Tag Archives: millenials

Everything’s going to be all right.

I knew it was coming for weeks. I was nervous. And anxious. And scared and excited and every other emotion one goes through when a life changing event approaches. But this last day – the day before I left Pittsburgh, my home for the past five years – this day was the most emotional of them all.

I’d been getting my things packed up for weeks. Silverware one day, TV stand the next. I took my desk apart, then my shelves, then my bed. I took my wall hangings down and folded them up. Slowly my apartment was becoming empty.

My parents came a week earlier and took everything that I wouldn’t need for my last few days. That’s when the goodbyes started. “You’ll have to come visit!” I’d say to my friends. “I’ll see you soon, I’m sure.” “Not goodbye, just until next time.” “I’ll be back soon.” I didn’t want to be sad because I didn’t want my friends to be sad. Happy goodbyes are much easier than tearful ones.

On the morning of the day before the day I left, I was strangely proud of how well I was handling this enormously bittersweet situation. I’d had fleeting moments of sadness throughout the week, but kept it together even when saying goodbye to my best friends. Alone in my apartment, I turned on some music and started packing my clothing – all that was left in my now empty room. I started thinking about all the things I’d done over the past five years. The friends I made, the girlfriend I fell in love with, the laughs, the fights, the memories, and everything in between. The emotions that I’d been trying to hide for weeks welled up inside my chest.

Then I sat down on the floor cried like a baby.

Change is hard. It’s an inevitable part of life. It takes us out of our comfort zone and throws us into something new. We’re forced to thrive. Sometimes change is welcome, but that doesn’t make it any less hard. We try to be strong, to power through it like it’s no big deal. But the next thing you know you’re alone and sobbing on the floor of your empty bedroom.

For me, change took the form of moving from the city that’s become my second home. Change was moving from my friends, girlfriend, and the comforts of the place that helped shape me into who I am. But change can take any form. From the death of a loved one to the birth of a child, from a wedding to a divorce, change comes in many shapes and sizes. It evokes emotions we never knew we had. It makes us feel confused, lost, anxious, or lonely. Most of all, it can feel impossible to get through.

Sometimes change is so hard that fate steps in to help you get through it.

I woke up in the morning with a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. Thirty minutes left before departure. I had to say my final, and hardest, goodbye. My girlfriend of two and a half years. Tears were shed. Neither wanted to be the one to turn and leave first. Heart-wrenchingly, we parted ways. I watched her drive down the street, out of sight. There was nothing left to do now except get into my car and drive away.

With tears drying on my face I pulled into a gas station. I stepped out of my car and instinctively hit the lock button on my door as I closed it. Then, through the window, I saw my keys sitting on the seat. Great, of all days.

I asked the gas station attendant to use his phone as mine was locked in my car. I managed to call AAA. “It’ll be about an hour until someone can get there.” Wonderful. With nothing on me but my wallet, I headed to my car to wait. It only took a few minutes for the attendant to come out of the concrete box that he works in to talk to me. He was short, mid to late 30s, and had a thick foreign accent that I couldn’t place.

After some small talk, I asked him where he’s from.

“Bhutan.”

“Where?”

“Bhutan. It’s a country in Asia, near Nepal.”

I pictured the map and placed Nepal. I then pretended I know where Bhutan is in relation to that. “Oh, I’ve heard of that. What brought you to the US?”

“Well, it’s a long story.”

I had nothing else to do, so I asked him to explain. Fifteen minutes later, the nameless Exxon attendant told me a story I couldn’t make up if I tried.

He was born in Bhutan, but his family is originally from Nepal. As he was growing up, he was learning Dzongkha (the official language of Bhutan) as well as Nepali and English. The Bhutanese government, however, looked down upon Bhutanese citizens of Nepali descent and refused to allow them to learn any languages except Dzongkha. They forced the teachings of other languages to stop and burned all of my new friend’s English and Nepali books.

As time went on, the Bhutanese government’s conflict with those of Nepali descent escalated. The military began harassing and arresting it’s citizens, eventually forcing them out of the country. When the attendant was 7 years old, he and his family took refuge in Nepal.

