On Statistics, Criminally

Yesterday’s Harvard Business Review Daily Stat (article abstract here) irked me, and I’m not sure why.

Car-wash attendants who cleaned the interiors of automobiles stole loose change 30% of the time, but the rate doubled if the driver had left a beer can and a racy magazine in the car, say Ronald Burns, Patrick Kinkade, and Michael Bachmann of Texas Christian University. The experiment suggests that you’re more likely to become a victim of petty crime if would-be criminals see you as more socially “deviant,” the researchers say.

 

 

 

 

 

I think it has to do with the fact that I disagree (at least, I think I do – this is a dumb statistic that lacks significant real-world application, even though they’d like you to believe that it’s totally applicable to all crime).

I’d also be curious to see what a study would say about how criminal car-wash attendants would react to my car. Chances are I wouldn’t even notice if anything got stolen, or that no car-wash attendant would go so far as to even disturb the clutter out of fear for their life. (This is why I rarely get car washes – I don’t want anyone random to see my clutter. It’s just like that scene in 50/50 all over again. When I got a flat tire last summer, the attendants at Discount Tire assured me they’d seen much worse, but I think they were lying because whenever I say that to someone, I’m lying through my teeth to preserve what dignity they have left. It’s just like, “It happens all the time.”)

But seriously, are criminals more likely to target criminals? What if it’s just that people who leave beer cans and porn in their car are more likely to have spare change lying around? I mean, that’s obviously not a clean car to begin with. And someone who forgets porn is probably more likely to forget their spare change. (Ew, but at that point, would you want to touch the spare change?)

It is true that you’re more likely to have crime happen to you if you’re involved in crime. If you’re a drug dealer, you’re more prone to being robbed or shot. As someone who probably has shady characters in and around your house at all hours of the night, you’re essentially welcoming an element of society that’s more prone to crime against you since they’re already involved in crime.

But as a criminal, does this prove that you have some semblance of a conscience, as shown by your choice of victims? Are you more discerning? Do nicer cars have better spare change?

I feel like this study begs more questions than it provides answers. Do nicer cars have less change because of the propensity to charge purchases? What does the amount of change in a car say about the driver’s spending habits? Will car-wash attendant theft decrease as we move away from being a cash-based society? Can we quantify criminal behavior just by looking at car-wash attendants? (Of course not, that was a dumb question.)

On Being Boring, Reluctantly

I saw an article about being boring on Facebook about a month ago, so I clicked on it. Sure enough, I am boring. It’s official.

I crave me-time. The single-Katie that lives inside of me is thrilled by the prospect of nights spent with a hot bath and a good book, or visits to the library to wander through the stacks, filling my arms with more books than I can possibly read in three weeks. I’m also thrilled by thought of having endless amounts of time. Time to do what? I don’t know. Peruse the thrift stores, organize things (pssh, that’ll never happen), paint my toenails more than bi-monthly.

I haven’t jumped naked into a body of water other than my bathtub since 2010, and even the bathtub can’t count as jumping – it’s more a careful stepping to avoid slippage and broken bones. (All I can see in my head right now is that commercial where the elderly people have the bathtub that has doors on it. Is that next?!)

I don’t drink like I used to. (Note to all people: this isn’t a bad thing. It’s just a departure from my typical habit of a responsibly enjoying a gin and tonic or four with my friends and then going dancing on a semi-regular basis.) Weeks are going to turn into months and then pretty soon I’ll be sipping non-alcoholic beer in a Chili’s wondering what happened to my life. Alternately, I imagine that I’ll have two martinis at a corporate event and be so overcome by the reintroduction to alcohol that I take off my pants and/or throw up in the punch bowl.

(That scenario is entirely unrealistic. The worst drunk me ever does is jump into bodies of water – Lake Michigan, I’m coming back for you, I swear – or get belligerent and lecture strangers about anything from feminism to sexual health to politics to sports. South Boston, I’m sorry for the things I said about Belichick, even though I was not wrong.)

I make excuses about doing laundry (Jacob calls me out on this all the time) so I can go home and run a hot bath and relax. I work too many jobs to ever be hung over. There’s no room for naps or excuses or anything else. I got excited to print out IRS forms last week. I signed my very own homeowner’s insurance policy. But wait, it gets better! It’s bundled with my brand new auto insurance policy. Oh, bundling was exciting!

Ready for the worst part? I’ve been listening to oldies. At least, I was until Kool 105.1 started playing holiday music. Since I’m holiday-averse, I immediately plugged another radio station into my #5 preset in my car. Once the new year begins and the nightmare that is ever-present Christmas music ends, I will reset #5 to Kool 105 and I will revel in the disco-tastic awesomeness that it is.

8 Signs You Are Becoming Boring

NOV. 8, 2012

Disclaimer: I write this list in full recognition of the fact that I am a freshly-minted Boring Person myself. This is a space of no judgment, only facts.

1. You see students out having fun and are exasperated.

It starts with the high school kids. You see them out at the mall, scowling at things, drinking their energy drinks and just generally being assholes in front of the Pacsun or the Hot Topic. You think, “God, what irritating little warts. Good thing I was never 15,” and then carry on your boring way to go get a loofah at Bed Bath and Beyond or whatever you are there to do. Then you see college kids, getting rowdy in a bar, potentially using terrible fake IDs but still getting away with it because the bartender is cool and they want the money. Despite the fact that you, too, used a fake ID just a few short years ago, you are filled with righteous indignation. “Wait your turn, you brats,” you long to say, “Go drink 4 Loko in your bedrooms until you turn 21, like God intended. The bar is for people with jobs.”

2. Your idea of fun has become staying home with some blankets and your computer.

There is just something so profoundly beautiful about having a whole night ahead of you with nothing planned but Netflix, perhaps some tea or wine, and chilling out in your jammies under your covers. It is a state of such deep relaxation, it can occasionally reach near-orgasmic levels of joy. Add a little take-out Thai food to be eaten while still firmly in bed into the mix, and you have the makings for a night that would beat a club opening hosted by a nude Ryan Gosling and a snowblower full of free money.

