More Glitter, Less Darkness

If you’ve ever taken an Italian course or looked into Italian film or literature, you will most likely first be introduced to a movement called “Verismo,” which loosely translates to “truth.” It was characterized by realistic depictions of everyday life, usually described as “banal” or “naturalistic.” Later, parts of this ideology would be picked apart and applied to Neorealism to form the Golden Age of Italian cinema, in which directors chose actors that had no training and had often lived through the very tragedies they acted in. The result of years of oppression and war and poverty and desolation, these works were less banal in production than their historic counterparts. They were meant to cause pain in the viewer, because the whole country had been in misery for quite some time.

A few years ago on here, I wrote a post about something banal, like shit men do to that fails to impress women. I deleted it after receiving messages that I was “too good” for writing like that: click-bait and Cosmo-like articles were somehow beneath me. So I stopped. I went straight back to writing about heartache or loss or really sad stuff because that’s how I felt better and I had been chastised into believing that I could not do otherwise. I was studying neorealism without noticing that I was using its same techniques: an everyday girl writing about her life and her everyday struggles in order to cleanse or heal.

Now, I’m happy most of the time. My struggles with life revolve around career and futures that I’d ideally like to have wrapped up in neat little boxes and delivered at my doorstep (or, the doorstep of my new apartment far away from Zeeland where I live on my own in luxury). Some of my best writing came from heartache, which I can say without feeling egotistical because they are all pieces that mean a lot to me, despite what any reader may think.

I just don’t think I can sustain that kind of sadness anymore–and that’s a good thing! Instead of being consumed with thoughts of love and loss and the tumultuous emotional roller coaster that is college, I am looking at life with new interest in even the most mundane of tasks. I love yoga and baking and taking pictures of pretty things and thrift store shopping for furniture I can restore and nail polish and SO MUCH that would fall underneath the category of “beneath me” should I let it still apply. So I’m not. I’m letting go of what this space used to mean, because it is MEANT to evolve with me.

So now comes to transition. A blog once about life, love and loss and change will now be about all of those things, but with enough lightheartedness mixed in to maintain ALL of my interests, not just the overly-passionate ones. If you head over to instagram, you can see that I’ve already gotten started (much to the annoyance of some, I’m sure). If you comment on your thoughts or with suggestions on what you want to see more of, I’ll take them into account when planning the next years of WeStayAwake (just go to WeStayAwake through your tumblr blog or on my wordpress site at the bottom of the post). Maybe together we can make the ordinary into something more than banality. Italy moved on to the fantastical and baroque stylings of Federico Fellini– if you’ve ever seen “La Dolce Vita” then you have witnessed the reversal and rejection of neorealism in action: more glitter, less darkness. That is what we can do together here: more glitter, less darkness. More glitter, less darkness.

 

The Career Diaries, Part 1: Facing the Questions

My life is all about questions right now. Where do I want to live? What do I want to do? Who do I want to do it with? Underlying all of these questions is the same general premise: who am I?

I always thought that I was going to go to law school. I entertained a few separate ideas along the way: there was a time on this blog that I documented my hopes of becoming a foreign correspondent or a politician. I always returned to the original thought, the idea that 9-year-old Erin dreamed up for her grown up years.

Unsurprisingly, 9-year-old Erin didn’t understand the economy. She was blissfully unaware of the unemployment rate and the concept of debt and she didn’t yet have to consider all of these things before answering the questions, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Since I am old enough presently, I also understand the job prospects for recent graduates of law school and how dismal they are in comparison to how big a commitment law school is. The risk is massive, the rewards seemingly bleak. 9-year-old Erin might just have to be disappointed.

Now that I’m tabling law school, I have been forced to consider careers beyond legal practices. For the first time since I was 9 years old, I can dream of being an astronaut again– or a doctor or a trapeze artist or a full-time mommy. Sadly, I’m already, at an hour-and-a-half in distance, too far away from my boyfriend and the moon is a lot further, I’m out of practice in sciences, I have very little grace and I can’t deal with kids under age 3.  Grace or not, I have no idea what I’m supposed to be anymore, and it is scaring the hell out of me.

Some days, I think that I want to keep trying to save the world. I worked for the past year in prison reform, and if there’s any cause worthy enough for a life’s dedication, that is it. Others, I am burnt out and too sad to try and save the world’s prisoners. On those days, I think of my childhood obsession of glossy magazines and wonder if I should be getting back to writing, maybe professionally, or editing or talking to people about haircare products that I endorse fully (attention: Living Proof is worth the coin, because a) stop washing your hair so much that you go through a bottle of shampoo once a month and b) I now have Jennifer Aniston-quality hair).

