From The Financial Diet:

For anyone who did or still does live at home with their parents and is in their twenties, I think it’s crucial that we recognize this time period for what it is — a luxury that shouldn’t be squandered or taken for granted, a time to save as much money as you are able, and to make higher payments on school loans if that’s something your budget allows. Removing the stigma from living at home is made possible by working hard and showing the world that you aren’t some freeloader eternally mooching of of your parents’ good will, but rather a smart adult who it utilizing this time as a stepping stone to a secure financial future.

I might not be a “Professional,” but I am acutely aware of the perils (and advantages) of living at home in your twenties. Thanks Lauren and Chelsea! Click the quote to read the whole article.

pride is a bitch

I will have to preface this post with an apology. I was in Ann Arbor this weekend (where my alma mater, old friends and colleagues are still located) and failed to see 9/10 of every place or person I should have. I am very sorry for not seeking you out, or for canceling our plans. It might sound silly, but I am simply just not ready.

See, in Ann Arbor, I was successful. I held (possibly too many) jobs, had friends, went out around town, sampling restaurants and happy hours, and my outlook on life was one of confidence, bluster and, I now know, naivety. I simply assumed that my hard work in my jobs, my good grades and my connections in town would get me a job post-graduation. I thought I was smart enough to beat the LSAT with a month and a half of studying. I had no fucking idea that simply succeeding in one city, for four years in an environment built to push 20 year olds to succeed, would fail to guarantee me a 180 LSAT or a career path or even something as simple as a job fitting my education.

When I pulled onto US-23, cruising past Brighton and into houses full of students drinking Oberon on rooftops, I realized quickly that I was in no way prepared to be back in the land of Maize and Blue. I met with Sean for lunch and hid in the back corner booth for the entirety of the encounter, trying to make sure I wouldn’t have to run into a former coworker (not you, Jordan. It was great to see you!) or roommate and be forced to explain that I wasn’t really working at the moment, no I wasn’t going to law school, how is your 6-figure salary and full-ride to Medical School?

I had an hour to kill between lunch and babysitting (the reason I was in AA), and instead of spending it visiting old friends and coworkers, I went to Whole Foods and walked around the prepared foods aisle. I found my coveted dark chocolate ginger, grabbed some fizzy water and showed up early to my babysitting gig, despite the fact that the boys I would be babysitting for the next 12 hours weren’t even home yet.

The next day, I cancelled my plans to go to coffee and yoga with a friend, where I would see even more old coworkers and friends and the thought of which had my heart pounding, palms clammy. I texted Jake, Michelle, Matt, Sean and my mom trying to figure out what the FUCK was happening. I LOVE YOGA. I love my friends! I love(d) Ann Arbor! What was this feeling that I was experiencing, and for the love of god, WHY was I experiencing it?

I had lengthy conversations with each, and eventually reached my conclusion: Pride. Good old fashioned, strong as hell pride, fortified by years of success and coddling, and powered by a personal image of myself that had taken time, naivety and hard work. When I was in Ann Arbor, I was a smart, successful, strong and self-assured woman. I was confident and shining, and someone once told me that when I walked into a room, was noticed simply because of my presence (if you still read this blog, thank you for that compliment because it is the greatest I have ever gotten to date and on my off days of which there seem to be many lately, I remember this). And now, I am without career, without direction, and a seemingly endless failure in a stream of job searches or career paths or future education and if you ever want to know how low your self-confidence really goes, just quit your job, move in with your parents and spend your Friday nights watching reruns of Grey’s Anatomy.

That girl – the one in Ann Arbor with the jobs and the plans and the shining eyes – is dead, or at the very least, groggily slumping into a months-long coma. And facing that old version of myself was a shockingly difficult confrontation, one with pride and failure all wrapped up into a painful package, that I never realized I would run into before I entered the city’s confines.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten. I don’t have a way to fix it, nor any way to deal with these feelings of self-doubt and confusion. I’m working on it actively, looking for careers and trying to convince myself that I am not only this year – my life and my journey is the sum of my experiences, not just the most recent struggle. That said, I still don’t think I’ll be returning to Ann Arbor anytime soon. I need some success first. I need my break.

 

Go blue.

The Career Diaries, Part 2: Solicited Advice

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking to a woman in her 30’s who has the career I eventually want (at the moment). I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting – a subdued conversation on career and politics (since the job involves politics), perhaps, but I definitely got way more than I had bargained for. She was brash and honest and unreserved in offering any and all advice she could throw my way…and I fucked LOVED it.

So, courtesy of an unnamed business professional and badass, here are the very best pieces of advices she had to offer for recent grads.