3. The only thing keeping you from being obese is being lazy.

There are so many times when you are overwhelmed with the desire to go a few blocks over to get a big bag of McDonald’s or a Frappucino made out of what appears to be vegetable shortening, or simply a king size candy bar (king size, of course, because if you made the trek out there you’re not going to just get a regular-sized Snickers like a peasant). But then you think, meh, that would require leaving the apartment and turning off this episode of Dexter and putting on something other than a Snuggie, and then it’s just like fuck it, I’ll eat these carrot sticks I have in my refrigerator. Who knows how many potentially-clogged arteries were spared out of sheer will to remain a hermit.

4. Staying within budget is not a problem.

There was once a time during which you were truly concerned about spending too much money on things like extravagant nights at the bar or too many dinners/lunches at restaurants, even moderately-priced ones. It seemed like the most efficient way to burn a sizable hole in your checking account and find yourself unable to comfortably make rent at the end of the month. Then, all of a sudden, you realize that actually extracting yourself from the comfort of your apartment every once in a while and finding something worth spending said money on may actually be the more pressing issue, as you are quickly adhering to your pajamas and learning through real-time evolution how to blend your skin in with your patterned bedspread.

5. You are excited when people cancel plans.

I think we’ve all had a moment or two where you are sitting there, not at all pumped to go to this social outing that you agreed to (it’s not that you don’t like the person, you just don’t like having to go outside right now), when all of a sudden they call you with the thrilling news that they are unable to make it! It’s as though the heavens themselves have parted and shone a light down on your lazy, boring ass personally to sing to you with the voice of a thousand golden angels “Fear not, for you have a few more hours of dicking around on Tumblr ahead of ye.”

6. You prefer to go to the same restaurants, ordering the same foods.

One minute, we’re these adventurous little sprites of youth and excitement, ready to go anywhere and try anything at the drop of a hat. The next, all we have to do is call our local Chinese takeout and, through only seeing our number on the caller ID, they are downstairs in five minutes with the exactly what we want, right down to the extra soy sauces. When I was a barista, there were many customers for whom we could prepare their drink only seeing them walk through the door. I used to think that they were silly, that they should try to expand their horizons. Now I resent the fact that no one knows me well enough to make my extra-hot grande soy latte when I walk in the door.

7. Literally any plans the following day make going out a hassle.

How is it that you used to be able to stay up until 6 in the morning doing crystal meth and running naked through a forest of pine needles and still be fresh as a spring flower for class the next day, and now you have to really weigh your options about going out for dinner if you know that you have to be up by 10 the next morning to go pick something up at the dry cleaners? How is that possible?

8. People are no longer surprised when you don’t do things.

In your transition from “chill person who is down for pretty much whatever” to “boring-ass hermit who has a minor panic attack every time the bar they’re in gets too loud and full of amorous college students,” you will notice a time frame in which people still hold out hope that you will prove to be the social butterfly you once were. They will try in vain to extract you from your home-pod, thoroughly disappointed when you don’t accept. Now, of course, they don’t expect you to come out to their various parties and gatherings — they know that you, like any society diva who is so in demand on her own futon, have a lot of potential nights to choose from, and it may just end up being ice cream and The Price Is Right reruns. TC mark

Read more at http://thoughtcatalog.com/2012/8-signs-you-are-becoming-boring/#GGSColeKRzqPdQbB.99

On Irony and Millennial Rage, Pointedly

I am a Millennial. I live in the age of technology, apathy, and stagnancy. I find myself, for some reason, oddly incensed when I read articles decrying the state of our Millennial generation and the effect we’ll have on the future.

One of my friends posted a link to a New York Times op-ed piece called “How to Live Without Irony” on his facebook wall. I, being the curious creature that I am, clicked on it. And I’ve been in a Millennial fury ever since.

The article focuses on irony as the “ethos of our age” and discusses hipsters as “the archetype of ironic living.” Before I even begin, I must state that I believe that the sort of hipster that the author, Ms. Wampole, is describing is a sort of hipster that we only see in stereotyped form – the sort of hipster that she imagines is the sort of hipster that died out the minute Urban Outfitters opened its first store, just as the emo movement of my teens trickled into black nothingness after a few years of outpourings of softened masculinity and affectation of grief stemming from the loss of nothing concrete.

(The cover image of the article shows two hip-looking twenty-somethings wearing Justin Bieber shirts, ironically. I know plenty of hipsters and I’ve never once seen a single one of them wearing any sort of pop star t-shirt, save for Ben, the South African grad student who owns a Britney Spears t-shirt but genuinely loves her. That’s not irony; that’s adoration.)

The author goes on to describe the acceptance of such an ironic life as being something easily mocked and lacking individuality, the ability to gift sincerely, communication skills, and an aversion to risk.

She’s right on the count that it’s easy to mock hipsters. But that’s not really a point. It’s easy to mock most groups, so long as you’re not a part of them. Ms. Wampole admits that the reason she’s so irked by hipsters is that “they are….an amplified version of me.” I’m not sure what she means by this, although she goes on to point out that she, just like hipsters, finds it hard to gift sincerely.

This is bullshit. Maybe you, Ms. Wampole, are just a terrible gift-giver. Yes, it’s terrifying to work really hard on a present that someone might hate, but that’s part of being alive. (Do you also not date because you’re afraid of rejection?) I know hipsters who gift-give insanely well – I own two eye patches and a pair of man-pants, neither given ironically, and all three things appreciated intensely.

I have no idea where the author is getting the idea that hipsters can’t gift sincerely. Oh, wait, perhaps she’s thinking Urban Outfitters, which is hipster gift central, but again, way too mainstream for authentic hipsters. (You’ll find them in the boutiques that I’m terrified to enter – because instead of finding acceptance and awesome things, I find condescending glares from the pierced staff and faces full of disgust.)

The teenagers who buy the brass knuckles mug for $17.99 (I’m making that price up) aren’t buying in to hipsterism and ultimately embracing irony as their ethos; they’re buying it because they want to feel badass. They want to feel adult. They want to feel like a unique consumer.

Same goes for the dude who’s in the Puma store buying a pair of sweet track shoes. Or the new bride in Anthropologie spending a ridiculous amount of her newly created joint back account on a bathrobe or a pretty, lace-lined dress. They want to feel unique. They want to exude the air of quality, or expensive taste, or maturity through purchasing power. Those people aren’t hipsters, or maybe they are. But it doesn’t matter. Because at the end of the day, it’s not the ironic life that anyone is buying into.