They lived in a refugee camp with tens of thousands of other refugees. He, his mother, father, twin brother and older brother lived in a hut made of bamboo siding and plastic roofing no bigger than the cement building where he worked now. The next hut was just several feet away. He only had access to what was available in the refugee camp, which wasn’t much.

And he lived there for 17 years.

In 2008, he and his family came to America. After living in Florida for two years, they moved to Pittsburgh. He works at the gas station where I was stranded as well as the Omni downtown. Some days he’ll work both jobs for 14 hours or more. In time, he plans to move back to Nepal so he can buy land and live out his days.

The AAA truck came, unlocked my car, and drove off. I shook my new friend’s hand and said goodbye. This goodbye, however, wasn’t a sad one.

Now, as I sit on the roof of my apartment in Brooklyn, watching the sunset across the river over Lower Manhattan, I realize that the nameless Bhutanese man’s story was exactly what I needed to hear. The struggles he went through and the strength he had in order to keep himself together gave me perspective on my situation. The change that I was going through was hard, but it could be worse.

The man’s story made me realize that I was going to be OK. The change I was going through paled in comparison to the changes he had to deal with throughout his life. If he’s made it through his struggles, I could easily make it through mine.

No matter the changes you’re facing, you’re going to be fine, too. Life throws us challenges all the time, and change can be one of the hardest. It’s easy to stay comfortable, but without change, we don’t grow. It’s hard to decide to make a change, and even harder to accept it. But when change comes your way, no matter how tough it seems, keep your head up. Everything’s going to be all right.

If you’re ever in Pittsburgh, stop at the Exxon at the intersection of Penn and Braddock and give my nameless friend the message that I never got to give him myself:

Tell him I say thank you.

Your coworkers are not your friends (unless they are).

I woke up late and realized that I didn’t have a gift. Today was the company Christmas party and we were doing a White Elephant gift exchange. From what I understood, it means that everyone brings in something they have around the house that they don’t want and we exchange with each other at random.

As I rushed to get out the door I grabbed the only thing in my house that I really didn’t want. Plus, I thought to myself, this gift is going to be hilarious.

I barely made it to the party on time. My six coworkers and I piled food onto our plates and discussed Christmas vacation plans. After eating and chatting for a while, it was gift-giving time. We all grabbed a random gift and sat back down. The woman a few seats away grabbed my soon-to-be-hilarious present.

“That one’s from me. You’re gonna love it” I said with a hint of sarcasm.

“Oh weird, you grabbed mine too.” I examined the bag as if I could tell what was in it by its weight and ribbon on top.

“Nice! We should have just exchanged gifts when we got here – ha!” She feigned a smile at my sad attempt of a joke. Dejected, I turned to the first gift opener.

He tore the paper off his rectangular gift to reveal a DVD of I Am Legend.

“Oh sweet!” he said.

That’s way better than my gift.

“That’s from me!” announced another coworker.

“Thanks! Well I guess you should open yours now,” responded the newest owner of I Am Legend.

The next coworker reached into his bag. He pulled out a bottle opener and two beers. “Thanks!”

Hmm, that’s not too bad either.

I started to get nervous about my gift. The presents that my coworkers were opening all seemed pretty good. At least mine will make them laugh…

The opening continued – one person got three candles. Another got a digital picture frame and batteries. Oh shit, this isn’t a gag gift exchange. People brought real things. It was my turn to open my gift. I reached in my bag to find a set of three bookmarks and a cherry almond chocolate bar.

“Thanks. Um, I guess it’s your turn,” I said to the holder of my gift. She was the only one left.

This is not going to end well. I already felt like an asshole and she hadn’t even opened it.

If there’s one thing I learned quickly from being in the real world it’s that your coworkers are not your friends. I don’t mean that in the sense that they’re your enemies – I get along fine with my coworkers and like to think we enjoy each other’s company – but that your relationship with your coworkers is not equivalent to your relationship with your friends.