I have no answers to any of my questions. Worse yet (maybe), I have no leads in any of my job searching. It’s been a month, and I am still working as a hostess in a hotel/restaurant. 9-year-old Erin definitely did not want to grow up to seat people for a living. But this time is going to be constructive even if it kills me, and I am going to answer the missing pieces as best I can while I wait. Tonight’s practice will be a long list of my best habits, my worst habits, the things that make me tick and the ones that put me to sleep. I am going to list my favorite parts of working for the past four years, my favorite parts of learning, and then make them into a job description (much like April Ludgate of Parks and Recreation in its current season). Using the map from Mark Manson on the “7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose,” I’m creating a direction that feels better and more focused than crying into my tea for the seventh time in a month because I don’t know what to do with my life. I’m on a journey, and I’m taking step one. Ready, set….

 

go.

 

 

Guest Post: Samantha Fischer

What You’ll Learn About College: Reflections and Advice from Seven Months of Post-Grad Life

This was written by my former roommate and current bestie from my Umich days. She’s a Bush-era-lovin’, Venture-Capital-Ass-Kickin’ business woman and future entrepreneur, and is getting her toes wet in the blogging world on samanthafischer.com.

Her first post (of, I hope, many) ischock-full of great advice on leaving school and loving it while you’re there, and comes highly recommended for wisdom that she is, in my opinion, highly qualified to give.

 

This is a Public Service Announcement. 

If you’ve read any of my recent posts, you will already be aware that I am currently unemployed. You can probably guess that I have thousands of dollars of student debt to pay off, an empty bank account and have run out of the 6-month grace period all of us students are given that should probably be called “Heaven,” or “Nirvana” or whatever your version of “Greatest Good” is because that’s truly what those 6 months feels like.

When I hit October I suddenly had a bill to pay that’s so much more than I ever thought it would be when I was starting out as a wide-eyed freshman doling out $350 for brand new textbooks. Collection agencies are sending emails and mailing letters to my parents and asking for the money I definitely do not have to pay for an education that hasn’t gotten me, quite frankly, shit yet. Sound familiar?

Here’s what you do. First, call up the collection agency. Stop putting it off. They will continue to send you scary letters and emails and your parents will keep asking you about paying your bills and all the while your interest will be climbing and you will be defaulting on payments and your credit score will turn to dust. Dust that will haunt you for the rest of your life. So pick up the phone, call the agency, and tell them the truth.

For me, that meant admitting that I was unemployed. After that, all I needed to do was fill out a simple form online indicating that I was, in fact, not working, but that I was searching actively for a job. And just like that, the payments went away for another 6 months.Even if you have a job but you just aren’t making enough money yet to pay off the ridiculously high rates they expect from you, call them up and tell them that. Exactly that. They can lower your monthly payments without killing your credit score and jacking up your interest every month. You’re welcome.

Next: stop fucking spending money you don’t have. I am TERRIBLE at this. I really like leather boots and Essie nail polish and candles and 5 for $25 deals at Victoria’s Secret and I reason everything away by telling myself that $9 nail polish is SO MUCH LESS than a $40 manicure but THIS IS FAULTY REASONING. BECAUSE IT’S NINE FUCKING DOLLARS FOR A BOTTLE OF NAIL PAINT THAT STILL CHIPS. So I had to stop. I would have cut up my credit card but that’s not entirely reasonable so instead I shoved it to the bottom of my wallet and resolved to stop spending the little money I have left.

So far, I’ve been doing well. I spent some of my savings on presents this Christmas and when I see Sean on the weekends I’ll sometimes splurge on dinner (although we usually end up making something for ourselves anyway. Let me pat myself on the back for that). I’m also fortunate enough to have my parents to fall back on while I figure out my next step, and they’ve been very, very generous to me. I could not have picked myself up if not for them being there to catch me.

So that’s step 3: humble yourself. Lean on people when you need it. I am one of many people I know who are living with their parents while they either look for work or commute to a job. Some have made it to secondary schooling, others to jobs in big cities with new apartments and friends but if it takes some of us longer to figure that out, it’s okay. We’ll get there soon, you know? And until then, I’m soaking up family time and self-discovery and lots and lots of Netflix and books and baking and a crash-course in interior design and reupholstery that I would have absolutely no time for if I had moved directly into a new life post-grad.