This is in no way a new thing. Expression of self through material expression is the ultimate in statements. The fashion industry thrives not because we need couture. It thrives because the clothes we wear ultimately send signals to our peers about who and what we are.

Judith Butler (my favorite feminist theorist, don’t judge me) writes about a concept that I’ve hung on to: the idea that all individuals are always dressing in drag. This means, essentially, that what we wear and how we put ourselves together is all a performance. For example, I usually wear jeans and a sweatshirt to work. Today, I’m wearing dress pants and a nice shirt. My co-workers are all like, “Laundry day?” because me dressed up is usually my signal that it’s time to wash my clothes. But no, today I’m wearing dress pants because we’re closing on our house (eek!) and I want to give off the appearance that I’m totally calm and put together (I’m not).

Everything we do and own is performance, and I think the author would do well to remember that the idea of “heteronormative drag” goes much further than the Brooklyn hipsters.

It is my contention that the expression of irony through statement t-shirts, and other ironic, or potentially outdated fashions is merely a cultural commentary, and a rejection of the bubblegum pop materialism that we Millennials came of age in.  (Ms. Wampole seems to forget that fashion is cyclical – I would kill for some more vintage dresses. Think 50s housewife. The lines look good on me, and accentuate my almost non-existent curves. I don’t want them to make feminist statements; I want them because I feel good in them.)

I don’t think that it’s so much “nostalgia for times he never lived himself” so much as it is the rejection of consumerism as a whole – for example, the move toward bicycles signals a conscious attempt to provide quicker pedestrian transportation, particularly in cities. It’s practical and functional, and people want to deck out their bicycles the same way they want to put fuzzy dice in their cars (but shouldn’t).

I can’t (and won’t) speak to fixed-gear bicycles because they terrify me. My dad gifted me his 1973 road bike (with gears and brakes, thankfully) for my birthday a couple of years ago – not because I was feeling nostalgic for the damn time in which the bike was created, but because I rode on the bike when I was a baby; I think it’s sweet; and it was free. Perhaps they signal some sort of accomplishment, as in, “yeah, you see this baby, it has no brakes. I’m a badass.” Again, I think that’s what people really want. It’s the cycling equivalent of a Tesla Roadster.

I grew up in an age marked by plastic and glitter and things made of glittering plastic. I think that the hipster mentality is rooted in a desire to embrace the bright colors but simplistic design and clean lines of times past, when furniture was for function rather than overly artistic design for the sake of overly artistic design. (Think of McMansions and the glittering, faux-crystal chandeliers. It’s not that the hipster is rejecting quality, but they’re rejecting the pretense that “all that glitters is gold.”)

Of course, I must address mustaches. I’m personally terrified of facial hair. I think it’s weird. On some people, it looks great, but I don’t want to wake up next to the remnants of last night’s sweet handlebar mustache. I don’t want to date a guy who spends more time on his mustache than I do on my hair. I don’t get hipster mustaches. And I am critical of them. But heck, I’m critical of Bump-Its, too.

I think Ms. Wampole is correct when she says, “Throughout history, irony has served useful purposes, like providing a rhetorical outlet for unspoken societal tensions.” But she’s wrong to say that our “contemporary ironic mode is somehow deeper; it has leaked from the realm of rhetoric into life itself. This ironic ethos can lead to a vacuity and vapidity of the individual and collective psyche.”

I do believe that outwardly, the display of the ironic is more present than at most points in history. But again, I contend that it stems from not only access to social media and all things internet-based and it also stems from a sort of cultural shift that’s happening. We’re frustrated and stagnant, and it seems that no amount of pushing and shoving is allowing this generation to get out of the critical gaze of our elders. I feel as though we can honestly do no right. I’ve attended webinars that focus solely on how to manage Millennials, webinars that criticize but neglect to touch on the benefits that we may have. We may lack social interaction skills, but I think that with enough mentoring and practice, we’d all be more than proficient. (I exchanged recipes with a middle-aged businessman at the last trade show I attended. I don’t think I sat there the whole time buried in my phone. I was terrified, but I stood, hands folded in front of me, smiling and making small talk. Success.)

(Something for middle-aged readers to remember: did you start out in middle-management? No? You started out as a kid in an ill-fitting suit who had no idea what was expected of you? Oh, really. Hmmm…perhaps you’d like to share your experiences and some tips with the young kids in your office. Perhaps you could each benefit from a relationship. I bet they’d be willing to teach you about a lot of things, not just pop culture references. I always say that one of the things I’m most grateful for is the fact that I’m the youngest by 18 years in my office. I’ve had such beautiful opportunities to learn and grow, both personally and professionally. And I’ve also contributed to the environment in which I work. I bring enthusiasm, perspective, and humor. I’d argue that we’ve all benefited.)

Is our move toward silly expression really just a reaction to the overwhelming burden that’s been placed on us? As a Millennial, I’m constantly met with statistics that are wildly incorrect. They tell me that I’m not civic-minded or politically engaged. These are distinctly false. I am both civic-minded and an informed voter. (I think the pollsters would do best to stop interviewing 18-year old high school graduates, for I think that all rational thought at 18 is not necessarily the rational thought that those same people will possess a mere five years later.) I’m constantly facing the news that I’m going nowhere, that I’m ill-prepared to lead a productive and sustainable life, that I’m vapid and moronic. I have news for you: I’m none of those things. And I resent it.

Perhaps I am a bit sensitive, the hallmark of my generation. We were so coddled and loved and adored, but that’s the fault of our parents, the generation that moved to the suburbs and embraced materialism as a marker of success and eschewed happiness in favor of social status. (Oh she’s shifting blame! Quick, get her!)

I’m not shifting blame entirely. I do know plenty of people who aren’t half as self-sufficient as I am. I know plenty of Millennials who lack the drive and focus. But can’t you say the same for people in your own generation?

Ms. Wampole describes us as a “self-infantilizing citizenry,” and I think she’s wildly incorrect. We are not that. We are driven, determined, and yes, stagnant. Our under-employment and over-educated minds are frustrated. Our loans are crippling and our credit scores sick with over-exertion and exhaustion. We work jobs and jobs and jobs, until we are exhausted, mentally and physically. And yet, we hope.

