‘How to be a 20-Something’

by Ryan O’Connell

“Be really attractive. Your acne is gone, your face has matured without having wrinkles and everything on your body is lifted naturally. Eat bagels seven days a week, binge-drink and do drugs: you’ll still look like a babe. When you turn thirty, it’ll become a different story but that’s, like, not for a really long time.

Reestablish a relationship with your parents. You don’t live with them anymore (hopefully) so start to appreciate them as human beings with thoughts, flaws and feelings rather than soulless life-ruiners who won’t let you borrow their car.

Go from eating delicious food at your parents’ house to eating Ragu tomato sauce over Barilla noodles. Develop an eating disorder to save money.

Move into an apartment on the corner of Overpriced and Dangerous. Sleep on a bare mattress with an Ikea comforter. Your mother talks to you about buying a top sheet and a duvet cover but feel like you’re not mature enough to own something called “duvet.”

Read the New York Times piece, “What Is It About 20-Somethings?” Feel exposed and humiliated. Share it on your Facebook with the caption: “Um….” Your friends will comment “Too real” and that will be the end of that.

Work at a coffee shop but feel hopeful about your career in advertising, writing, whatever.

Remember that you’re young and that the world is your oyster. Everything is possible, you still have so much to see and hear. You went to a good school and did good things. Figure if you’re not going to be successful, who the hell is?

Date people who you know you’ll never be able to love. See someone for three months for no other reason than because it’s winter and you want to keep warm by holding another body.

Date a Republican just so you can say you dated a Republican.

Eventually all these nobodies will make you crave a somebody. Have a real relationship with someone. Go on vacations together, exchange house keys, cry in their arms after a demoralizing day at work. Think about marrying them and maybe even get engaged. Regardless of the outcome, feel proud of yourself for being able to love someone in a healthy way.

Start your twenties with a lot of friends and leave with a few good ones. What happened? People faded away into their careers and relationships. Fights were had and never resolved. Shit happens.

Think of yourself at twenty and hanging out with people who didn’t mean a thing to you. Think about writing papers, about being promiscuous, about trying new things. Think of yourself now and your face looking different and your body feeling different and how everything is just different.

Form the habits that will stick with you forever. Drink your coffee with two sugars and skim milk every morning. Buy a magazine every Friday. Enjoy spending money on candles, smoke pot on Saturdays, watch the television before bed.

Move into a bigger apartment on the corner of Mature and Gentrification and finally buy a duvet cover. Limit your drug-use. If you find yourself unable to do so, start to wonder if you have a problem.

Have your parents come to your place for Christmas. Set the table, make the ham, wear a sophisticated outfit, This will all mean so much at the time.

Think about having children when you stop acting like a child. This may not ever happen.
Maybe this is assuming too much. Maybe this is generalizing. Maybe society uses age as an unrealistic marker for growth. Maybe. Still feel the anxiety on your 30th birthday and think to yourself, ‘Oh shit, I’m no longer a 20-something.’”

I Will Try Not to Lose Faith in Me

“You need to love yourself more and in the first time in my life, I don’t mean masturbation.” -T.H.

I will admit- I’m a great liar. At least, I think I’m a great liar. (I lie to myself about being a great liar.) Lately, my lies have been mostly about my attitude about life. My friends and co-workers ask me how my day is going. As much as I want to tell them that I spent the morning sobbing my eyes out during my shower, I smile and tell them that everything is ‘all good in my hood.’ Little things make me incredibly angry yet when someone walking next to me flicks their cigarette to the ground, I sweep down to pick it up and throw it in the trash before mentally yelling obscenities at them (and then telling myself that I was dumb for picking up their dirty stub). These blog entries I write scream positively and hope, two things I severely lack. I have received beautiful emails and messages from people inspired by my writings; in my head, I wonder why the hell they read this garbage. (Also, I have the slight fear of Tobin Bell coming after me with a hack saw upon seeing me not enjoying my life to the fullest, hence the fibs.)

Most of the time, I well up when hearing certain song (anything by Alison Krauss makes me cry like a little girl) that bring back unsettling memories. But the real reason for my tears is simply because I’m not a big fan of myself. Last week, I was asked if I loved myself. Of course, I lied. Loving yourself always seemed like a ridiculous concept to me. I sometimes like to look at myself as a homework assignment with a fat “C +” written in bold red ink across it; you put in the effort but there is room for improvement. I know that I won’t be the smartest nor most kind woman when I walk into a room and I think that kind of perfection is something to strive for. Yes, I know that I’m a decent human being but I figured that I can always grow into something greater and better.

I’m not looking for sympathy. If anything, I write this with hopes of finally being honest with myself. Stop the lies I keep feeding myself and believing the goodness and beauty everyone else see. I’ve been through a lot in my soon twenty-five years on this planet; taken different medicines, visited countless therapists and shrinks, was even hospitalized two years ago. Although my thoughts of life have definitely improved over the years, I wish that I was able to look at my past (and my future) and see strength and feel pride. I know that I’m not the only one who feels this way about themselves. I browse through hundreds of ‘self-help’ books when visit my local library, titles catered to ten of thousands of people feeling the same way that I do. According to a recent Glamour magazine article, on average, women have thirteen negative thoughts daily, nearly one for every waking hour. And our personality traits? We whisper to ourselves words like “stupid” or “f*ck-up” when we make the slightest mistake or think we did something wrong. We wouldn’t tell our friends our things; we correctly them with thoughts of love and respect when we hear them mutter those words. So, why do we tell ourselves these things?

If you’re looking at me to give you advice, don’t. I’m not the person you want to speak to about harboring positive feelings about yourself. I’m not the person to tell you how walk around with a real, genuine smile on your face everyday or how to wake up hugging yourself. I know that these certain life tasks take a lot of time and baby steps. To those who struggle with this concept like I do, have faith that there is a loving, glowing light at the end of the tunnel, burning brightly for just you, ready to wraps its arms of adoration around you.

