Tag Archives: Post-grad

Work Quirks

Last week marked my three-year anniversary at work. Crazy how time flies. It feels like just yesterday I was power-washing homes and hunting squirrels for rent. But for better or for worse, I’ve now been a bonafide businessman for three years. And though I still look like a science fair entrant in business pants (or “trousers,” as my fancy friend calls them), I’ll concede that I’ve slowly matured in other ways, some of which both puzzle and frighten me.

Hot for per.
I knew I was in trouble the day “per” cropped up in my everyday dialect. I don’t remember our first encounter, but I do – embarrassingly enough – remember thinking “My God, where have you been?” It didn’t take long for me to develop a sick sort of satisfaction in its abuse. It felt so easy. So natural. So trousery. For example, rather than send my friends an email about “that cat video we talked about at lunch,” I found myself saying things like, “Per our discussion over sandwiches,” or “Per our conversation re: cats.” (More to come on re:) I was totally out of control. The only time I can remember obsessing in such a way was when I was eight and discovered the word “bastard.” To be sure, I hadn’t yet discovered the meaning of bastard, so I used it interchangeably with “friend(s)” or “guy(s).” E.g.: “Come on, you bastards! Let’s get some snacks!”

Picture of my finest creek-walking gear.

Around the same age I discovered “bastard,” Can you believe it?

Re: the ridiculousness of re:
After readily adopting “per,” it was only a matter of time before I began exploring the darker, more formal morsels of jargon at my disposal. Though I experimented with several options – most notably the notion of signing my emails with “Best,” – I eventually landed on re:. Re:, as in, “I got your voicemail re: the peanut butter.” Or “Your email re: the trouser sale was well received by all.” I knew it was terrible sentence structure. I knew it was pretentious. But I didn’t care. It felt good to be bad. And if I’m being totally honest here, it made me feel a hair grayer (in a well-respected wizard sort of way, that is).

The Hello Whisper.
I find something very uncomfortable about passing people in hallways. They’re at one end, you’re at the other, and you have no choice but to surmount a full-frontal approach before meeting your respective destinations.

To handle these situations, I’ve developed two coping strategies: The Hello Whisper and the Captain’s Wave. Certainly, each has become somewhat irrelevant as I’ve grown more comfortable in my company, but they’ve both served me well.

The Hello Whisper came to me in the first year of my career, presumably born out of shyness and insecurity. It happens like this: upon noticing an approaching coworker, I tuck my pelvis under, focus intently on the carpet and quicken my pace, as if I’m late to a very important meeting. Once I feel that my coworker and I have reached an appropriate distance from each other, I look up, smile, and silently mouth “Hi” Like I’m very excited to see them, but also quietly respectful of the hardworking businessmen around me.

The Captain’s Wave.
As seasons changed, I began to replace my meek Hello Whisper with something a little bolder, a little more dramatic — the Captain’s Wave. It came to me when I realized that what I hated most about hallway encounters was the anticipation. Do I say hi? When should I say hi? How do I say hi? Where should I look until I say hi? What if I have chocolate on my face? What if it’s my boss and I have chocolate on my face? 

So, I decided to avoid said discomfort by asserting myself from the get-go. If I notice a coworker at the opposite end of the hallway, I throw up my hand and give them a big, slow half-circular wave, like I’m saluting them from the helm of my ship. It seems to work quite nicely. After a few months testing it in the market, I’ve found that it gets about a 55 percent response rate, depending on how backlit I am.

So there you have it. A small taste of my more unfortunate work quirks. Also, for my own vanity, I must note that I’ve weaned myself off “per” and “re:,” though you have every right to judge our brief affair.

As you can see, I've grown quite comfortable in my work environment.

As you can see, I’ve grown quite comfortable in my work environment.


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.

A Costly Milestone

I recently reached another adult milestone. I’m calling it a “milestone” because I want to reassure myself that this happens to other people, and that this is indeed some sort of way of life in adulthood.

Or, as my dad would tell me, “I’m rationalizing.”

A couple of weeks ago, I woke up and checked my bank account only to find that I had exactly $0.00 to my name. Now, I’ve never been good with numbers, but I couldn’t help but marvel at my ability to have selected such a perfectly priced item. How often do people bring their bank accounts down to exactly $0.00? Surely that was some sort of feat. Thank goodness I’d gotten two beers instead of one the night before! I patted myself on the back for a job well-done and logged into my mobile banking account to transfer some funds.

As the page loaded, I took a moment to reflect on how mature I was being in catching a near costly mistake. “How responsible of me!” I thought. “How adult!” But when my account balance finally appeared, I saw a strange charge for “overdraft protection,” and all sense of accomplishment, pride and maturity vanished.

I began to freak out. Overdraft protection? What does that even mean? And how could I have so little money? Surprisingly, even after a slew of unpaid internships and lasting commitment to organic produce, I’d never seen my account balance so low.

