Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Responsibility Bites.

It's too true. All our years in High School we couldn't wait to be adults and finally have some respect and responsibility. When we graduated, we thought, life would be easier. No drama, no kid stuff; we could do whatever we wanted to do.

Well... some of that is true.

When you graduate from High School and go on to College, it is true that some of your drama goes away. It's no longer "Ohmygawd, Sally Whats-her-face is such a B**ch! She stole my lip gloss!". Instead, it's people bawling about not being able to pay their loans off, or dropping out of college because it's simply too stressful, or screaming at their roommate for something or other, or any of a thousand other things. That's right, in college you have to live with someone. At least in High School you had your own room to yourself. No more!

The "kid gloves" do come off in College. So - no more teachers going easy on you because you forgot about a paper. No more parents who will wake you up in time for school, or remind you to eat some fruit before you get scurvy, for goodness' sake! No more bottomless pantries and constantly stocked refrigerators. A lot of things go away. But at the same time, you get a lot in return.

No more parents to gripe at you for sleeping in until three in the afternoon on a Saturday. No one can make you dress "normally", you can walk around in your p.j.'s for all anyone cares. You can eat what you want, when you want. You can sleep if/when you want. You can watch anything, do anything, and be anyone you've ever wanted to be. If you go to a school far from home, you can completely remake yourself into what other people have always told you you couldn't be.

However, being whoever you want to be can be expensive. Life isn't cheap when you're living it day by day. This is where being an adult kind of starts to suck. Sure, you could get drunk whenever you want and smoke five packs a day... or you could pass your classes and get a good job. Sure, you could party every night and sleep until noon... or you could graduate in four years instead of six. Sure, you could never do laundry again as long as you live... or you could live in a room where the bugs don't outnumber the unpaired socks in your underwear drawer. You could spend every dime of your summer job money on designer clothes... or you could put it in a savings account for the future.

The beautiful thing is no one will tell you which one to do. It's your choice. You are in complete control of your life.

Empowering, isn't it?

Suddenly, the world is so much larger and holds so much more promise. Scary.

Responsibility is tough, because no one can really teach you to be responsible. They can present you with opportunities to show responsibility, and hope you don't screw up. It's like being taught to swim by having someone throw you in the diving pool - it's kind of Pass/Fail. Sure, you'll screw up sometimes, but individual moments won't define your entire life. Learning is a life-long process.

Now stop procrastinating and do your homework! A good education won't earn itself!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

You Know You're Becoming an Adult When...

There are some signs that responsibility is gaining a foothold in your previously fun and carefree life. Here are a few that I've begun to notice:

When you arrive to your work-study job ten minutes early so that the shift before you can get to class on time.

When you're the reliable "sober person" on campus because you don't get hammered or high three to four times a week.

When your fridge has more fruit in it than your pantry has junk food.

When your desk is covered in homework and textbooks, and you haven't seen the surface since you moved in.

When you can be counted on to make sure the bathroom stays reasonably clean.

When you can be counted on to be in your room reading a book almost every Friday and Saturday night.

When your "goals" for a week-long break from school include cleaning out your old closet, starting a savings account, and sorting through your childhood art portfolios.

When you have "goals" for a break, instead of plans to party.

When you start sorting trough your clothes and giving away the options that show too much cleavage and you mutter to yourself "I would never wear this to work."

When you compulsively hang up or put away any clothes that are lying around the room, muttering about the mess.

When you do laundry at least once a week, even if you really don't have to.

When you wash your sheets every week because it's just better hygiene.

When you start making lists like these.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Can I Get a Refund on Adulthood?

It's hard being an adult. Mostly because I don't actually feel like an adult yet. I feel like a tall teenager who suddenly has a bit more money at any point in time, and a lot more responsibility. I want lots of things in life: clothes, food, movies, (insert expensive desirable here). The problem comes with how I was raised to treat money. Thanks, Mom.

