half of a book, or watching part of a movie. So when my mother told me to choose the option that would give me the fewest regrets, I decided that my biggest regret would be leaving Stoneybrook.

But would staying in Ithaca be moving forward? As far as I can tell it's just sort of staying stagnant, which is not what I want for myself either.

It's an interesting dilemma, when every path before you looks appealing and repulsive at the very same time. A lot of opportunities and options have opened themselves to me, but at the same time each of these options presents its own gamut of obstacles and consequences.

I feel, as I type this from my friend Lizzy's living room, not just literally homeless but figuratively as well. By putting off choosing a path I feel as though I'm rejecting all of them in some way. Since none of them feels entirely right it's like I've made them all wrong in my mind.

Perhaps another coin toss, or one more round of Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Mo will help this time?

More likely, I will have to suck it up and make one of my first Real Grown Up Decisions. And soon.

-E

05 July, 2012

Advice From Seasoned Grownups

Throughout the past year I've spoken with a lot of adults who have tried to give me advice for my life as a post-graduate. Nearly everyone, from my internship coordinator to my professors to the alumni speaker at my commencement ceremony, has advised not to worry so much about getting a job.

"You'll hate your first job," they tell me. "It's not supposed to be a great one. You'll probably switch careers anyway. Besides, you're young and you have your whole life ahead of you to work in an office or settle down in a career and in your life."

Most of these adults have told me to travel, to enjoy my youth and see the world because it's a once in a lifetime opportunity and because once I settle down it will make me more passionate and more certain in my career choices than I am now. I mean, that's not saying much at all, since I'll tell anyone who will stand still long enough that I'm not sure where my life is headed, career-wise, but hey, a little more direction would certainly be nice. And I do love to travel. (Just look back at some of the earlier posts on this blog, they're from my semester abroad in London two years ago.) Sounds great, right?

Wrong.

From the second we graduate college, the vast majority of us who have not been accustomed to holding that silver spoon since birth are forced to think about our finances or, more specifically, the massive pile of debt we've somehow managed to accumulate. For me, completing the exit interviews for my federal loans was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. If I stick to the minimum payments, I'll be paying off these four years at Ithaca College well into my thirties. The personal loan I took out for my final semester at Ithaca has a sky-high interest rate that will probably have accrued several more dollars by the time I finish typing this sentence.

So when veteran grownups tell me to enjoy my youth, or not to worry about money, it always makes me laugh just a little bit. Don't worry about money? If my four years in college have taught me one thing it is that I will be worrying about money for quite awhile yet. I've been put through a system in which I paid massive amounts of monies to my school, in numbers that only increased with every passing year, only to be thrown into a job market that, well, sucks. Because believe it or not, the world apparently just isn't looking for a ton of sassy aspiring novelists at the moment.


What adults mean when they say, "Enjoy your youth," is really, "I never took full advantage of mine."

And the sad truth is that right now I can't really do it either.



22 June, 2012

Video Blog!

And as a special treat, today you get not one but TWO posts! And this one is even a video blog, made with my dodgy video editing skills.

So I present to you: Emily's Adventures in Grownupland, Chapter One: Rodents are a Girl's Best Friend.


And as always, thank you Youtube for your ever-excellent ability to choose attractive screencaps of me.

Emily's Adventures in Grownupland

It's been awhile since I've written in here. And I'm fully aware of this. Since the last time we spoke, dear readers, I have graduated from college. Now facing a multitude of decisions, such as what I want to do with the rest of my life, whether or not to move back in with my parents, and what on earth to make for dinner this evening, I have decided that this blog could become an interesting [and very therapeutic] way of dealing with my Adventures in Grownupland.

So stay tuned, folks. I don't know much about the future right now, but I do know one thing: this is going to be fun.

Emily