As Clueless As I Ever Was

Now that I’m supposed to be an adult, I find myself trying to read more “grown up” novels.  You know, less “Divergent” and more “Gone Girl.” But it’s been a bit difficult to find books that are both intriguing, fun to read, and relatable. While books like the aforementioned are great in their own way, they didn’t necessarily strike a chord with me. They weren’t relatable.

I want books that are like my favorite TV shows and movies. You know why I love shows like “Friends” and “New Girl” and movies like “Silver Linings Playbook”? They are all about characters around my age who are still trying to adjust to this whole “adulthood” nonsense.

Which is why I was thrilled when I discovered fiction author Jonathan Tropper after seeing the film adaptation of one of his books, “This Is Where I Leave You.”  You probably remember seeing trailers for this movie. It stars Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Jane Fonda, the guy from “Girls,” and the congressman Kevin Spacey murdered in “House of Cards.”

Anyway, after seeing “This Is Where I Leave You,” I dug around amazon.com searching for more of Tropper’s books.  Turns out his works have a common theme: around 30-years-old-ish characters who have no idea where their life is going. I settled on “Plan B,” a story about a group of 30-year-old friends from college who are are all going through different types of quarter-century crises. The books had a couple of great passages that really articulate what it’s like to be a mid-20-something or early 30-something.

“Thirty… shit. It’s a nice round number to arrive at if you have it all together. Success, love, a family, the overall sense that you actually belong on the planet. If you have all that, you can wear thirty well. But if you don’t, if feels like you’ve missed the deadline, and suddenly your chances of ever getting it right, of ever achieving true happiness and fulfillment, are fading fast. You realize that all your hopes and dreams up until this point were actual expectations that, still unrealized, have become desperate prayers…”

The book was a good, fun, and occasionally thought-provoking read that often reflected some of my own thoughts about transitioning from higher education to the “real world.” It also reiterated something I realized lately: contrary to what we believed as kids, adults have no idea what they are doing and they are not in complete control of anything. Kind of a terrifyingly comforting reiteration to get from a book, but I’ll take it. I suppose it just confirms that we’re all just winging it.

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Time Marches On: Signs That I’m Turning into an Adult

There are certain moments that pop up every now and then during which I realize, “huh, I think this is a sign that I am no longer a kid.” These are rather unsettling, however, because in my head I’m still a teenager. I try to avoid thinking about the whole “you’re an adult and you’ve got responsibilities like knowing how to change batteries in a smoke detector, and starting a 401k, and getting your own health insurance.”

Anyway, no matter how hard I try to avoid thinking about the fact that teenagers think I’m old enough to now be addressed as “ma’am,” I can’t go a few days without being reminded of my entrance into adulthood.

Here are some of my more recent “I’m not a kid anymore” observations.

  • My mom has a long-standing love of white dinnerware. I recently spent a solid 15 minutes perusing the white dinnerware aisle at Target BY MYSELF before selecting a few items of my own. Yep, I’m turning into my mother.
  • I have to Google acronyms I see online. IIRC? What in the world does that mean?
  • I witnessed people doing some dance called “the Wobble” for the first time ever at a wedding this summer. It confused me.
  • College freshmen look like babies to me.
  • It seems absurd to let a 16-year-old have a driver’s license.
  • I don’t understand how Disney Channel shows are even popular. Back in my day, they were way better than the cheesy crap that is shown now.

Making My Own Shelter

Now that I am completely (ahem, mostly) responsible for taking care of myself and my finances, I find myself in situations that I never even would have imagined a couple of years ago.  These situations stress me out far more than they probably should. They also sometimes result in me making questionable decisions with my money. I guess you could say I’m reluctantly entering adulthood.

For example, on a recent Sunday afternoon, I made an exasperated phone call to my parents while standing in the bedding aisle of a rather shady Walmart (although, let’s be real: there’s no such thing as an “un-shady” Walmart). It had come to my attention that a mattress pad is necessity. Apparently having a mere mattress is not enough. You must cover the supposedly plush rectangle with more plushy stuff and then put your impossible-to-fold fitted sheet on top of this artificial cloud you have created.