I worked two jobs and volunteered at a third over the summer so that I could build up mu bank account, and not be eating not-so-great cafeteria food all semester. I wanted the better things in life, and I worked my butt off (quite literally, in the case of being a farm hand) to get there.

And Mom comes in. I was raised that, theoretically, I could spend my money on whatever I wanted. If I wanted to eat candy until I puked I was going to pay for every piece. And when that candy was gone and I had no more money for, say, comics, well that was too bad. I had wanted candy, and didn't look ahead.

Granted my parents weren't evil. they understood that I was still new at the whole "responsible money management" thing, and helped me along with my finances when I was growing up. "Do you really need the Bratz Mall?" Probably not.

But now I'm an "adult", so people keep telling me. I can sign contracts, get a real job (or several) and make really, really stupid financial mistakes. When you suddenly have a lot more money at your disposal than you're ever seen in your entire life, those designer shoes you've always wanted are starting to whisper your name.


I'm pretty.

Don't you want to buy me?

I'm only absurdly expensive.

It's an investment, I promise.

Trust me!

The sweet call of designer clothing is one I hear quite keenly. I want to dress myself in beautiful things and drown in diamonds and platinum until I simply cannot stand the sight of them.

Savings banks have ridiculously low investment returns for small savings accounts. Earning pennies for fighting not to spend money hardly seems worth it. Unfortunately I know that if I spent all of the money I fought for that I would hate myself, and no amount of movies and clothes could comfort me.

I want the nicer things in life. i want them now. But I also want to have the nicer things in life twenty years from now, and not be living out of a trailer because I wanted a nice skirt now.

Money management really doesn't have as sweet a song as Italian leather...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

New Dorms and (OH GOODNESS!!) Creepy Crawlies

There seems to be a universal problem with older dormitories, especially ones that back to trees and other wild flora. That issue is bugs. Creepy crawlies that sneak into your bedroom slippers and scare the living daylights out of you. They hide under baseboards and fly in your face when you least expect it. And besides the obvious stigma against them, they just freak me out.

I suppose as a Conservation Biology major I should feel kinder towards these insects. I should find a cup and piece of paper and gently release them outside. However, when i am apprehensive about living in a new place I do not want to be looking at carpenter ants first thing in the morning.

My dorm is relatively nice. It's not too far from central campus, and I can pretend that it's peaceful sometimes. Bugs are the main problem.

My first week on campus I nearly had a meltdown. The bugs were stressing me out! I had big fat juicy carpenter ants appearing out of nowhere and crawling down my walls. I had silverfish hiding in the footwell of my desk. I had fruit flies. I had bugs.

I broke down when talking to my mom over Skype, and she sent me the cavalry. A nice care package filled with poison for bugs. On an Environmentally friendly campus, this would not generally be seen as a favorable method for getting peace in one's homestead, but I had enough of these bugs.

I sealed up all of the cracks in my walls, floor, and air conditioning system. I laid down Borax dust, thoroughly enforcing the fact I would almost never be able to have a small furry pet in my room. I sprayed Raid everywhere.

Still, the bugs got in.

I was beyond frustrated. I just wanted peace in my room, and the creepy crawlies were giving me the heebie jeebies. At College X you're supposed to feel all touchy-feely about all parts of the environment. Forget that, I said, when it comes to bugs there's no touchy-feely, only ouchy-bleedy.

As a method of last resort (after all that poison, what more could there be?) I tried a suggestion that seemed to work for a friend of my mother's: Windex+Vinegar. I was skeptical. Windex?? All these serious poisons weren't working, and Windex was supposed to fix my problem??

I tried it.

I had one last confused ant scurry across my floor a few days after I first sprayed, and for some reason I haven't seen any more since.

I'm not really sure which of my extreme methods really did the trick, and I honestly don't care. My room is my own, and I (sometimes) have peace.