Just as Ms. Wampole says she did in the 90s (mind you, she’s really only 3 years removed from this pathetic generation of Millennnials and hipsters, so perhaps the fact that she sees some of us in her is based in proximity alone). We hope for better for ourselves. Not necessarily materialistically better, but better. We hope for many things – a government of the people, by the people, and for the people; a solid 401(k); a peaceful, sustainable future for our own children (should we choose to procreate). None of these things vary that drastically from the hopes of generations before us, but the messages are so mixed these days, it’s hard to tell if we’re headed in the right direction.

She also discusses the archetype of her own generation, “the slacker who slouched through life in plaid flannel, alone in his room, misunderstood. And when we were bored with not caring, we were vaguely angry and melancholic, eating antidepressants like candy.” I’m not sure how this differs from the current hipster archetype. I’d like to argue that her generation’s slacker has become the hipster of mine. The aimlessness we feel somewhat resembles that of the Lost Generation, the generation who struggled to find meaning, who struggled in a post-war world, who lacked the solid foundations of a future, yet who desired so much to discern meaning from their circumstances.

We need to stop writing off the hipsters or the Millennials, or both singularly, as being unintelligent and uninformed. We need to stop criticizing them for this mess – the current social atmosphere is far more charged and reactionary than you might be inclined to believe.

The friend who posted the article responded to my comment taking offense to Ms. Wampole’s assertion of our insincerity through ironic expression saying that he felt that the author’s intent was not to go after hipsters and that irony can undermine sincerity and authenticity. He’s wrong about her intent: she’s a hipster-hating human who doesn’t have any clue what she’s talking about since she’s locked in the ivory tower of academia – it’s a very sheltered world, and I often find that when theoretical thinking is not paired with real-world experiences, it tends to become a shade too intense and unrealistic.

He’s right about irony undermining sincerity and authenticity. I personally strive to be the most authentic person I can be. I love sincerity and truth and understanding and the trust that can be fostered through honest communication. But I also think that since truth and trust are difficult for some to embrace, irony can serve a purpose.

I think that plenty of identity formation can stem from negation. Think of it as “I am not this, therefore I am something else.” Granted, it’s a much broader approach, but finding out what you dislike or reject can lead to some very necessary self-exploration that perhaps you may not have done otherwise.

I will concede that irony, like all things, is best in moderation.

On Entitlements, Defensively

I’m annoyed (oh man, what’s new?).

One of my absolute favorite teachers from high school posted a Facebook status about hearing he could quit his job teaching because he could get government handouts that total more than he makes per year. Cue the slew of comments from people advocating for people who work and decrying the lazy poor. And for people only deserving to earn money for the work that they do, and comments suggesting that people are lazy, and we live in a sick country dependent on handouts.

This is untrue. How do I know this? It’s no secret that I work my ass off. But there was a time when I made significantly less than I do now. And during that time, there was a lot of panic. Sometimes, I’d stare at my bank account and wonder how I was going to make that last me the entire month, with rent, bills, insurance, and gas and food. It goes fast.

So out of curiosity, I checked out government assistance. (Food stamps, bitch.) And guess what? I made too much to qualify for ANY of the assistance programs. (Not just food stamps, bitch.)

I started babysitting. And then I started freelancing. And then I started working at Dairy Queen. And I also got a raise or three at work.

I’m frustrated by the ideas tossed around – many of them lack any sort of basis in fact. Granted, there are a multitude of programs that fall under the umbrella of government assistance. Stafford loans, unemployment, Medicare/Medicaid, etc. And yes, there are people who are ridiculously dependent on the government without the expectation that they should have to work for it. But there are also people who need the help that they get.

I’m frustrated that the dialogue here is so critical. I’m frustrated that instead of focusing on the cause of the poverty and need in our nation, we have created a system that doesn’t allow for equal opportunity, that has magnified the cyclical situation of the working poor, that divides our nation into socio-economic groups, and so on. We’re reaping the “benefits” of an economic clusterfuck that we’ve been complicit in creating.

I harp on this all the time, but it’s because I really do see it as a barrier to progress: our societal devaluation of various types of labor has created the situation we’re in and it’s simply not sustainable. Gone are the days when someone could begin a career and work up through the ranks of a company. They may not have been wealthy, but the idea of a pension and a comfortable retirement was possible. The dream of owning a home and putting food on the table was a reality.

Now, we are forced into a hyper-competitive (and unrealistic) model of unattainable career advancement. The white-collar workforce has become an oppressively elitist segment of society, neglecting to remind themselves that their luxury cars had to be built by a laborer – someone who possesses skills they themselves most likely don’t have.

Personally, I wasn’t cut out for manual labor (apparently a lack of muscles makes me unfit for jobs that require them). Or the daily grind of a statistician (lack of mathematical prowess and logical thinking disqualifies me). Instead, I work at a job that suits my own strengths. It’s high time that we reminded ourselves that any society needs variety – variety of skill sets and variety in life. But the fact that one person runs a company and another wires houses or fixes clogged toilets does not mean that any person is of any greater value than the next. (Trust me, no amount of luxury cars in a garage is going to fix your overflowing toilet. There’s no app for that.) (There probably is an app for that.)

The discussion now focuses on the stereotype that the poor are lazy, which is something I’d love to put to the test. Let’s take your $70k/year job and pay you $12/hour for it. Let’s say that what you do isn’t worth that much. Let’s see you have to deal with not only the aching muscles, but the condescending tone of customers that so much resemble you by day. (Yeah, I get this a lot at Dairy Queen – somehow, my uniform and position behind the counter make me open to belittling, yet when I pass these same people on the street dressed in my professional attire, they open doors for me and say hello. Curious, isn’t it?)  Let’s see how you cope. Let’s see how good you are at balancing your budget, at cutting coupons, at working 14 hour days to feed your family. After you’ve spent time being part of the working poor, I’d love to hear you talk about entitlements and handouts. (Better yet, I’d love it if you’d start your arguments with facts instead of conjecture.)

Oh, and while I’m the subject of entitlement, let’s tax the shit out of capital gains. Sorry. If my $14/hour job gets taxed at a certain rate and your millions in interest and dividends don’t count, I have every right to spit your own arguments back at you. Entitled? Yeah, I think I am. I’m entitled to same services you, services such as education, roads, and police. The services that my tax dollars pay for. The services that you expect but don’t want to pay for.

I’m not saying that our government or economy or society are in a good place. They’re not. They’re corrupt. They’re every bit as corrupt as the governments we criticize. But to attempt to deny people things that they are entitled to, especially if they work and work and still can’t make enough to make ends meet, is a travesty.