My exasperation stemmed from a multitude of things. I hadn’t budgeted for this purchase, I didn’t know which type of mattress pad was the best one, I had already made the mistake of picking the wrong type of sheets from Ikea (lesson learned: do not skimp on sheets. Your skin will regret it) and I didn’t want to make another costly bedding error, and I was shopping by myself.

“I never even thought that I’d have to buy stuff like this,” I said to my dad. “Adulthood is hard.”

“You were sheltered,” my dad said with a chuckle on the other end of the line. “You’ve lived a sheltered life.” He went on to say it’s not a bad thing, that he and my mom were happy to have provided for me all these years, blah, blah, blah.

Now, before you go off thinking that I was some spoiled little princess, let me stop you. I was not entirely spoiled. Among many other restrictions, I never had a car in high school, I never had more than a $10 weekly allowance from the beginning of high school all the way through law school, my brother and I were not allowed to drink sodas except on the weekends, and designer purses were out of the question unless if I saved up my pennies and bought them myself (even then, I wasn’t allowed to have one until after I graduated from high school). #FirstWorldProblems, am I right?

However, my parents never hesitated to provide me with things I needed, like tuition for law school, a new laptop when my current one was on death’s door, a new TV after my current one began making ear-piercing screeching noises every time I turned it on, textbooks for school, gas money, etc. I consider myself to be extremely fortunate that I never really had to worry about those things. I also consider myself fortunate that I no longer have a television that weighs 800 pounds and blasts out my eardrums (do y’all remember how heavy non-flat screen TVs were? Sheesh. What a pain.).

Well, now the cord has finally been cut (ahem, mostly). I now frequently experience sticker shock and extreme annoyance at buying things like allergy medicine, extra hangers for my closet, and shower curtain rods. These things seem frivolous and necessary at the same time.

My brain is stupid when it comes to spending my own money sometimes. Buying a $35 lamp with a stainless steel finish and elegant gray shade? WORTH IT. Buying a $16 “giraffe trinket dish” to put my earrings in? ALSO WORTH IT. Buying three Glade apple cinnamon candles all at once? COMPLETELY WORTH IT.

Buying a broom? NO. THAT’S DUMB. Buying a vacuum? YEAH, RIGHT. Buying a mattress pad? WHO NEEDS IT? I’ll sleep on that spring-filled brick, thank you very much.

Alas, but what makes a house a home is more than just candles that smell like fall and light fixtures that bring a sense of coziness. Things like Swiffer sweepers, shower curtain rods that function properly, and sheets that don’t feel like sandpaper are also needed to make your tiny apartment one that is fit for an adult and not some misfit college freshman.

I have gone from being a sheltered girl to being an adult female who is attempting to furnish and maintain her own shelter. I’m proud of how far I’ve come, even if that mattress pad I spent forever selecting still hasn’t actually made it farther than the living room. Baby steps, y’all. Baby steps.

Breaking News: People Don’t Like Girls Who Wear Abercrombie and Fitch Anymore

Today’s teenagers have realized something that my peers in high school failed to realize back in the mid-2000s: Abercrombie and Fitch is totally lame.

Earlier this month, The New Yorker published a lengthy discussion of how and why some stores aimed at teens are floundering. Analysts have actually tried to come up with reasons for A&F, American Eagle, and Aeropostale’s rapid decline in popularity. Apparently it’s because everybody I went to high school with was a conformist, while today’s teens care more about copying high fashion cheaply.

Abercrombie in particular shot itself in the foot in the late 2000s when it marketed itself as a “luxury” and “exclusionary” brand (The New Yorker‘s words, not mine. I never thought of the moose logo as being somehow exclusionary. I just saw it as a representation of a store that doused its clothing in cologne and made you rifle through its merchandise in the dark. I was, however, quite the fan of American Eagle.).