Although, I still haven't worked up the courage to look under my dresser and see if the Borax finally killed the Silverfish under there. Honestly, I don't really want to know.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Get It In Writing

Most of my updates seem to come from my college campus, to no great surprise. College is where fledgling adults lean over the nest and notice that it's really quite far to the ground and the forest floor isn't a soft landing pad. Luckily, those of us who are lucky enough to have parents who smile and help you back into the nest when you get a claw stuck on a thorn have some kind of safety net.

I am very fortunate to have a safety net. I may not always like them, but they're there.

But this post connects the past summer with the current school year, because it has to do with finances. This summer I worked two jobs, and volunteered at a third. I had a business internship at a private Montessori school, I was a home organizer for a woman with M.S., and I was a volunteer coordinator at an animal rescue farm. Busy summer! Profitable summer!

The woman with M.S. payed me on a day-to-day basis, and was always grateful for my services, and it was always nice to hear her praise. The private school was a little shaky on how they were going to transfer my funds, but I trusted them because I used to attend that school, and I was friendly with the principal (my boss). I worked for them on a four-week internship, and after turning in copies of my final work, I was informed I would most likely get my last paycheck within a few days by mail.

This would have been great! I would have gotten my paycheck before I left for college once more, and I wouldn't be weighing the pros and cons of buying a five-dollar book.

This did not happen.

I waited a week. No check.

Two weeks? No check

two and a half weeks, e-mail the principal, only to find out it hadn't gotten in the mail yet. She guarantees it got in the mail that day.

In an area with one-day turnaround for same-area mail, half a week later... No check.

As a student with something of a limited income, I'm very familiar with the idea of dog-earing money for something long before you get it. I am now getting into the point of spending the money before I get it, which is very bad. I keep thinking, "This will be covered by my check when it comes, so it's okay to just eat a little bit into my savings now!"

No good.

But Mom was right, yes, get a payment plan in place before you start working for "The Man."

And find a squishier safety net.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

No, Really, Please Cover That Up...

I'm not joking, I really don't want to see what color G-string you're wearing.

Going through my closet full of clothes I don't really wear anymore is an interesting experience. I go to a hippie work college, where nearly everyone wears practical clothes, and the only brands that are really acknowledged are Dickies and Carhartt. Flannel is a must for cold mountain winters, and high heels aren't practical when the entire campus is on a slant, due to being built into the side of a mountain.

As you may imagine, a life separated from fashion allows one to gain a different view about the fashion of "the real world."

I returned home from college recently (barely fitting all of my things into a tiny hybrid) and came to the conclusion that I have too much stuff. I own a lot of nice things, but what I really have a lot of is STUFF. Unnecessary dust-catchers and barely-sentimental things that I would certainly never take to my first apartment, let alone show to a roommate.

A yard sale presented itself as a grand opportunity to get rid of my STUFF, and I made a good deal of money getting rid of it. While enjoying my now slightly less messy room, I felt it necessary to go through my clothes as well. I owned a lot of things I would never take to my college with me - either because they were too dressy for a farm school or I just wouldn't be caught dead in them.

As any teenager knows, once you get rid of clothes you have an empty void in your closet just begging to be filled.

"Dad? Can we go shopping tomorrow? I need pants." Because I've thrown out the ones from high school that were falling off of my hips.

I have never had a particularly wonderful relationship with department stores and clothes shopping. According to fashion I have an abnormal shape - healthy. I'm not overweight or underweight, so nothing fits me correctly.

Any attempt to find jeans that covered by butt in a dignified manner seemed nearly impossible. It looked as thought I would have to go for "granny" jeans, or deal with never sitting down or bending over ever again. Why on earth do high school kids think it's cool to dress in extremely revealing clothing? It's humiliating and embarrassing and degrading. I won't wear it. Nope.

My father and I wandered the mall until we came to a slightly more promising (and friendly) department store. There I managed to find pants that actually covered my buttocks and kept me looking respectable. Sold.

While enjoying my new purchases, I wonder over fashion sense (or nonsense). If high school students are convinced into buying rather revealing clothing by advertising that shows college students wearing said chilly clothing... why aren't college students wearing it?