  1. If you are the smartest person in the room when you go to work, get the fuck out of there. Who are you going to learn from if you’re the smartest person you’re around from 9-5 every day? Certainly not Bob the IT guy. Not even your boss, who’s idiocy you have probably pondered at-length.
  2. If you’re sticking around for some supposed need to stay at a job for over six months because any less looks bad on your resume, stop. Do not stay at a job you do not like, you are not learning from, and aren’t benefiting from in any large way, other than a paycheck. Obviously, the paycheck might be necessary – I have student loans. I get it. Sometimes, you can’t afford to leave. But even if you need to pay the bills, you can take those Friday and Saturday nights and use them to apply elsewhere. Keep looking, and eventually something right (or more right than what you have now) will pop up. Never feel like you’re totally stuck.
  3. Embrace the abyss, but be strategic about it. Job searching is soulless and there’s only one shining moment of glory at the very end, which can quickly be replaced by a sense of doom if the position or company or boss doesn’t fit your expectations and needs. Approaching this search with anxiety and fear might still get you a job, but you’ll be a wreck by the time it’s over. Instead, use the abyss to your advantage. For example, if your abyss is that you have no idea what you want to do for a career (like me), fill up your black hole with LinkedIn connection requests and phone calls on what interesting people do for a living. They’re usually willing to give you all kinds of advice and at the end of the phone call, you can ask about open positions at their place or work or whether they know anyone else in the business you can talk to, creating a never-ending stream of mentors and learning opportunities.
  4. Don’t go working for a start up (unless you’re in tech or want to act as the CEO of your own someday). If you want a career in anything other than those two things, your services will not best be served by a startup, where the staff is new to the market, the connections are limited and the company’s name is not yet well known. You are much, much better off taking a position with a large company, starting small and meeting the many people you will need to get your career off the ground later on.
  5. You think college was hard? Try the workforce. If you’re not willing to put in 10 hour days, then stay away. Find something more quiet and less demanding and settle in. But if you’re ready for some hard work and long nights, you can expect to achieve a great, rewarding career that makes the hard nights worth it. My contact told me that her first job was grueling – long hours, small pay, little reward. But she met great people who knew that she would put the work in, and now she has a 9-5 job with great people, stability and great compensation. Immediate gratification hopefuls take heed – your work may not pay off right away, but when it does, it is so, so sweet.
  6. Stop being so fucking proud. Ask for help and thank the people who put themselves out there for you. Be humble about it (she recommended reading David Brooks’ “The Moral Bucket List” for insights) and realize first that you know nothing. You’re a first or second-year graduate from, sure, a great school, but your work experience amounts so far to internships and fleeting moments of glory earned from those projects you carried out flawlessly. For seasoned veterans of the workforce, that’s nothing. Infantile. Be okay with knowing nothing, because when you understand that, you can begin to ask around for that knowledge elsewhere, and people are usually willing to give it out. Understanding that a job is partly a way for you to learn more about the world and your role in it suddenly makes everything seem more important and meaningful, and executives appreciate that potential hires are coming in ready to learn.
  7. Pick three to four jobs and use them to write your own personal job description, title it (Use specific wording that you want in your dream position. If you want to be a consultant, use that word or words like “strategic” or “specialist,” and if you want to be a writer, use words like “communicator” or “editor.”) and then send it to your network to see if anyone inside it knows of someone looking for something similar. This was actually how the woman I was talking to got her current job, and she swears by it for friends and other job-seekers.
  8. Lastly, be genuine about your needs and your job search. If you’re up front about where you are and what you’re looking for, the people around you will respond to that sentiment. I was open about my career search with my unnamed connection, and she’s already sent me job descriptions and sent my resume off with her recommendation to other companies. All it took was a LinkedIn request and an honest email and conversation, and something could be coming down the road as a result of that effort! Fingers crossed.

Good luck and happy job searching! Check back later for more of #TheCareerDiaries, or comment with suggestions on what you’d like to see more of or your struggles with finding the best fit for you.

First Day Of Spring (2015)

For some reason, I have a habit of writing on trains. A few years ago, I wrote a (weird) piece on the coming of spring while returning to Ann Arbor after a battle with tonsillitis that sent me back home. Fitting now that, as I return from Chicago, only one day from the First Day Of Spring, I follow with tradition and write again – trading backpacks for briefcases and Noah and the Whale for Shakey Graves. I feel different now.

In a testament to that feeling, this spring will vary from most. In years past, I return to Michigan ready for more class, more homework, more friends. Today, I’m returning to work and job applications and my parent’s house and, unfortunately, not my boyfriend, because this is our off week. If it weren’t for tenacious crocuses pushing up through the ground or days of 50 degree weather between the many fits of freezing, I would have had no idea that time was even passing. Day-in, day-out, and I am still stuck in a feckless pace, spinning ’round in circles and hoping that someone will reach out their hand, grab me by the collar and tell me where to go next.

If spring is truly about new beginnings (and isn’t that what we tell ourselves when we’re purging our closets?), I’m more than ready for mine. I’m putting together a list of feelings and insecurities and baggage I’ve been carrying around all winter and I’m going to throw it into the same pile that houses all of my ill-fitting jean shorts. And maybe then, when I finally have space, I’ll finally receive whatever I have coming next to me.

Falling in love and…. growing up in general has this sort of beautiful ‘deal with the devil’ vibe to it. The amount of wisdom and love you gain is directly proportional to the vanity and ego you’re willing to lose.

-Molly Guy of stonefoxbride, courtesy of @TheGlow.com

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.

 

stressed? bake a shit ton of carbs!

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!