I urge you to reexamine the way the you treat other people. All people. Poor. White. Black. Rich. I urge you to think about the advantages that you had. My advantages? Education. I come from a family that put education first and foremost. And I was very lucky to have the help and assistance and support that I did. I want to use my gifts to give back to my community. I want to use my gifts to help empower all people – and to give them the gifts that I had, and ultimately, give everyone a chance to make the life they want.

I don’t support handouts to people who don’t deserve them, and I do think that often, the idea of handouts leads to a dependence on them and a perpetuation of a problem that couldn’t have been solved with assistance in the first place. But I think that everyone in our society deserves the chance to live a life that’s fruitful and happy. In order to create a sustainable future for all of our citizens, not just the rich white ones, we need to come together as a people and do some serious reevaluation of our principles. Perhaps some moral compass re-calibration is necessary, too.

Just a thought.

On Rage and Authenticity, Quite Happily

As much as I dread the thirteen-and-a-half-hour workday, I find that it is a reminder of many things, including strength, dedication, commitment, and so on. Mostly, it’s a reminder of the lengths that I’m willing to go to ensure myself a solid, stable future and to keep Carlos in the style to which he’s become accustomed (which is basically just fat. Wet cat food is not cheap, but since it delights him so much, it’s worth it – and I benefit indirectly because the amount of snuggling I receive correlates to his enjoyment of his wet food).

Lately, as I struggle yet again with a lingering resentment for a part of my extended family, and as I work long days, I am reminded of the opportunities for gratitude in everything that I do. Today at my real job, I had the opportunity to have a wonderful conversation with my lady boss, a woman I’ve come to respect and admire for both her spirit but also her ability to keep everything together in the face of immense pressure. She’s funny, strong, and intelligent: all things that I aspire to be.

After that, at my night gig shelling out ice cream, I was grumpy because a couple came in and made fun of the way I said “food laws” by way of an attempt to explain why we no longer offer a certain product. Excuse me if I get offended because you find my use of “food laws” so immensely entertaining that you need to say it eighteen times. I’m exhausted, annoyed, and perfectly capable of using correct language, but sometimes it doesn’t happen. “I misspoke,” I said simply, glaring at them, hurt and embarrassed. I swear, “cross-contamination” and “regulations” are words that do exist in my vocabulary, even if I’m not always capable of injecting them into conversation. I was determined to let it bother me all night, holding onto my repressed rage at the indignation I felt.

But of course, life had other plans and I was treated to some of my absolute favorite customers. A mother and her son came in and told me that they were delighted to see my face behind the counter. A father and his son came in – they were in for ice cream last night so I made a quip and we discussed our own personal limits for enduring Journey songs on the radio. Another guy came in who knows my boss, and so we talked about the neighborhood and the church and parking tickets. Yesterday, I had a conversation about the American habit of rushing through eating, and the idea of savoring a meal and appreciating the experience. These are all totally strange conversations, but they’re the kind of conversations that I want to be having. They show me so much about people.

These are the moments when I’m reminded why it’s so important to forge wonderful bonds with people, even if those interactions are infrequent, or based solely on introduction to free Blizzard punch cards. The people who may have the most profound impact on you are the people you may know the least, and that’s why it’s so important to present your best self at all times – not your best fake self, but you, entirely. The people who came in tonight revived my spirit and my mood. They have no idea they had that affect, of course, but I can only hope that I did something similar for them.

As I think about the version of myself that I put forward, I think back to a conversation I had with my mother this week about my frustration with an issue that I’ve done everything in my power to resolve, but to no avail. She told me that no matter where I go in life, and no matter what tax bracket I find myself in, I’ll never lose my grit. (I immediately saw myself wearing dusty cowboy boots and clenching my teeth while smoking a Marlboro.) But she must not be wrong, because the sentiment was echoed by someone who means very much to me who told me that my authenticity shows in everything that I do.

And the more I think about it, the more it’s true. Living my life guided by three simple principles – “don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal” – has allowed me to be my most authentic self at all times. I’m not always right, but at least I’m always me. And leaving out all deception, theft, and malicious intent has allowed so much love and happiness to grow inside of me.

Consistency and adherence to my core values allows me to experience so much that others can’t, and I’m immensely grateful for it. I’ve found myself in many situations this year that have tested me in ways that I never imagined – both professionally and personally – and yet they’ve allowed me to flex my honesty, my drive, and my intuition.

Things are going swimmingly – I’m happy. I’m happy discussing conspiracy theories with my Dairy Queen co-workers; I’m happy writing press releases at my real job; I’m happy in my new relationship; I’m just really happy.

Of course, I’m overworked, exhausted, and prone to bouts of melancholy. Of course I’m panicked and stressed and overwhelmed, but even through all of that, I’m happy with myself and with the person that I’m becoming, which is far more important than anything else.

I’m so grateful for everything that I’ve experienced in life, because it’s made me so much stronger. I’m no wilting wallflower. I believe it was Courtney Love who said, “I’m not a woman; I’m a force of nature.” I aim to embody that. And as my mother said during our conversation, no matter where I end up, I’ll never forget where I came from. I’ll never forget the hard work I’ve had to put in to get here, because in the end it’s all worth it. Along the way, there are little bits of encouragement, reminding me that the path I’ve chosen is the right path.

When I wonder why I’ve been rejected by an entire section of my extended family, I can’t help but take into consideration the fact that perfect strangers are excited to see me. I can’t help but think about how much I care about the people I love, and the things that I’d do to help my friends. I can’t help but think about how much of my personality gets to shine through at all of my jobs, at family events, on dates and adventures and through literally everything that I do. I can’t help but think about the person that I am today, and the person that I was yesterday, and I realize I’m still exactly me; I always have been.

What was my advice to adolescent girls dealing with people who are assholes? Oh yeah, “fuck ’em.” Here’s another piece of advice: if all of the evidence points to you being an authentic, awesome (oh, totally modest right now, too) human being, fuck the people who can’t wrap their heads around that. Fuck the people who don’t respect you, or value you, or care. You can find new family; you can make you own – and you can find the respect and value in tiny places like a pair of customers at Dairy Queen who express joy at your presence. That’s enough to remind you that who you are can’t be all bad.