For College X, there is an extremely simple answer: It's not practical.

Not only is it not practical, you look like an idiot. If Sally Susan What's-her-face walked into a law firm wearing low-rise skinny jeans, high heels, and a Twilight and/or Justin Bieber fan shirt no one would hire her. While being hip is great for popularity in the drama-ridden world of high school, there comes a time when every young adult gets their first reality check (with taxes withheld) and realizes it's time to grow up.

Showing off your neon pink underthings may be a great way to get a skeevy date, but it's no way to get a job or earn respect in the real world. my mother never allowed me to dress in a way that belittled me or represented me only as an object, even when my only desire was to dress this way just to fit in. I am eternally grateful.

So please, once you go off to college, it's time to trade in the "hip" look for a wardrobe that actually covers what clothing is meant to cover.

Friday, May 7, 2010

I Own Too Much Stuff

Nothing makes you think more about what you own than packing up everything to go home for the summer.

I own too much stuff. I'm not talking about the sweaters or coats or nbooks or DVDs or balls or yarn waiting to be knitted - I'm talking about the random doodads you can't seem to organize into any particular box or bag. The boxes of thumbtacks and the dozen boxes of pens and pencils you thought you would need but never used. When planning to fit all of your room into a tiny hybrid, some serious choices have to be made.

Why do we feel the need to own so much? Why do we feel the need to fill the empty spaces in our lives with free magazines and plastic stress balls with obnoxious smiles? Why don't we choose more green? More flowers and more herbs and things we already push out of our lives? Why does empty space scare us so much?

As a wise Peter Walsh once said (and I paraphrase): there's a difference between owning something, and something owning you. Right now when I'm having to choose between electric candles and a desk organizer.


This is ridiculous. How can it be so hard to choose whaat's important to us, and let go that which does not matter? Option One: hire Peter Walsh to come and make you do it. Option Two: Think about how little you appreciate the things that are starting to own you, and then think about how happy someone else might be to get it for a bargain at a Salvation Army near you. I think Option One would make for a funny afternoon, but Two is more heartwarming.

Just like buying toys, its easier to think of how much we want something right now. I really hate deciding to get rid of things I paid good money for because I've never used them, and there's no point cramming it into a tiny car to not use it in another state. I paid for it, gosh-darn-it, I want it to be meaningful!!

We want and want and want.

Green your life.

Give back by giving away.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Reaffirming Work

I've always had an appreciation for those who work. Real physical labor seems like one of the most honest forms of work, and I commend those who thrive in this kind of work. Recently, I took a Wildland Firefighting course, where in my state I was certified to fight wildfires. Cool, right?

The drill was this - when the XX State forest service truck trundled onto campus and blew the air raid siren on top of the cafeteria, any College X students who were certified could come running, hop into the truck, and go fight a fire.

I honestly thought I would never answer the call.

Yesterday, my school had a "Work Day" that is highly anticipated among the community. All students take a morning at their work crews, and then spend the entire afternoon working communally on projects around campus. Afterwards, they share a barbecue together.

The air raid siren went off at 11:00 a.m. I knew if I went, I would miss the event, the camaraderie, and the really good food.

I ran as fast as I could back to my dorm to get my gear, and I had a wonderful time. The firefighters I was with were some of the most amazing - and funny - people I have had the honor of working with. I worked for thirteen hours straight on two consecutive fires, one in the mountains, one right on the side of a highway. My legs ached, my lungs burned, my eyes watered, and my stomach grumbled, but I always had a smile on my face.

My mother always said that we regret the things we do not do. She's right. I regretted missing the group picture and the laughing joy of school labor, but I got to experience real-life stakes - homes, lives, and the possibility of an exploding propane tank (slightly scary to imagine, but it never happened). I got to feel like an adult, and be thanked repeatedly by people who I had never met (also a strange experience).

I was never directly cutting fire lines to keep a fire at bay, but it still mattered, and I knew it. I may have missed the cute, meaningful work that was done around campus, but I got an amazing life experience that I get to repeat over and over as long as I keep answering the siren.