This attitude started working against Abercrombie during the recession, around 2008. That’s when [analyst Steph] Wissink started noticing fewer Abercrombie logos in the schools she visited; people (young, old, fat, skinny) could no longer afford Abercrombie’s prices for T-shirts and hoodies. Around this the time, H&M and Forever 21 started to thrive by selling super-cheap, accessible runway knockoffs. The economy has recovered since then, but the turn toward “fast fashion” proved durable.

Over the past few years, I realized I didn’t see as many people wearing stuff with the moose, eagle, or seagull logo on them, but I attributed that to the fact that I am now an old person who doesn’t hang out with kids who are still running around with learner’s permits. Little did I know that these young kids have wised up and are swapping out their popped collars and lace-trimmed camis for cropped skinny jeans and whimsical button-downs.

This observation from Wissink also stuck out to me:

Ten years ago, I could walk into an auditorium of two hundred kids, I could turn my back and tell them to switch seats and scramble.” Then, she said, she would turn around and guess which kids belonged to the same social groups according to what they were wearing—usually with great success. “Today,” she said, “it’s next to impossible.”

Today’s teens use Instagram, Twitter, and blogs to express their personalities, their views on the world, and their likes and dislikes. It makes sense that they want their clothing to be another vehicle of self-expression. They don’t want to all send the same message as everybody else in their class.

The tail-end of the Millennial generation may be selfie-obsessed, but we should at least give them a little bit of credit for being more creative with their clothing than we were.

Spending Money: You’re Doing It Wrong

Listen up, Millennials. According to your mom, your figure, and now researchers, you’re spending money all wrong. Instead of using cash, members our generation are much more likely to use a debit card to pay for our overpriced coffee, the one-gallon of gas that we need to make it to work, and our tickets to the Dollar Movie Theater.

TIME reported last week that the totally legit-sounding website “CreditCards.com” has found that Millennials are ditching the Benjamins in favor of some plastic. While more than three-fourths of adults over the age of 50 use cash to pay for items that are $5 or less, only about half of adults between 18 and 29 are doing the same (no, they aren’t stealing the stuff instead. They are just paying with either a credit or debit card).

Using a card instead of forking over a small chunk of cash may be a bad thing.

Research has suggested that we’re inclined to spend more when we swipe. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that physically handing over bills triggers an emotional pain that actually helps to deter spending, while swiping doesn’t create the same aversion. As a result, the study found, cash discourages spending whereas plastic encourages it.

So, apparently this all means that we’re more likely to spend more money than we have since we aren’t actually watching real money disappear from our hands.

Other downsides to paying with a credit and/or debit card: apparently you become more focused on the benefits of a purchase instead of the price, and you’re more likely to overspend if there’s a “minimum purchase amount” requirement in order to use a credit or debit card.

However, “CreditCards.com” (I keep putting this in quotation marks because the name is just so ridiculous) fails to give us enough credit. Let’s be real: at least a debit card is better than paying with a straight up credit card. Money is immediately withdrawn from your account when you pay with a debit card, and if you don’t have enough money in your checking account, you’ll either be unable to make the transaction at all or be forced to pay a hefty overcharge fee.

Not gonna lie, I am far more inclined to use a credit card than any other method of payment. But I actually find myself more willing to spend money when I actually have cash as opposed to when I only have a credit card. It’s almost like I see it as loose change or something (like, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal to waste a few one dollar bills on some junk from a vending machine).

I’m a Walking Stereotype

I’m in my mid-20s, I have two advanced degrees, I am not employed, and… I live at home with my parents.

I’m basically the stereotypical millennial. Except I dislike selfies.

Okay, so let’s get this straight: I’m living at home TEMPORARILY. For the summer. For three months.

My year-long legal fellowship doesn’t begin for another couple of weeks because I had to take the bar exam first.

The funny part about the whole “I’m living at home” thing is that I’ve already signed a lease for an apartment that begins in mid-August. The apartment in a new complex that’s still under construction. That’s right, I signed a contract to live in a place that I’ve never actually seen and doesn’t technically exist yet. But on the plus side, no one will have ever used my kitchen or bathroom until I step foot in the place. Priorities, people.

So, what does all this mean?