Everything is going to be all right. Everything is all right. Everything is better than all right. Everything is amazing. Life is beautiful. It’s complexity and it’s pain, but it’s insanely worth the journey.

My authentic self, chilling on a rock in the desert:

He does take the best pictures, doesn’t he? (He’s editing, more soon.)

On a Night Off, Unexpectedly

This week brought an unexpected night off – there was a 24-hour power outage at the Dairy Queen and everything melted or was spoiled. It’s not funny, but it was a nice surprise. It was even better that I didn’t have to do any of the clean up. My manager said that squeegy-ing (sp?) melted cakes out of the freezer was horrific. I imagine she wasn’t wrong.

I was anxious driving home on Wednesday. I so very rarely have time that’s unaccounted for. What was I going to do? I shouldn’t have feared. I called Jacob. When he suggested our goth bar, I was elated.

It’s not really our goth bar, of course. But it is one of my favorite places in Denver. It’s only open two nights a week. You have to enter from an alley. There are two separate rooms, connected by a dark hallway. Each room plays different music. The darker room is bigger and the walls are lined with dark couches perfect for hiding away and people-watching. The Clockwork Orange-esque room is brighter, and more upbeat.

Since I was a little goth in high school (who wasn’t?!), I feel so at home here. The people are so lovely – they’re fascinating and equally terrifying. But the best part isn’t the patrons, it’s the dancing. In my natural state, I dance like your stereotypical white man: legs spread, rock side-to-side. It’s so unattractive.

Once, at a club, Jacob grabbed my hips and started moving them in a figure-eight. Like this, he said. Start there. And so I did. So now, after a couple of years of tentative figure-eights and remembering to let go a little, I’m much better. (Much better doesn’t actually mean I’m a good dancer; it means that I am much improved.)

My ability – or partial lack thereof – is not the point here, though. It’s how thrilled I am to be surrounded by people who look like they’re doing my signature dance move, The Wet Noodle, or alternately, having hipster seizures. (Sorry to offend hipsters and seizure-sufferers.)

It’s freeing. Suddenly, I’m part of a mass of moving limbs. I let my mind go, I shift to the music as I internalize it. My eyes look down, around, everywhere. I become a kinetic observer, watching from curious eyes while not-quite-mindfully moving to the music.

This is why the goth bar is the best place. That and the terrifying bathroom conversation between two large women about how tough they are. (I lingered while washing my hands – I scrubbed my fingernails! – to be able to hear their conversation. First it was about some guys “newest fiance” and then it shifted to how thick their legs were, which meant that they were more powerful. Scrubbing completed, I dried my hands and bolted. I’m tiny, I’ve never been in a bar fight, and even though I grew up fighting my now-6’4″ brother, I’m nowhere near as tough as I’d like to think I am.)

I thought this two-faced shadow bit was cute.

Last night, i spent two hours with my wonderful mother signing mortgage loan documents. Mike and I are really buying a house! Oh my goodness. It’s a leap. Last night, he told me that since I’m taking care of the paperwork, he’ll do the packing. (And the unpacking, I hope.) This is such a good example of why we make such a good team.

We are such polar opposites as people, but in such complementary ways. He’s the detail-oriented, logical, patient one and I’m the take-charge, impatient, chaotic communicator. The screen that displays everything in his car broke and he couldn’t change CDs or radio stations or anything. So he was left to cycle through his CDs, song by song, listening to the entirety of each.

I, being as ADHD about music as I am about the rest of my life, told him that this would kill me (it was killing me in that moment. He likes jam bands whose songs are all about 8 minutes or more on average). He replied that he considered it an exercise in patience. He’s that guy. Hilarious, wise, and sometimes entirely frustrating. But for all of our sibling squabbles, we get along remarkably well.

So he’ll pack. I’ll coordinate paperwork and loans and payments. We both dig this plan.

Tonight is date night, so of course I’m antsy and excited. Not being able to see him all week builds the anticipation. Of course, we’re in nearly constant communication – emails, texts, FaceTime. It’s nice, though, to be able to maintain my life and begin to start incorporating him into it. It’s also nice to email links and running commentary about everything back and forth. People’s taste in the internet is very telling.

Uggggh, I was not going to blog about any of this. I was actually going to talk about people. But I guess I’ll do that this weekend.

On Falling Apart, Rapidly

It’s late and I’m sick, so of course, I’m beyond the point of exhaustion but at that point where the emotional mind is too active to let sleep settle on the body it inhabits. I was puffy before, the combination of tired and sick doesn’t wear well on me, but the sobbing has made me even puffier. It’s attractive, really.

I knew it was going to happen this week. I knew it. I felt the sore throat last night and I drank a glass of water, foolishly believing that would be enough to stem the coming sickness. It wasn’t. When I woke up this morning, I was sick. It was settling into my throat, my head was starting the heavy ache behind my ears. I knew it. And yet, I thought that if I could just get to work, I could push it off.

I couldn’t. Now, many hours later, I’m unable to sleep and feeling worse than I have at any point today.

2:30 found me strep testing at Kaiser (god, what another lovely experience to add to my glorious review of segmented care and its effects on sanity – the woman on the phone sighed, loudly, as I asked her how to obtain a strep test and then asked me if I thought it was really necessary. Generally people don’t pick up the phone and say, I’d love for unnecessary tests, please! But wait, regular Kaiser doesn’t offer rapid strep tests. Their after-hours clinic does. So even though I was swabbed at 2:30 and dropped it at the lab some time around 2:45, I won’t know if I have strep or not until after 1pm tomorrow.)

Of course, the consensus at work was that I’ve been stretching myself too thin and that I need to cut back. Which is horrible to hear. I’ve been busting my ass lately, trying to cover all the bases and exceed expectations at all of my jobs. I’ve halted work on my freelancing gig, so technically, I’m down to three.

Last week when one of my co-workers at my real job told me that I should really take stock of my own performance because I could be fired at any time, I didn’t blink or feel a flutter of panic in my stomach. All I could think about was what it would be like to sleep. Or what it would be like to see my friends. Or clean my house. Or have 2 days off. I really don’t want to be fired; I love my job. You have to understand that. I really love my job.