Lastly, even if your support system has moved out and on to a new life, remember to keep in touch with them. Over the course of writing this, I have managed to contact nearly everyone who has been lifting me up while I struggle with this new space I have in my life plan (even if it was just a ploy to get silly selfies from them), and I can’t stop smiling. Keep that support tight: through text, FaceTime (a personal favorite), email, or even plain old letter writing. Snapchat works too! Facebook poke that friend of yours you’ve been meaning to say hi to– do something to remind yourself and them that there is a special bond between the two of you that means something. When you have no money and you’re living in your childhood bedroom and your weekends are filled with Grey’s Anatomy marathons, the happiness you get from a simple text from an old friend is the very thing that can make all those bad things go away.

So there you have it. I might not be in any position right now to give advice, but I’m taking my own and I’m finally on a path to…something. The Next Thing. And that feels better than everything has in a very long time.

P.S. If you’re reading this and want to hire me, I’m obviously available. My resume has been polished many times over by this point, and I’d be happy to send it to you. Seriously. Hire me.

P.P.S. One of the biggest reasons I was able to get my ass into action was the advice I got from a blog by Chelsea Fagan of Thought Catalog fame called “The Financial Diet.” It’s chock-full of confessions from #brokeass girls like me who had no clue how to deal with money and are figuring it out, ideas on how to save money on food and beauty supplies and really good writing with really great advice. Go look at it and come out a better person with a better bank account!

 

a retrospective for the new year (and a lesson in failure)

I have not written because I did not want to fess up. Patience may be a virtue, but pride is one stronger and I hold my ego tighter than I do my words.

I have been counseled to give that up. If personal failure requires a healing process, this is the next step of my journey: making amends, coming clean, public acceptance of my flaws.

So here: I won’t be going to law school next year. Even seeing that  statement now, weeks after my decision to defer for another year, makes me flush red. I have heard lately in refrain that shame is a powerful motivator— a statement that rings true for my life right now. I almost let that shame come between me and my mental health, between me and my future. This is (one of) the final steps of learning to let it go. It’s the very end of the year. It’s time.

I believe strongly in fate; in a destiny that keeps us moving toward moments that we’re meant to find the next little piece of ourselves in some pre-determined existence. It’s the only reason I can think of for meeting my best friend by pure magic, the only way I can deal with personal failures before learning to move on ahead. I’m not naive enough to think that fate led me to wait another year before going back to school, but I know that sometimes, things work out in the way they should. I’m breathing through it until it makes sense again.

I’m 22 years old and if I try too hard to push life to perfection right now, I’ll never get it right. Planning is good, scheduling is wise and valuable, but learning to live beyond those ideas may be what this year is all about for me. I am not my failure, life does not adhere to rigorous detailing,and options exist beyond my current reality. That, and breathing are my new mantras. In and out. In and out.

I still have my friends, my family and my intelligence. I have my passion! The force that led me to seek out law school in the first place, and another virtue that I refuse to stifle in the days between my dream and making it a reality. I have my boyfriend, who isn’t as much a decision but a concrete part of my life now— a man who’s presence I feel daily, without pressure or agenda. I hear so many people complaining about being single, talking about other people getting married is somehow more difficult than choosing a pair of socks that match. I’m not ready for marriage, but I know that my socks can take minutes longer to piece together than the time it would take to wake up and consider my relationship: it is merely a fact, a detail that requires no thought or consideration in the hazy morning hour I spend getting dressed for the day. Socks require a decision. He does not.

I still have my stress-baking and my mentors and a resume that, to be frank, kicks ass. I worked hard through school and it shows there, detailing 2-3 concurrent jobs that, despite this setback, will still be there on paper in a year when I decide to send in my applications. I have all of these things and if I don’t yet have law school, it’s going to be okay. It will be okay. I’ll learn this lesson, along with all of the others that maturing and school and graduation have taught me, and I will come out better for it.

So now, I sink back into my endless purgatory. I bounce from recruitment website to LinkedIn and back again, searching for a job that might fill my sense of purposelessness while I search for whatever comes next. I’m too full of self-discovery right now, alone for so many months in my childhood home that I’ve started to forget what independence is like. I had the time to paint my teenage-bedroom walls from bubblegum pink to gray, trying to escape the reminder that I once spent every night in that room as a little girl. Lying in bed at night, I can’t escape the feeling that it’s not any different.

This was not the year that changed me, but it was the one I muddled through to the end. Now, to find a job, live on my own again, recover mentally from a test and a process of applications to schools that led to too many breakdowns and nightmares. It marks the end of a long battle with my pride and my mind. I might not be where I wanted to be, but I would tell anyone who will listen that I won the war I went through this year anyway.