Sure, you ask them about their plans for the weekend. You help them out when they have a problem. But there’s a difference between being friends and being work friends. Being work friends means holding the door when you see a coworker approaching. It means saying hello when you get to work and goodbye when you leave.

Being friends, however, means going out together on Friday night. Being friends means texting each other about Game of Thrones and what you just ate.

There’s a boundary between being work friends and being friends that is hard to define but easily overstepped. “One time we laughed really hard together watching a video on YouTube, but he still sends me really formal emails.” This area between being work friends and friends – friendship purgatory – can cause a lot of stress. Nothing is worse than overstepping that boundary and thinking it’s OK while your work friend files a complaint to HR.

You see, you and your friends have a very specific sense of humor – one that 98% of people are completely unable to translate. Your friends will complain with you about why grapes and grape flavored things taste completely different while work friends will stare at you and go back to their desk.

Your coworkers are not on the inside of you and your friend’s slightly racist joke. They will not find it funny.

Your coworkers do not want to hear about how you face planted on Saturday night but managed to hold on to your bacon wrapped chili dog. They will not congratulate you. They will call you a drunk.

Your coworkers will not laugh when they find out you’re the one that created a “Missed Connections” post on Craigslist in their name. They will never trust you again.

And, although we all know it’s hilarious, your work friends will not think it’s funny that you tapped the top of their open bottle and had beer erupt on their suit and tie at Ethel’s retirement party.

While these things are learned with time, one more thing also becomes apparent. Sometimes you find someone in that special 2%. The person who laughs in your face when you trip over nothing or applauses when you accidentally call your boss “Mom”. Inevitably, a work friend will turn into a friend. At which point it is perfectly appropriate to do the above mentioned actions at your own risk.

Until then, though, don’t tell them about how you went skinny-dipping in that fountain at 3AM on Friday night.

“Um, you’re not going to like my gift at all.”

“I’m sure it’s not that bad,” she responded.

“No really, it’s honestly the worst gift I’ve ever given anyone. Ever.” I wanted to grab it out of her hands and run out of the room before anyone could see it.

“Stop that, I’m sure it’s fine.” She started taking the tissue paper out of the bag. I clenched my teeth and held my breath as she tilted the bag towards her face.

“Be careful,” I warned.

“What?”

“Just be careful. You’ll understand.”

She reached down in and pulled out my gift.

“…what is it?” She asked.

“It’s a dead cactus.” Three of the longest seconds of my life passed by.

“…thanks.” A few coworkers forced a laugh.

“I’m so sorry.” This is awful. My friends would have thought it was funny.

“No… it’s ok… maybe I can revive it.” There’s no way she could revive it.

“Yea, maybe,” I responded. A few more seconds went by without a word.

“Thanks for the bookmarks.”

Awkward Moments

I went straight to the gym after work so that I could beat the evening rush. The locker room greeted me with its familiar smell – stale body odor combined with every Old Spice deodorant scent. I darted my way to an open space while averting my eyes from the same old men that consistently walk around naked.

After changing, I grabbed my iPod and headed for the door. Then I realized I had to poop. This wasn’t my first time doing so at the gym, but it would certainly be my most memorable.

I always use the handicapped stall because it’s the roomiest. And there’s a good amount of irony in the fact that there’s a handicapped stall at the gym. I lock the door behind me and put my headphones in. Like any sanitary person, I cover the seat in toilet paper to protect my butt from the unknown. The roll of toilet paper is sitting on top of the holder, which I find annoying. How hard is it to put it in the little box?

I sit down and hear the sound of footsteps. Anxiety wells up as I realize they’re heading my way, getting louder and louder. I picture the outsider busting in and seeing me with my pants around my ankles. The steps get closer and my breath quickens. Suddenly a hand grabs the top of the door and another pushes.

BOOM.

The lock catches and the stall stealer realizes it’s occupied. He backs away, enters the stall beside me, and sits down. I let out a sigh of relief and pick a song on my iPod.

Suddenly – thud.

I look up to see his of toilet paper on the ground, rolling into my stall, out of my reach.