[You’re all welcome to cross-reference my social calendar, too, just in case you’re curious. I’m defensive, yes, but I’m getting sick of fielding bullshit statements like, “But oh my god, you do all this stuff.” I’m 24. I’m trying to build a life. I can’t help that I want to do stuff. It’s not like I’m buying Lanvin left and right. A girl that I went to high school with started blogging and was discussing the fact that she has champagne taste and a beer budget. Her beer budget was J.Crew. My beer budget is Wal-Mart runs for cosmetics when funds and supplies run low simultaneously. My beer budget is that I love Nordstrom Rack and am willing to comb through rack and rack to find something that will fit well, wear well, and is also like 75% off. Yeah, I buy shit. And it’s none of your business. And yes, it’s always on sale. I grew up on all things “SALE,” I’m well-versed in playing pretend with economic status instead of doll-inspired dream houses. Trust me.]

“Your dreams are not what you thought they’d be.”

Trying not to feel like a failure is harder than it looks. I think that the harder you try to convince yourself that there’s still hope and that positivity is key, the harder you fall when the pieces you’re so carefully holding on to start to slip. That’s where I’m at right now: wrung out and exhausted, hopeless, crying, inconsolable. I have no idea where I went wrong. The truth is, I have none of it together. It’s full-time panic and there’s no way out. So honestly, I don’t give a shit if anyone thinks I’m spread too thin. Right now, that’s all I’ve got. It’s do or die and there’s no going back.

Sleep. For now, I will let sleep do some healing and let’s hope for sunshine tomorrow. The best piece of advice I ever got was, “When you’re upset, just go to sleep. It will pass.” The advice-giver was not wrong.

Because illness causes me to revert to childhood, this song will take you to my freshman year of high school. 

On Work and Then More Work, Industriously

You’re probably wondering why the once-a-weekday posts have slammed to a painful halt.

First, I’ve been trying to avoid getting political. Not that I’m one to bite my tongue (ever), but I’ve been particularly careful this election season. I’ve got a lot to say, and usually this would result in long-winded rants, but I’ve managed to keep a lot of it under wraps. Hopefully as we get closer to the election, I’ll find a modicum of courage to let the rants out and you’ll get some serious content.

Second, I started another job. I use the word “started” rather loosely, as I have returned to the location where I was first gainfully employed at the tender age of 16. Nights and weekends have become such a joyous time for me (not), as I schlep bits of my dignity along with every ounce of ice cream I come in contact with.

(Not that this is an undignified job, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that I thought I’d graduate from college and do one job and go from there. Instead, I’m entirely financially independent and employed, but simultaneously whining and stressed and it’s become a huge clusterfuck of professional responsibility and maturity and balancing. And Mr. Romney, if you’re curious, I do pay federal income tax, but since I’m in such a low tax bracket, I’m happily Rothing the shit out of my 401(k) – sort of. I contribute that maximum percentage of my wages that will be matched by my company in some form or another – in the hopes that some day I’ll be in a much higher tax bracket [I have some serious post-retirement goals that need funding. Custom claw-footed bathtubs don’t come cheap] and I’ll get to reap the benefits of the years I spent working my ass off to make ends meet. No handouts here. Not much sleep, either.)

I find that even though I care less, I’m working harder. I used to be intimidated by customers and their nasty attitudes toward service industry employees. Now, I’m sassier and not into taking any shit.  I’m polite, charming, and wonderful, but cross me and I swear…

When I was in college, I once got asked if I was literate. (You may find it surprising, but I am.) I frequently got called, “Sir.” Now, I’d laugh it off, but as an already self-conscious teenager, being mistaken for a member of the opposite sex was humiliating.

One of my favorite (favorite is too generous. most memorable, perhaps?) incidents occurred at the Highlands Ranch store. (For those of you not from Colorado, Highlands Ranch is exactly what it sounds like: an unnecessarily pretentious suburb full of money but lacking substance and character.) I had gotten over-zealous with the chocolate pump and chocolate syrup was splattered all over my shirt. A man approached the counter and said, “You look like a Jackson Pollock painting.” I glared. (I’m known for my glares. 90% of the time, they’re unintentional, but 100% of the time, they’re deadly.) “He’s an artist. You should look him up some time,” he drawled in that I’m-speaking-slower-than-normal-so-you’ll-understand-what-I’m-saying voice. He hung onto the word artist for a ridiculously long time. I glared more. To this day, I hate Jackson Pollock, chocolate syrup, and men. (Just kidding about the men part. Mostly.)

I hate the khaki pants, the visors, the ice cream freckles stuck to my arms, and the back aches. Whenever I’m leaning over, stretching my lower back and thinking about reaching for the ibuprofen, I’m always reminded of Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimedin which she works in jobs much like this one.

I’m enjoying the ease of recognition, the way that my muscles remember how to make things, the way that my cones come out perfectly. I’m enjoying my co-workers – several of them are holdovers much like me from high school. We’re all out of college and working one or two or more jobs. Dairy Queen seems to be a comfortable reminder of where we came from and the hours are spent happily conversing and teasing. I’m also enjoying the unlimited access to chocolate ice cream Reese’s and banana Blizzards.

Now that I’m the most single I’ve been in three or more years (by choice), I was joking that between the car whose bumper is held together with duct tape and the Dairy Queen uniform, including the topping stains and my Dr. Scholl’s shoes, I am prime dating material. “God, I’ve missed working with you,” said one of my co-workers after I’d made the declaration of premium date-ability, followed with an exaggerated wink, which made me happy.

It’s funny, because I’ll find myself thinking about software databases while I’m blending Blizzards. Hopefully I don’t start having work dreams. I can only imagine how the nightmares will go. Ice cream monsters and SQL errors. Missed deadlines and expired milk.

I’m going to keep going as long as my body and mind can hold out. Here’s to finding inner strength, superior calendaring and task-juggling abilities, and the sass/positivity to get through each day without losing my mind. But mostly, here’s to the pursuit of that elusive, possibly non-existent American dream. Here’s to baby steps and forward progress. Here’s to looking back on these tumultuous years and patting myself on the back for dedication and determination. Here’s to finding the path and building a solid future. Here’s to hope, learning, and personal and professional growth.

If you’re in the mood for what I’m in the mood for today, click here. (That was not meant nearly as dirty as it sounded. The answer is Credence. It will make you feel good, I promise.)

On Parking Tickets, Sadly

I just hate seeing the little yellow envelope neatly tucked into my door, or placed underneath my front window wiper. (Last week, it was dark, and I thought it was just a club advertisement, so I didn’t do anything about it until I got home. Thankfully it didn’t blow away.) My blood boils. My heart begins to tighten in my chest. My eyes narrow. My lips set into a thin line.