It means I was studying for the life-changing, insanity-inducing, beast-of-a-test known as “the bar exam” AT HOME. I was staying up until odd hours of the night and slaving away at the same desk I sat at almost a decade ago when I was in high school. The same desk where I did my calculus homework, typed up my college applications, and did research on shark dissection (shoutout to my Advanced Biology class from 9th Grade; yeah, I took that class back when I thought I wanted to be a doctor. That plan fell through rather quickly. Do you know how disgusting dissection is? It didn’t help that my lab partner thought it would be a grand idea to dissect the tiny shark’s brain).

It was weird.

“Your room looks like what it used to in high school,” my mom complained one day. “It’s a mess.”

My childhood bedroom is sort of in limbo, just like me. Some elements of my childhood remain, while others have been discarded over the years.

It’s got remnants of being a kid: all my furniture is the same, my old dead PC that was fried due to a power surge is collecting dust on my desk, and my favorite childhood books are stacked on a shelf in my closet. There are dozens of VHS TAPES (you read that right) filled with recorded episodes of “8 Simple Rules” in there somewhere too. It’s like a graveyard of my youth.

But then a lot of stuff has disappeared, now that I think about it. The poster of singer Michelle Branch is gone, as are the stupid frilly pink curtains. The bulletin board littered with movie stubs, ads ripped from magazines, and photos of people I’m not even friends with anymore has been replaced. The dinosaur-like non-flatscreen TV is long-gone. Instead of math and science textbooks, my floor is covered with textbooks from law school and outlines from my Evidence and Torts classes. The walls are now painted a faint green instead of baby pink.

Nothing screams “adulthood” more than neutral-colored walls with minimal wall decorations. Slowly but surely, I’m headed into adulthood – and so is my room.

Charting Millennials

I was going through all the tweets I’ve favorited over the past several months, and I noticed a recurring theme: charts and graphs that relate to millennials. I think I favorited or retweeted them with the intention of sharing of them on here, but then I forgot about them. * cue sad violin * However, my propensity to be forgetful works out well, because now I can provide y’all with a compendium of charts. #checkitout

FIRST, the number of young-uns that identify themselves as Republicans shocked Harvard researchers earlier this spring. Apparently this is a bad thing for Democrats who are running in the 2014 midterm elections. policy-mic-political-id

And then there’s this: skeptical Millennials are skeptical of everything.


 

SECOND, the National Low Income Housing Coalition put together a chart of how many hours a person working a minimum-wage job would have to work in order to be able to afford rent in their state. What I learned from this chart: you need to work 69 more hours per week in New York than you would in Ohio in order to keep a roof over your head (the rent is too damn high!).

 


 

THIRD, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last month that today’s teenagers are less likely to be employed than ever. While nearly 60 percent of teens in the 1980s held summer jobs, only about 35 percent have held summer jobs in the 2010s. However, researchers don’t think the economy is the reason behind this dramatic decrease. They attribute the drop to the increasing number of students enrolling in summer courses in high school and college. This is one of many charts that are based on the results of the extensive study that I found particularly interesting: kids from more financially well-off families are more likely to have a summer job than their less well-off peers.

 


 

FOURTH, National Public Radio and the Harvard School of Public Health teamed up to conduct an elaborate study on what various age groups across America are stressed about. This chart is just a snippet of all the data they collected, but it’s interesting that our generation in particular is incredibly frazzled about our overall responsibilities.

 


 

FIFTH, the American government’s Census Bureau created a set of insanely beautiful and elaborate graphics explaining what career fields particular college majors actually end up working in. As FactTank at the Pew Research Center explained, the thicker the line, the greater the share of people in the particular job field. If you visit the actual Census Bureau website, you can filter out certain groups to see where they ended up (for example, women who majored in a STEM field versus men who did the same).

 


 

LASTLY, in a news story that surprised ABSOLUTELY NO ONE, student loans are rising. The Brookings Institution released this fancy graph, and I honestly have no idea how to interpret it, but it looks both cool and depressing, so here you go. Check out details about the graph here.