Life brings us many types of special moments. Some are great, some are bad. Some make you jump for joy, some make you punch a wall. Some make you laugh until you cry, and some make you cry until you laugh. The best moments, though, are the ones that make you clench your teeth together, suck in air, and say “ahhhhhhhh shit.”

Life’s awkward moments.

We’ve all been there. Answering “Good” after being asked “What’s up?” Apologizing to someone in a store for bumping into them and then realizing it’s a mannequin.  It’s inevitable. Some people run from these situations, head down, embarrassed.

I embrace them.

The concept of awkward becomes apparent when we think back on everything that happened in grades 6, 7, and 8. When we enter high school, we fall into a false sense of security. Awkward moments don’t happen to us anymore, and we can’t believe the way we acted in middle school.

Then we go to college and the term takes on a whole new meaning. We walk of shame home on a Sunday and run into friends that are going to church. We meet someone whose name we immediately forget and then see them every time we leave the house.

We learn to expect a certain level of awkwardness in our daily lives. We begin to act awkward ourselves. We get too comfortable around our friends and our awkward tendencies turn into our normal tendencies.

Then we graduate. We meet people who have no idea who we are but can’t turn off our awkward characteristics because we’ve forgotten how. Now every interaction is awkward.

  • You wave to someone who is waving to someone else behind you.
  • You’re meeting someone important for the first time and you both reach out to shake hands. You miss – they shake your fingers.
  • You go in for the hug when saying goodbye to a new friend. They don’t.
  • Elevators.
  • The moment you realize the joke you’re telling isn’t going to be funny.
  • You’re hand grazes a stranger’s butt in a crowded space.
  • You and someone else do the weird dance that happens when you’re trying to get out of each other’s way.
  • You hit your shin on anything.
  • You make eye contact with an approaching acquaintance way too early and now have to force conversation until you pass each other.
  • You go in for the handshake while the other guy goes in for what I like to call the “bro shake” and it becomes a convoluted hand-bro shake hybrid where no one looks cool.

All of us suffer through these moments. However, next time you’re in an awkward situation and you’re feeling like an idiot, don’t fret. You’re not alone. We’ve all made these mistakes and will continue to until we’re too old to care. The sooner you learn to embrace them, to more hilarious your life will be.

“No no no no no,” is all I could think. “Crap. What do I do? I can’t reach that. Do I pretend I’m not here? Do I pretend I didn’t see it? Of course I saw it, how could I miss it? Do I lift my feet up so he thinks no one is in the stall? He tried to get in though. Crap crap crap.”

Frozen in terror, I stare at his feet in the stall next to me. He leans forward.

“Ok, he’s gonna grab it and that’s it.”

He reaches under the wall and into my stall. He grabs the trail of toilet paper left behind and slowly tugs it to bring it back to him.

But his tugging is too aggressive. The toilet paper rolls even farther away from both his reach and mine. I regret picking the roomy stall.

He realizes what’s happening and stops pulling. Still frozen and speechless, I watch as he stands up, pulls up his pants, and exits the stall.

“Thank God, he’s changing stalls.” I let out a sign of relief and begin to get the feeling back in my fingertips.

Suddenly he drops to the bathroom floor and his entire arm shoots into my stall. He’s extending with everything he’s got. Finally, I speak up.

“Oh crap uh sorry,” is all I can get out before he interrupts with “No problem!” Even though I know I can’t reach the roll, I lean forward as if that will help him find it and make me a better person for trying. Finally his flailing arm finds it and snatches it out of my stall. He stands up, toilet paper in hand, and returns to his stall to finish his business.

I pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.

Strategic Snacking

My painful walk into the office was soothed by the fact that it was Friday, which meant one thing – free food. Every Friday since I’d been working in this office – which at this point is four total Fridays – there was a delectable spread of breakfast food in the kitchen. Strawberries, bananas, yogurt, those mini boxes of cereal that have seven Cheerios in them, bagels, and more cream cheese spreads than your taste buds can fathom greeted me every morning on the last day of the week.