I just hate seeing the subject line: “City of Denver online ticket payment confirmation.” My blood boils. My heart begins to tighten in my chest. My eyes narrow. My lips set into a thin line. I highlight the message and file it under “Receipts” in my gmail folder, and then I sigh and try to soothe my bruised soul and bank account.

Stupid parking tickets. I haven’t gotten one since May – Google informed me that I haven’t visited the “pay your parking tickets online” page since May 21. I thought I was killing it this summer. Apparently, I was/am not.

It’s also split street sweeping this week, so I’m worried that I’m going to fail at something. Dodging the 2nd Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of the month gets difficult when the month starts on a Wednesday. This week, I’m tasked with avoiding one side today (great success!) and another tomorrow, and then next Tuesday, I’ll have to do the same. I think that if I were mayor (or even just more motivated), I’d propose legislation regulating street sweeping so that it would be set days (1st, 2nd, and 3rd of the month, for example) rather than second Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, etc.

However, I’m sure the constant Katie Barry revenue stream fills the hearts of the city government employees with pure glee, and who am I to deny them that pleasure?

On Being a Twenty-Something, Defensively

I’ve had a blog since I was fifteen. I wrote posts on MySpace, I posted to (and obsessed over) my LiveJournal account, and finally, when I went away to college, I got a Blogspot to document adventures for my family. Three (give or take a few) iterations later, you have the present form of the same thing: a place on the internet to write about my life.

There is something so entirely humbling about reading back to a post that I wrote when I was little.

Stuff like:

“I stood there, in the company of many, but I knew so few.”

and

“I smiled, trying not to make eye contact. I’m sure my dejected look detracted from my approachability.”

or

“The drive home, in the cool night air, windows down, music up, was immense. No other cars on the road, just me and the night, speeding slowly home. I set the cruise control, just for fun, so that I could just be in the night. I was sixteen again, fresh with ideas, taking the turn to the song, letting the music take me elsewhere.
The lights in Denver have begun their countdown, a simple way of informing pedestrians of their impending restriction, and at night, the countdown simply hits zero and reverts back to the little light man walking. I found myself timing it so that as I drove, I’d be crossing the intersection as the change occurred, the ultimate end leading back to the same beginning.
There is nothing better than the promise of summer, no matter what life is holding for you at the moment, standing outside in the night and smelling the air will change your life. Floral scents intermingle with the city’s hot fresh air and the animals of the night seem to be more alive.
We saw a skunk mosey past, on his way somewhere fast. As I drove away into the night, rolling down the windows, I passed the skunk again, still running, still on the street, getting somewhere.
We’re all getting somewhere, even if we have no idea where we are.”

These posts become a place for me to mark my growth. They remind me that I’ve always been some things, and they reinforce that I’ve always been others. Sometimes I am struck by how insightful Past-Me is, and others, I cringe at her insecurity and wish her all the self-assurance in the world.

I’ve been reading posts about my generation. We’re the Millenials, the ones who are supported by their parents, who have no work ethic, who are vapid and shallow and marked by their sense of entitlement. All of those authors are so wrong.

Yes, we’re wallowing, wandering, lost, and afraid. (And yes, some of us are total dicks. But your generation had some not-so-pleasant people in it too, admit it.) What we were raised to see as our future is crumbling in front of us, as though arriving at the desert mirage to find more and more of same, too-hot sand. We’re thirsty. As I’ve said before, we’re the Next Lost Generation. We have no idea what to expect, because the expectations change daily.

Struggling to find the balance between youth and maturity is a difficult one, particularly when any move toward “grown-up” is criticized, and movements to remain “youthful” are equally stigmatized by both my peers and my age-superiors. What I find interesting is that many of these authors criticizing the Millenials are Millenials themselves.

I work three jobs and don’t get financial support (except health insurance premium – Mom, you’re the best), and I make it work. I have work ethic, drive, desire, and passion to create a sustainable and secure future for myself. I happen to enjoy a few gin & tonics and some dancing. So be it. Yeah, I get frustrated at my peers. I find people with no drive infuriating and weak. I am prone to the occasional meltdown of desperate wallowing.

But I’m also not wallowing for the sake of wallowing. This life is a journey. Right now, the age-superiors are controlling a large stake of this world that we live in. It’s hard to get past the entry-level job, it’s hard to ascertain whether or not our place is as adult-equal or child-mentee. It’s difficult. It’s like being seventeen again, being all lost and insecure and afraid.

The reason that there are so many twenty-somethings actively writing about their lives is because they’re finding an outlet.The internet has opened lines of communication that hardly existed twenty years ago, and has fostered equal parts community and isolation by “social networks.” Growing up with access to technology will change – has already changed – a lot of the ways that people example typical milestones. There’s a lot more comparison, more evaluation, but also less of each.

Pressure on young adults to be “perfect” is a very real thing. They want to succeed, and want to be able to do that, but are often so coddled and cared for that they lack the tools with which to do so. Or, alternately, they want to succeed but instead of being coddled and cared for, they’re tough enough to make it on their own but are constantly fighting external circumstances. It’s life, just like you lived it, just like your kids will live it. It’s just always a bit different.

Yeah, some of those blogs are insipid as all hell. Some are lame. Others are personal. Each blog inhabits its own space. It is exactly what it is. And I’ll tell you something that I always tell people: If you don’t like it, don’t read it.  (For those of you who think the Millenials are strange, you should delve into the world of middle-aged bloggers, some who are fascinating, wonderful creatures and others who are like reading something reminiscent of listening to nails along a mile-long chalkboard. The grass is always greener, dear Baby Boomers.)

My blog marks my growth from adolescent to young adult and beyond. I’m humbled by, grateful for, astonished by, embarrassed about, aware of, and immensely proud of everything, even the parts I hate. This blog, while both public-facing and well-trafficked, is an account of growth and the stages that mark a life. My life. It is meant to be self-pitying and triumphant in equal measures.

When I look back on my posts, I am able to mark the moments at which I grew and changed. I am able to see how my opinions and tastes have changed and grown. And I am  content to see how the journey has progressed thus far, and excited about the glorious future that awaits.

So, remember: If you don’t like it, don’t read it. Problem solved.