I then realized that this could only mean one thing: I was a delinquent, an Overdrafter. And I’d wronged the Man. I started to contemplate what my life would look like as a newly anointed criminal. Oddly enough, my likelihood of surviving in jail comes up in more conversations than you’d think (the general consensus is that I wouldn’t do well, unless gluten-free snacks and Eucerin Cream make it into our prison systems).

Pish Posh Joan

Interval training with m’Lady.

I pushed the thought of jail far from my mind and considered the other possible consequences. With imprisonment out of the picture, surely this meant that someone would soon come to repossess my belongings, the most valuable of include Lady Joan (my cat) and my Keurig. My Keurig I could do without, but Joan? Joan would never survive without me. Nor I without her. She–not unlike her mom–is a very delicate creature. She requires organic, grain-free food, a finger to nurse on, and gentle yet regular interval training. Who would be able to support such a regal lifestyle? I cursed myself for not having named a Godmother. Now, it was up to the bank to decide her fate.

Long may she rein.

The Lady and her keep.

Perhaps I’ll get a side-job to recover some funds, I thought. I used to be a fairly decent lawn mower which, like golf, is a skill fit for any stage of life. It’s sustainable, it’s active, and it’s engaging — no two lawns are the same. I decided to start slow and pitch the idea to my parents. After all, they were my original clients. I used to charge them about $20/mow, plus an additional 25-cents per dog poop scooped. Considering inflation and the influx of animals in their yard, my 2014 rate would come to about $75/mow. $100 extra for animal carcass removal.

While I’ve yet to pitch my parents on becoming their landscaper, I am confident that I’ll emerge from this trial a better person. And if not a better person, perhaps a more fiscally responsible person. Although secretly, I’m writing this blog post in hopes that my parents will read it and send me some money. (Mom —  if not for me, do it for Joan.)

The Silver Fox

Nearly one month away from my 25th year of life, I’m discovering some interesting things about myself. About my aging, to be exact. A particularly depressing revelation occurred about a week or so ago. I’d say it was the worst one I’ve had yet, but earlier this year, my mom asked me if I “did Botox.”  That would be the worst. However, something horrible happened recently that painfully confirmed my rapidly waning youth: my first gray hair.

The proof is in the pudding.

The proof is in the pudding.

A coworker spotted it one morning as we were talking in my office. It couldn’t have been hard to do — the bastard was sticking straight up from my scalp, waving in the AC draft like the white flag of my surrendering youth. To this day, the visual is still unsettling.

After somewhat awkwardly asking her to remove it from my head, we delved into an almost mathematical rationalization of all the things this could be other than a gray hair. We blamed my highlights (which I’ve never had), my potential “scalp birth mark,” and the small pharmacy of hair pills I’m taking to outgrow my Thomas Jeffersonesque bob. Perhaps I’d been particularly stressed out at work, or had a shocking, life-altering moment, she suggested. Almost instantly, I thought of the night I watched the “Red Wedding,” a night so dark and lonely I can scarcely bare to think of it. Certainly, this was life-alerting, but could it have been enough of a trauma to catapult me into early menopause?

My reaction to the Red Wedding. And yes, I had to blur some of the more unsuitable language.

My reaction to the Red Wedding. And yes, I had to blur some of the more unsuitable language.

Since the initial spotting, I’ve done a lot of self-reflecting. Who am I, really? Am I an adult, or a post-grad? I don’t feel like an adult, and I definitely don’t feel old enough to sprout a gray hair. Yes, I boast some elderly qualities, such as my scary witch hands and sensitivity to air quality alerts, but I’m also pretty sure there’s a Wet Seal tube-top still floating around in my top drawer.

The truth is, I am in an awkward stage of life. And as a generally awkward individual, this would seem a natural place for me. But it’s not. Adult life has proven to be as exciting and rewarding as it is uncomfortable and scary (the most uncomfortable moment being when I accidentally said “in fart of” instead of “in front of” during a client meeting.) But although the amount of math involved is far beyond my remedial abilities, and I’ve found myself, on more than one occasion, sobbing hysterically during episodes Downton Abbey, I’m excited for what’s to come in my new-found adult life. 

Wet-Seal tube-top circa 2008

Wet-Seal tube-top circa 2008

Lawn-mowing Developments and Tennis Team Stardom

I realize that I’ve been noticeably absent from blogging. However, with another promising dog-sitting season on the horizon, I’ve decided to get back into the swing of things.

Allow me to recap the last few weeks of my life:

For starters, my dad claims to have submitted a personal ad for me, the contents of which list my dowry and immediate availability. His goal is to get me out of the house by February, and due to my lack of job offers, he considers marrying me off as the only option. My sister moved out a few weeks ago, leaving me the sole subject of my father’s antics. I’ve migrated my things into her old room, and while it’s a nice change from my former home-office setup, Buster is very resistant to the move.