The company I’m working for at this point doesn’t own the office – it simply rents cubicles from another company that has a few to spare. You could call it a shared office, but really it was 42 of them and four of us. We barely interacted with the employees of the other company.

After walking in and setting my things down, I gleefully stride to the kitchen to check out my choices this morning. “I could get a bagel with hazelnut cream cheese, but a banana might be a little healthier,” I think to myself. “Or 17 mini boxes of Cheerios.”

I arrive at the spread and step back to check out my options. Bagel it is. I scan the cream cheeses when suddenly from behind me I hear a woman’s voice.

“Honey!”

“Not honey. That wouldn’t go well with my bagel,” I think. I focus again on the topping options.

“Hey! Excuse me!”

I turn around to realize that the woman – no, the girl – is speaking to me.

“That’s not for you.”

I blankly stare at her.

“This food isn’t for you guys. It’s ok to have the coffee and tea, but you can’t have the food.”

Amidst my despair, shock, and rejection, I mutter a quick-witted in-your-face-rebuttal.

“Oh. Ok.”

I walk back to my cubicle dejected and fuming.

“Did she just call me honey? We have never spoken, not once, ever, so her salutation of choice was honey?”

Little did I know the severity of my actions on this fateful Friday morning. Office snacks are sacred. Catholics have the Pope, Panem has Katniss Everdeen, and office employees have their snacks. If a granola bar is so much as stared at for too long by an outsider, even the most docile paper pusher turns into a crazy one-eyed hyenas who will claw at your face to protect their Nature Valley Crunchy Oats ‘N Honey.

Food at corporate lunches, office parties, and company outings is OK – it’s for everyone. But snacks are a different breed. They’re special and not to be taken lightly. Eat a yogurt that isn’t for you and you can be sure to hear about it. “That’s the yogurt guy,” they’ll whisper as you walk to the bathroom. Suddenly you can’t be trusted. Not just with food, but other things too. Cubicle neighbors are locking their drawers when they leave. Women are clutching onto their purses when you pass them in the hall. You find that you haven’t been alone in a room with just one other person since the incident. Your car gets egged in the parking lot and next you thing you know you’re getting demoted to the night shift janitor so that the only snacks you can steal are the gross leftover rice cakes that no one wanted during the day.

All because of an Oikos you mistook to be yours.

Well friends, I don’t want any of you to become a night shift janitor (unless, of course, that’s what you’re aspiring to do, in which case there are easier ways to get the job than being demoted). So I’m providing you with some snack time strategies that, if followed, will allow you to optimize your snack intake and minimize your snack stealing reputation.

1. Only eat a snack if you’re 100% sure you’re allowed to eat it. Trust me on this one. Never assume you’re allowed to eat that red velvet Magnolia cupcake that’s lying out unless you want a stranger to call you “honey”.

2. One serving, no matter how hungry you are. I get it, you’re poor. I am too. College has taught us that free food quickly becomes a no food. If you get there too late you’re stuck with the organic gluten-free pita chips. As much as you want to devour everything in sight, don’t. Fill a plate and go back to your desk. If you’re still hungry, wait until the first crowd clears and go back. The new crowd will think this is your first serving. Plus you can skip the gross stuff.

  • Exception: If no one is in sight, devour said food. When someone shows up and mentions how quickly the food went, politely agree. “I know, this place is full of vultures.” Then take a plate with you and act like it’s your first.

3. Food jars are OK if you’re careful. There’s always someone in the office that has a jar of M&Ms on his or her desk. If the food is there, you can eat it. But heed caution – no one likes the guy who comes in and empties the jar. One handful, fatty, that’s it.

  • Exception: The perfect storm. If said person has left for the day, didn’t lock his or her office, and no one can see inside, go crazy. It’s their fault for leaving delicious treats out in the open (sort of). Just be sure not to leave any trace of yourself, you stealthy bastard.