And guess whose story sounded a whole lot cooler when students were exchanging stories about their work yesterday?

Monday, March 22, 2010


This isn't so much of a post as a list I've been meaning to post. I've found there are certain unexpected joys and kindnesses hiding in people at College X, and I wanted to take a few moments to share them.

I'm grateful for:
  • The co-worker who brings me snacks and a smile when I'm stressed
  • The friend who can listen to my rants about a frustrating situation with another friend, and give us both productive advice.
  • Those same four boys who carried a fridge, a bookcase, and many heavy boxes with a smile.
  • The theatre-buddy who brought four burly friends to help me move to a new dorm room on very short notice.
  • The friend who drives me to the grocery store once a week so I don't have to stand in the rain waiting for the once-an-hour bus.
  • My mom (of course) and dad, who both pay for my education, but give me money for food, and "sanity" money on a steady basis, and who also listen to my endless complaints with a knowing smile.
  • My chemistry professor who listened to me talk about an issue for almost an hour, and helped me work through my feelings on the matter.
  • This same professor for helping me trudge through a dislike for chemistry to an understanding of lab concepts.
  • my friend - also a chem tutor - who tutors me through skype the night before a lab is due.
  • the supervisor who sends me on lots of errands outside of the office and across campus when it's sunny and warm outside.
  • And many, many, many more tiny instances of kindness by strangers.

I am always grateful.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Eat Her Pudding Cups!

I am the first to admit I am a picky eater. I am not ashamed of this, it simply means I have a more refined tastes for some food, and prefer not to have my meats deep fried in batter and smothered with gravy.

Cafeteria food at College X is quite fabulous when compared to many other colleges, but it's still cafeteria food. My mother, the fabulous woman she is, provided me with a reasonable "food budget" per month, so I can stock up on my fancy cheeses and preferred High-Fructose-Corn-Syrup-Free fruit juices.

Just like I have my quirks about e-shopping and getting mail, I have a strange quirk about food. I hoard it. I can't explain why! For some reason when I buy food for my dorm room, I eat as little of it as possible, and stretch it for all that it's worth before I buy more.

This seems great- it seems like you would save money this way! No, you just end up more hungry this way. You could be eating something on the way to your chemistry class... but then again, you may want it later, so you should save it.

NO! This is not a good plan! Bagels and chips and cheese pasta are meant to be eaten!

I came to this realization earlier today, as I was about to head off to a particularly long work shift. I was weighing the odds of eating food my mother had sent my in a car package (lovely, lovely mother) versus "saving it for later", when "I might want it more." Suddenly, I felt ridiculous. My mother had sent me all of this wonderful food (Peeps, pudding cups, pringles, mango juice) partially because she knew I would never buy it myself, and partially because she knew I would love getting it, and love eating it.

Saving it for later was allowing the food to make me miserable!

Wrong. Totally, completely, wrong.

I had this sample strange complex growing up, and my mom always used to say "They"ll make more!!" I've been saying this to my friends here at school whenever they balk at my flippant habit of giving away sweets to people who look like they're about to collapse from low blood sugar. How silly of me, I know.

It was only when I realized I was weighing the pros and cons of eating a pudding cup that I understood how silly I've been all these years. My mom had been providing me with money so I could buy food to compensate for the meager cafeteria portions (and avoid battered-deep-fried-gravy-covered steak) and I had been making myself more hungry.

The grocery stores will not run out of juice tomorrow. The supply trucks will come, and I will be able to get my cream cheese and limeade.

My growling stomach would really appreciate it if I just ate the damn pudding cup.

Thanks, Mom.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Head For The Hills! The Budget Is Coming!

College life is very enriching, college life teaches you how to survive in the real world, these are the best years of your life...

Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Stress teaches you how to go long periods of time without eating so you can get your homework done. It also teaches the people who live with you to throw offerings of food in the room before they come in, so you recognize them as friendly when you look up from your hunched position over the keyboard at page 5 of your paper.