Buster putting his foot down.

Buster putting his foot down.

My dad has already me locked into a May – July landscaping contract with him. My first task is to remove all rocks from the backyard. He also recently purchased a new lawn mower in anticipation of my continuing unemployment this summer. One night last week, he flung open the garage door and began yelling for me.

“Jo! Come here! Quick!” I pretended not to hear, as “Jo, come here quick” usually indicates in an incredibly non-time-sensitive emergency, such as a dish-washing demonstration. But he continued on. “Jo! Come here, I got something cool for you!”

It turned out that his “something cool” for me was the new lawnmower. I’ll admit — it is a pretty powerful piece of equipment. My dad “allowed me” to take it on its “maiden voyage” last week and I nearly dislocated both of my shoulders. The new mower is so fast that I spent the entire time jogging behind it. I finished the lawn in record time but with a few casualties — because I was  flung around the yard like an anemic child on an inner tube, the lawn is scattered with un-mowed tufts of grass that I was unable to tame.

I’ve also taken up tennis. Somehow, my sister talked me into joining her tennis league last November. It’s been both educational and embarrassing. I’ve been described as an “awkwardly lanky” tennis player with “crazy feet” and “flailing” limbs. I try not to take offense to the fact that I seem to have been described as a growing boy in the midst of puberty. While our season consists of 15-or-so matches, I’ve only been asked to participate in 3 of them.

Since I am clearly not the most athletic asset to my tennis team, I have resolved to become the most stylish member of the team. For Christmas, I asked my father for a tennis bag. I told him that I wanted something Serena would carry. Preferably something wild and glittery. The result is a black and gold tennis bag large enough to double as Buster’s traveling quarters. It’s huge. People have asked me to climb inside of it on more than one occasion. My goal for next season is to find things to put in it. Since I only have one racket, I’ll have to designate a few of the compartments for other important accessories, such as snacks or reading materials for when I am warming the bench.

In other news, Buster has developed a new habit of walking around the house with socks in his mouth. My hypothesis is that he’s pretending to starve on the brink of insanity so that we’ll give him more snacks.

And that’s about all for now.

New Year’s Resolutions

Since it’s almost the second week in January, I’ve decided to make some New Year’s Resolutions. Actually, I’ve decided to make some New Year’s Aspirations, which seems more appropriate since my father just informed me that paying rent is somewhere in my near future. So, it would appear I need to aspire to a few things in order to avoid homelessness by 2013.

Here is a countdown of all the things I hope to accomplish in 2012:

5. Get a job. A real one.

I included this aspiration just for formality. I don’t expect to land an actual “Big Girl” job by the end of 2012, unless of course someone decides to take a permanent vacation from their pets.

4. Make a Music Video

My roommates (former college roommates — not my parents) can attest to the fact that I’ve been dying to make a music video for years. It’s actually become a fantasy of mine. When I’m on the treadmill and find myself struggling for motivation (about 5 minutes in to my power-walking routine), I hit my inhaler and picture myself starring in a music video. The thrill of the dance and the spike of Albuterol in my bloodstream usually sends me into a shaky, adrenaline-riddled spastic jog. Although this combo does give my face a pale, cold-sweaty sheen, the results are undeniably comparable to those of today’s leading diet supplements. Sort of.

Pre-Spring Break sophomore year of college, my music video fantasy of choice was Britney Spears’ “I’m a Slave for You.” Mid run, I would envision myself starring in an elaborate video montage of the “I’m a Slave for You” VMA performance and raunchy music video. Spray tans, extensions, body glitter, wildlife…this production gave me everything I could possibly want rolled into one sweaty fiasco. It was pure Gym Rat gold.

For the majority of 2010, I pictured myself performing in an NBA halftime show to “C’mon N’ Ride it.” Those were good times.

Last year, my song of choice was Llyod’s “Lay it Down.” This song came out as I was training for a mini-marathon, so you can only imagine the amount of time and effort that went into this particular hallucination.

3. Travel Abroad

I’m going through a quarter-life crisis. Maybe it’s the fact that I spend my nights drinking bourbon on the rocks and watching Downton Abbey with my parents. Or maybe it’s the fact that I wear knee-highs 5 days of the week and recently bought a pack of nude “Trouser Socks”. In sum, I’m on the fast track to becoming a 75-year-old man, and my crusty, winter paws don’t do much to help my case. (The cold weather wreaks havoc on my hands. I look like a dehydrated witch from the wrists down.)

The knee-high value pack my mother bought for me at Costco last Sunday. You can see I've already tapped into the Nudes.

So needless to say, I’ve got an itch. An itch to do cool shit, if you’ll excuse me. This year, I need to travel abroad somewhere. I need to do something awesome.