4. Keep your prized snacks hidden and your bad snacks out. If there’s a snack you really love and don’t want anyone else to have, hide it immediately. Put it in your drawers so others don’t know it’s even an option. However, if you have a snack you’re trying to get rid of – say, Charleston Chews – publicize it like crazy. Put a big open bowl full of it on your desk. Offer it to those passing by. If you’re really looking to spice things up, put it on someone else’s desk when they’re not around.

  • Note: Remember where you put these. You don’t want to sit at a desk you sabotaged and then have to gag down a stale Charleston Chew.

If you follow these four simple guidelines, you’ll be snacking like a pro in no time. There will be days when you won’t even have to bring in lunch because you’ve been snacking strategically since 10am.

Those are the best days.

At the end of the day, my boss pulls the four of us into a conference room for a quick meeting.

“There’s been a few complaints about us lately,” he begins. “First and foremost, someone’s been eating their food. I don’t want to know who–“

“It was me,” I interrupt, annoyed. “I ate their food. I’ve been eating their food. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize it was such a big deal.”

“It turns out they buy the food on their own dime. The company doesn’t pay for it.”

“I didn’t know that. If I had known that I wouldn’t have done it. Or I at least would have said ‘thank you’ or something.”

When the meeting ends it’s time for me to leave for the day. Still frustrated, I pack up my things and head for the door.

On my way out, I pass the kitchen. I glance in and see that there’s some food left. Without a moment’s hesitation, I slip in and snag a leftover bagel.

“Thanks, honey.”

Let’s struggle together.

Twenty-two. An age that many people reflect on in fondness. I’m constantly being told that this is the best time of my life. “You’ve got so much ahead of you!” the optimistic ones say. “Stay young while you can!” the older ones say. “You’ll never get these years back!” the depressed ones with seemingly a lot of regrets say.

The post-college, pre-marriage years are a time in our lives when we map out our future. We choose a route for our careers. We forge our friendships. We create and destroy relationships. We go to bars with friends. We have no wrinkles on our faces or arthritis in our joints. We don’t have a single varicose vein. We make out with each other. We jump high and run fast. We think quickly. We see traveling as an opportunity rather than a hassle. We know how to text discreetly and we don’t have to increase the size of the words on our iPhones to read messages without squinting, Mom.

These are the things our elders are talking about when they tell us to hold on to our youth. Our lack of responsibility. Our health. Our free spirits. Our normal looking legs.

Well here’s to you, elders. Thank you for raising us. Thank you for caring for us. Thank you for loving us. We respect your opinions and advice and truly are forever indebted to you. But please, and I mean this in nicest way possible, shut your mouths.

Modern 20-somethings have so many obstacles stacked against us that we’ve become stress bombs ready to explode before we can even walk across the stage to accept our college degrees. We can barely get a job, and when we do, we work 50 hours a week for $10 an hour. On the weekends, we serve at restaurants where we can’t even afford to eat.

We owe tens of thousands of dollars to that Sallie Mae (that bitch). We constantly say goodbye to our friends because they have to move back in with their parents. We watch our older peers succeed while we twiddle our thumbs and complain about the economy.

But that’s not what this is about. This is about something much more terrifying than the prospect of interning until we’re 29. There is one facet of being a 20-something millenial that is harder than student loans, jobs, goodbyes, and life choices combined.

Learning how to be an adult.

Undoubtedly, this is the most overlooked adjustment that 20-somethings have to make. Everyday we confront challenging questions and situations that cease our progress in becoming an adult. For example:

“How old is too old to be drinking boxed wine straight from the spigot?”

“Will I ever learn how much dry pasta is appropriate to dump in the pot if I want to eat just one serving of cooked pasta?”

“What the hell is business casual?”

I will not only be answering questions like this, but also tackling hard-hitting issues and providing advice. From sensitive issues like making the adjustment to wearing clothes around the house after an extended period of time living alone to time management skills like getting your laundry done in less than 13 hours. Plus I’ll provide health and career advice like how to take a nap in the workplace without your coworkers finding out.

We’re struggling through our 20s trying to figure out what we want from life and where we belong in the world while simultaneously being burdened with learning how (and more importantly, how not) to become an adult.

Let’s struggle together.