Friend, frieeeeeeenddd...

And now to the "Yes, Mom..." part of our story...

As a second semester Freshman at College X, I am now fully discovering how deep a trench I have dug for myself in terms of workload.


-I am taking 17 credits, and work 15 hours for the school every week, thus keeping me out of my dorm almost every day until after dinner.
-I took a wildland firefighting course, and can be called to duty before an exam.
-I am involved in a play now, where rehearsals are nearly every evening, for at least three hours.
-I must be crazy.

That's deep. I reached six feet, and kept going.

When some people - myself included - find themselves so oft away from the "home" place (the dorm, the suite, whatever) we find ourselves making up for it. Some people study their brains out, some people party their brains out, and some people buy things.

I e-shop.

I love getting mail. I love it. Seeing the little orange slip for the package claim in my teensy mail box gets me all giddy inside. So when Mom stops sending care packages, I buy new socks, or a perfume that helps your skin, or a sweater to keep me warm when the windy gusts on the way to my 8a.m. class fall below zero degrees.

There's a small problem with this. I'm on a budget. X amount of dollars for food, X amount of dollars for sanity.

The key is balance, Mom says.

When one's mind is quite unbalanced, thinking about your lab report due next week, and your readings for two other classes, and chemistry problems due on Wednesday, and don't forget to memorize your lines, it's hard to remember to keep to the budget...

But really, thank you Mom.

The seniors say it gets easier.

Heh. Heh heh, hee hee hoo!

That's a good one.

Gotta go check my mail.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

No, Really, It's That Easy!

Before I get into the current episode of "Mom Knew Best", I must apologize for not updating for a month. As it turns out, doing nothing over Winter Break kind of makes it hard to write about frustrating experiences. You know, the whole not having frustrating experiences thing.

Life at College X is fabulous. I really love it here, but sometimes the size of my dorm room kind of gets me down. Especially when the back panel of your bookcase falls out when you're trying to move it to make room for the 3'x2'x5' snake cage that needs to go in the corner. And said bookcase has to be laid flat on it's front to slide the panel back in. And it's full of books that you really have no place else to put-the reason you got said bookcase. And you only have four eensy teensy nails to hold the flimsy back plate in. And did I mention the panel is just a hair too narrow, so it falls out of one side of the grooves on each side every five seconds? Yeah... dorms are great.

Seri and I emptied the bookcase, flipped it over onto it's front, and tried to slide the panel in. We encountered our first problem right at this moment.

The panel is too small, so it jumps out of the grooves faster than water on a hot pan. We try to slide it in smoothly, careful not to favor one side too much, so the panel sits evenly in both grooves. Here we encountered our second problem.

At the top of the bookcase (the end of where you need to slide the panel- it slides in from the base) there is also a long groove, to hold the top of the panel in place. The panel is actually three pieces of chip board held together with tape, so it wobbles, and the middle panel likes to sag. How to make it flat so it will slide into the last groove?

Seri got tired of me swearing at the bookcase after about twenty minutes, and left to otherwise occupy herself far, far away from me.

Now, I pride myself in taking after my father in his problem-solving skills. Find what's not working, or which point in the series is being interrupted. This works great for computers, not so much for ornery bookcases. After another ten minutes of thinking my father would be laughing at me, I realized something rather obvious.

I was fighting gravity. And gravity had been playing this game far longer than I. So how do I beat gravity? I don't! I let gravity work for me! I flipped the bookcase so it was completely upside-down, and dropped the panel in from the top. one minute later, I was done, and had nailed (and duct-taped!) the panel into place.

Hah! Take that, gravity! Excuse me while I do a victory jig.

In this case, it was a lot about realizing that there is never just one way to do something. And often, the simplest solution is best.

I tried the same way of sliding the back panel in probably fifty or sixty times, expecting a different result. I guess that makes me insane!

Alright, now I have to go make my coffee brewer work...