Since I’m a hypochondriac, traveling to a Third World country is out of the question. Now, I have no idea which countries are “Third World” — or what “Third World” even means exactly — so I’ve narrowed my choices down to Australia and France.

I’ve looked up some volunteer trips to Australia, but so far none have whet my whistle. I’d like to be a part of some sort of crazy, intense animal protection project — something reminiscent of The Amazing Panda Adventure, but with a koala cub or sloth as my damsel in distress. I also wouldn’t mind having a tranquilizer gun to snipe the SOB poachers from the get-go, but alas, beggars can’t be choosers.

2. Write a book

This is my number one goal for 2012. My blog started off as somewhat of a joke — mostly as a tribute to Buster in his twilight years of life. But writing my blog has become one of my favorite things to do. The support and feedback I’ve gotten from friends and family has been incredible. My fear is that I’ll run out of things to say, but I’d like to give it a shot anyways. We’ll see what happens.

1. And lastly, for 2012, I aspire to never make these faces again (P.s. I told you I was into the closed-mouth smile)

5th or 4th Grade Yearbook photo -- I'm assuming this was a retake of my platypus/DUI mugshot incident.

My professionally taken headshot for acting school. Yes, acting school.


Footnote: After writing this blog, I did a little research on endangered species in Australia. Apparently sloths don’t even live in Australia. I might have to take my mission elsewhere – I’m pretty into sloths right now.

Saturday Morning with the Clarks.

If you’ve read my Buckwheat Poisoning post, you’ll understand the chaos that is my weekend mornings. Fortunately, this Saturday morning I was not hungover or breaking out in hives. However, that does not make the following conversations anymore bearable:

I’m sitting down at the kitchen table, trying to enjoy my breakfast. Then, my dad walks in.

“Who ate my eggs?!”

“Tommy,” my mom explains, “Tommy ate your eggs.” Tommy – the bearded dragon.

“Tommy? You gave my eggs to Tommy? He doesn’t even clean the pan.”

“Here, Rich. I just cleaned it.”

“It’s clean? You didn’t put him in it or anything?” As if baking Tommy in a sauce pan is an entirely conceivable morning activity.

“No, Rich. I did not put Tommy in the pan with his eggs.”

This is where I decide to get involved, because I’m sick and tired of Tommy’s high-maintenance nutritional demands.

“Why can’t Tommy just lay his own eggs?” I ask.

“He can, Jo. Just like you.” Yes, just like me.

“Ew, Mom. Doesn’t he need to be fertilized or whatever?”

“Thomasina!” My dad blurts out. We still haven’t actually confirmed that Tommy is indeed a male lizard, but my mom’s pretty sure he’s a boy.

“No, Jo, he doesn’t. He can lay eggs, just like you (if Tommy were a girl, she means).” Then my mom launches into a graphic and disturbing “adult version” of the Sex Ed course she teaches to her middle school students. All while I’m eating my cereal.

I can't imagine Tommy attracting any mates until he takes care of that fingernail situation.

Clearly uncomfortable with discussing fallopian tubes over breakfast, my dad quickly changes the subject. “I can’t wait to dig up that hydrangea with you tomorrow, Jo. We’re gonna wait for a nice, cold day. Tomorrow is supposed to be in the 30s.” Awesome. Just how I imagined spending my Sunday morning.

I stand up and leave the room before they can dole out any more weekend slave work. Actually, I go straight to the computer to begin typing up everything they’ve been saying.

“Jo, look up ‘how to change a belt on a Nordic Track treadmill’. We want to get your ass skinny again (such a flatterer, my dad). Just kidding, just kidding. Oh wait! AHA! directions! Come help with this, Jo.”

I don’t respond.

“What are your plans for the day, Jo?”

I don’t respond.

“Wow, this cat has 26 toes, Jo,” my mom says while reading the paper. She knows what’s important to me.

“How many do you think Buster has?” I ask, obviously intrigued.

“Probably around 18,” she says.

Buster's Toes

A few minutes later, when my dad has taken a break from deconstructing and diagnosing our 14-year-old treadmill (I wonder what’s wrong with it?) my love life becomes the topic of discussion.

“Jo already learned that some men are pigs — not all men, just some men. I had to change my stance on that to create some openings,” my dad says. (“All men are pigs” is what my dad has been telling my sister and I for the past 23 years. My sister recently wrote a hilarious blog post about this, I highly encourage you to read it.) By “openings” my dad means potential love-interests to get my sister and I out of the house. Since the odds of me landing a full-time job are about as likely me walking barefoot through White Castle (barefootphobia), my dad has resorted to Plan B to get me out of the house: Marry me off. I told him that there’s no way I’m likely to marry before my 40th birthday, especially since when I asked him how much my dowry was, he said, “Buster. He gets Buster.”

“Won’t it be great when you move out?” My mom asks.

She has no idea.