And so on to 2015, to the same goals and dreams but with a different mindset and spirit. And, for all of you, a Happy New Year and all of my wishes that you can learn to let go of your failings with me, that you can continue to dream and to hope for things that you may not have grasped yet, and for good friends and loving significant others and wonderful family that will keep you happy even when everything else isn’t as you had wanted it to be. Cheers.

easy like sunday morning

I had a great day of trail-walking and bloody mary’s and football. I said I would enjoy this time off and dammit, I am.

Here, look:

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Now I’m watching AFV and curating a list of costumes that my boyfriend might actually like.

So far, I’ve got: tooth fairy and dentist, prince and princess, or Goose and Maverick. I reallllllllly wanna DIY a massive tulle skirt, so I’m pushing toward something that involves a tiara. Anybody else have ideas? I’ve been eyeing a catwoman bodysuit that kind of  has my name on it, which might beat out all of the other contenders. Meow.

I also made Broma Bakery’s caramel apples this morning, which blew everyone’s mind. You can find her recipe here and pictures of the beauties below.

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Can you tell I’m completely obsessed with her blog?

That’s all for today. Just an update, some pictures, and a really great recipe. Enjoy.

 

saturday nights

I just took a shower so hot it scalded my skin, steam is still leaking out of the bathtub and curling at the edges of my mirror. I covered myself with shea butter, swallowed my handful of supplements and vitamins sitting next to my bed and curled up next to the computer screen: another Saturday night.

This isn’t all for lack of options. I could’ve road-tripped to East Lansing to see a friend, to Chicago to see another. I have a call scheduled with my other half in 22 minutes that I’ve been waiting for all week and I made a batch of to-die-for peanut butter cookies that has the whole house smelling like the inside of a JIF container.

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a new home

Welcome back to the new and improved WeStayAwake. It’s still undergoing some renovation: friends are working on a new logo and header, I’m playing with fonts and color schemes and an overall theme of the blog as I transition from college to a gap year to, eventually, law school. It’s going to be good. Stick with it a while longer while I get it there.

In the meantime, I intend to use this space more frequently. I told a friend (a new friend!) yesterday that revamping this blog meant that I would actually have to write more, and how scary that seemed to me after being away for so long. She was so encouraging, telling me that it’s an opportunity, and an exciting one at that.

Speaking of my new friend, this would all be impossible if not for the help of Sarah Fennel, author and baker-extraordinaire at Broma Bakery. She spent two and a half hours with me at Starbucks going over widgets and plugins while I fumbled around WordPress stupidly. She is a saint. She even welcomed me into her home (her beautiful home) and sent me off with a homemade caramel apple. Like, real caramel. Not the Werther’s stuff boiled down and slathered on,  like I would’ve done.

With the makeover, I’ve been working on a new vision for the site. One that includes more pictures, more content that isn’t just personal. I guess you could say that I’m transitioning from “personal blog” to “lifestyle blog,” but that sounds a tad bit pretentious for my liking and, really, I’m living with my parents and applying to schools, so I’m not sure if anyone would want to mimic this lifestyle anyway. But I have years worth of beauty tricks that I’ve amassed from blogs and magazines, new time for crafts and pinning and reading and the like, and my usual posts on life and love and school and work and whatever I want to rant on that day in the voice that some of you have been following for these past four years.

Come back soon, I promise it’s going to be good.

-Erin

 

PS: You can still follow me on tumblr! If you don’t have an account there but would still like to receive updates, the box on the right will give send you emails when I update.

homecoming

Last night, a friend of Sean’s asked me which memory from my four years at Michigan had been my favorite. A graduate of four months, I blanched. No answer came to mind as I fluttered, snapshot style, through memories amassed since 2010. “It’s so cliche,” I told him, “but I can’t give you just one.”

Ultimately, I settled for the memory of breaking into the Big House with my eleven roommates. We all had stayed awake until 2 am, texting each other encouragement so as to not lose our nerve. We left on foot, crossing the mile and a half walk to the stadium in various states of sobriety and dress (I had opted for an all-black ensemble with war paint spread across my cheeks). We climbed over turnstiles or squeezed between poles to gain entry and then sprinted for the field, trading hushed whispers and hugs on the 50-yard line of the largest stadium in America. We were invincible in that moment— a mix of days-later graduates and upcoming seniors, drunk on the feel of the field— our field— beneath our sneakers. Read more