Tag Archives: College

The Whole “Silver Linings” Thing

I’ve recently discovered that I’m not a fan of the phrase, “Everything happens for a reason.” Not only is it cringe-worthy in both text and tatt form, it’s perhaps the most unhelpful way of cheering someone up. I’m sure the phrase originated from a place of love and good intention, but after years of abuse and whimsical iterations in wall art, I believe it has been reduced to a semi-PC way of telling someone that shit happens. And that their situation is in fact so shitty, that you honestly can’t think of anything else to say.

To be sure, I’m not knocking anyone who believes everything happens for a reason. Who am I to judge someone or something when I can’t see the bigger picture or what lies ahead? All I’m saying is that it’s become a blanket consolatory statement that’s used too often for too many kinds of situations, both trivial and life-changing. I know this because I have been both the deliverer and receiver of this message many, many times.

And yet, to further contradict myself, I must say that there is some truth to the general idea of the phrase. No, I’m not sold on the fact that every single thing happens for a reason, because there are far too many horrendous, devastating and inexplicable things that happen in this world; insinuating that there’s a specific reason behind every catastrophe and tragedy is both insensitive and impractical. But when you look at the phrase from a different perspective—from more of a doors-closing-windows-opening angle—it starts to look more like the whole “silver linings” idea. And that I can get behind.

I started to realize this a few years ago when I was mercilessly rejected from every single job I applied for. Looking back, I now see that emailing a Chicago ad agency a PowerPoint file for my “creative portfolio” was a bit of a stretch, but it felt appropriate at the time. For what it’s worth, I even included a disclaimer that read something like:

“No, I don’t have the tools or Adobe products I need right now, but give me a job or a Mac Lab and I’ll do these print ads again…but better.”

But other than that particular instance, I couldn’t understand why each and every company would reject me. I mean, wasn’t I a catch? My pet-sitting clients seemed to think so. As did my mom. What better references could you ask for?

All-time low: Posing at a Battlestar Galactica exhibit. And the answer to your question is yes, I am still available for spaceship modeling. Message me for details.

Attending a Battlestar Galactica exhibit in Seattle was perhaps one of my nerdier moments in life. Here I am, modeling a bonafide Colonial Viper.

I fell into a pretty dark hole for a while, one that consisted of Battlestar Galactica, a brief stint in the power-washing business, and many nights spent coercing my first love, Buster, to name me his favorite family member. At my lowest point, I began stuffing cat nip in my pillow to trick him into sleeping with me. I started house sitting more frequently and—in between useless job applications—poured myself into becoming one of Greater Louisville’s most prestigious pet-sitters. For a time, I considered taking it up professionally; I have an unusual connection with animals, and I am incredibly comfortable using other people’s expensive kitchen appliances and entertainment systems. Sure, it wouldn’t be the most lucrative career, but in the off seasons, I could pick up a side gig as a dog-walker. College tuition well-spent, indeed.

Buster and his catnip pillow.

Buster and his catnip pillow (in my former bedroom/parents’ home office).

But as you might have guessed, tending to other people’s critters only fulfilled me for so long, and so I decided it was time to do something different. I decided to start documenting my post-grad progress (or lack thereof) so that rising college graduates would be better prepared for what was to come — a commencement speech ripe with ridiculous proverbs, promises and plugs for alumni donations, followed by a humiliating beating from the job market and a bed in your parents’ office. I wrote about moving back in with my mom and dad (and their bearded dragon, cat, rat, bird and meal worm colony), because I wanted people to stop calling my generation lazy and unmotivated. I wrote about all my crazy (often gruesome) adventures in pet-sitting, my forehead vein and my somewhat unsettling obsession with cats. I wrote about everything, and I came to realize that I loved it. And that I wanted to make a career out of it.

So what I’m trying to say is that being rejected from all those jobs was really, really painful. And scary, to be sure. But it also opened a lot of doors that I didn’t even know existed. It helped me rediscover my love of writing, and it led me to a lot of really amazing people and self-discoveries. I grew closer to my family, I fell in love, I stumbled into an awesome job and I got to be with Buster in his twilight years of life.

So no, I still don’t believe that every single thing happens for a reason. Instead, I think that—at least in my case—a shitty situation created new paths and new possibilities that I hadn’t otherwise considered. And that’s something I’ll try to remember in 2015.

Power Washing: I’ll add it to my resume.

Last weekend, my dad decided it was time to power wash the house. For some reason, he thought it sounded like a job I was capable of doing. If you’ve ever met me (or seen me) you’ll understand how unbelievable his assumption was. Although my gym rat routine has added a little more muscle to my frame, I remain incredibly uncoordinated. I couldn’t pass a field sobriety test if I was stone-cold sober with a few hits of Adderall for additional focus. I’ve taken 2 mirrors off the same van (at different times) while backing out of the garage. When I was 7, I fell off of a bridge into a pond. I’m just not cutout for tasks that involve heavy machinery and/or walking.

The power washer definitely constituted as heavy machinery. It sounded like a lawn mower and required gasoline and a crank-start, just like my ancient push-mower, so I thought maybe I’d be able to manage it. I don’t know if this makes it a pressure washer or a power washer, but I don’t really care.

Before we began power washing, the first thing my dad said to me was, “are you one of those people who’s afraid of heights?”

I barely managed, “I mean…” before he said, “Good. You need to work on that.”

And to the roof he sent me.

I stepped on the ladder and proceeded to climb. Unfortunately, my dad “needs a new ladder” because he “doesn’t know how safe this one is anymore.” Awesome. I’d barely reached the second rung when the ladder tipped over backwards. My dad caught me before I hit the mulch and then showed me “the correct way” to climb a (broken) ladder.

Once I made it to the roof, my dad handed up the power washer gun. My first thought was that it looked like a machine gun. My second thought was that I probably should have given it a practice spray before using it such a far fall from the ground.

Before pulling the trigger, I asked my dad how many mph the water came out. “It’s not in mph, it’s in PSI,” he replied, as if I had any idea what that meant. “Pounds per square inch, Jo. It comes out at 2500 PSI. Don’t shoot yourself in the leg. And seriously don’t take the paint off the house.”

Still not completely following, I asked him to translate this information into how many elephants were in 2500 pounds. My dad shook his head. We’ve never seen eye-to-eye on mathematical equations.

I practiced walking on the roof to get a feel for my balance. After 3 steps, my dad told me that I had better power-wash from a seated position. He went inside to get bleach, leaving me alone to sunburn on the roof. As I sat and watched the neighbors drive by, I realized how horrifying I must have looked — there I was, crouching on a roof, glaring at every passerby (I was cranky, for obvious reasons) and holding what looked to be a machine gun. If it weren’t for my hot-pink athletic shorts and glittery nail polish, I’m fairly certain I could have been mistaken for a sniper.

By the end of the day, my arms were burning worse than they did my first day as an (un)official gym rat. I went to sleep that night feeling like a kid on Christmas Eve — I couldn’t wait to wake up the next morning and flex my newly formed enormous biceps and forearms.

Even though I enjoyed the body sculpting, the worst part about power washing was the bleach. My dad made me wear safety goggles to protect my eyes, but I was more concerned with the effect it would have on my spray tan.

Once we were finished, my dad and I sat in the garage and had a talk about my future.

“You know, Jo, you could make big bucks doing this. I’m serious. People pay big bucks to have people do things like this.” Big Bucks is the term my dad uses to convince me to do something. “You want to paint the shutters next weekend? Big bucks, Jo.” Or, “we’re going to need someone to move mulch around the garden — big bucks.” I’ve yet to receive a paycheck from him, big bucked or otherwise.

At the end of the day, I walked away with sculpted biceps, a streaky spray tan, and a fresh idea to mull over: I hadn’t considered becoming a professional power-washer, but at least now it’s an option on the table.

I’ll probably be power washing again this weekend since we didn’t get to finish one side of the house. Can’t wait. I’ll try to take a picture to add to this post.