And love yourself. Take it from me… please.

Bitches and Hoes

“Am I not supposed to have an opinion? Should I keep quiet just because I’m a woman?” -Christina Aguilera

I never considered myself a feminist. If anything, I fight more for gay rights and environmental policy more than the cause for my fellow females. It’s not that I overlook these feminine beliefs; I just would one day hope to see everyone marry whomever they want regardless of gender while breathing in clean air. I was upset when certain services at Planned Parenthood were cut but not enough to write my Congressman about it. The disappearance of the arts in public school is devastating, especially for kids like me who would have dropped out of school if it wasn’t for my band and theatre programs. Yet, I choose not to do anything to help. I know that there are many problems in this world but as one person, I can’t fight in all of these battles with expectations to win.

I had the pleasure of meeting LV back in December. She is a proud member of a lady gang based out of Los Angeles and we bonded over our love for Gwen Stefani and the old school, pin-up fashion. She asked me to purchase one of her gang’s tank shirt, in support of women entrepreneurism. I bought one and wore it when it finally became nice outside. I donned it almost the entire day when a co-worker asked me about what the initials stamped on the front meant. I explained to her about my encounter with LV and her lady gang out in LA…
Co-worker: “You support that?”
Me: “I’m sorry. Support what?”
Co-worker: “Those gangs. Gangs like that beat the s**t out of people.”
Me: “Well, I don’t know anything about that. I was just trying to help out a small business. I know how hard it must be to run one.”
Co-worker: “So, you support that illegal stuff, like prostitution?”
Me: “Prostitution? Where I’m from, it’s legal.”
Co-worker: “You’d do that, be a hooker?”
Me: “No, I wouldn‘t. But I understand why some people are.”
Co-worker: “That’s sick.”
Me: “Well, then. You don’t know what it’s like to go to bed hungry.”

Although, the act of selling your body doesn’t ruffle my feathers; it’s people’s attitudes and judgment to someone who is trying to earn her keep that do. When I was living in Reno, I met a prostitute through the Couchsurfing social network. Rachel was (and I’m sure still is) beautiful and kind, warm and wonderful; everything that I thought the stereotypical hooker would not be. I had no place to judge her and her actions when I know I don’t live a perfect life.

I have written about stereotypes before. It’s 2011 and we’re still fighting race and profession wars. But how about the sex war? Especially between women, we commonly call each other names and awful obscenities. We get upset when a man disrespect us but we let the rudeness slide when the word is spoken by a woman. Bitch? Does aggressively passionate woman deserve to be called that? I think of my little sister’s zealous opinions and how that will make her a great lawyer one day. Slut? I like sex and I’m proud to admit it- does that make me a whore? Let’s not forget all the judgment we place on each other’s physical beings, calling each other, “fat pigs” or “uber-anorexic“ behind our backs. Words do hurt. They sting; they hurt hearts and bruise egos. We women need to take a stand against this form of cruelty against each other.

At a concert I went to this last Wednesday, the performer kept on calling the audience his brothers and sisters. Thinking about, not just in a holy, Biblical sense, we all are brothers and sisters. We need to be treating each other as such. I’m not suggesting to run up to the nearest stranger and tackle them with a bear hug (I certainly don’t do that to my sisters, however, random strangers- yes); just remember that we should be bringing everyone up, not putting them down. Everyone deserves respect. So, bite your tongue and think before you speak. Maybe this could be the battle that we all victoriously win and triumph from.

What is Love? (Baby, Don’t Hurt Me)

“‘There’s nothing wrong with loving who you are,’ she said. ‘Cause He made you perfect, babe.’” -Stefani Germanotta

Oh, Valentine’s Day. You sneak up on me each and every year, causing me to jump out of my skin and run for the comfort of my covers. Some people maybe be afraid of serial killers or receiving a bad grade on their med school exam. I, on the other hand, am deathly terrified of Valentine’s Day. A toddler donning an old dirty diaper, randomly shooting arrows at unexpecting strangers, forcing them at head-point to purchasing stale chocolates and burn cheesy mixed CDs for each other? (Ugh, I’m getting the chills right now I as I type.)

Although I dread this day, the idea of spending it with someone sounds quite appealing and rather beautiful. A few weeks ago, I was excited to find strands of Christmas tree lights on sale at the drugstore. I put up these twinkling fairy globes around my window and stared at their soft yellow glow bounce off the walls of my bedroom. I’ve never been the girl impressed with mood lighting. I always preferred the darkness of night and being stuck in a pitch-black room. I burn candles simply (and legally) to fulfill my pyromaniac tendencies. But my room felt magical and romantic right then. I cranked up Ray LaMontagne and clenched my teddy bear close to my chest, wishing I had someone to love and share that moment with.

I’m sure you’re thinking how I’m about to complain about not having a boyfriend and stop reading… I’m not whining about being unattached- in fact, I feel the complete opposite. I’m quite the ’quirkyalone.’ I’m rather happy to be myself; not to drag around the old ball and chain. True, I do date a lot but I treat dating as a way to break up the monotonous tone of my daily life (and yes, to score free drinks and dinner). I’m the first one to put my hand up when “Single Ladies” plays on the radio. I have a great group of friends who effortlessly bring a smile to my face (thanks for all of the mailed treats, everyone!). My moms and little sisters text me to tell me that they’re thinking about me. I know that I’m surrounded by love. It’s just that sometimes I forget. My heart twists when watching cute couples at Starbucks sip lattes while holding hands. The world around me tells me, “You’re almost 25! You need to be in a serious, intense, real relationship! You need to get married; you need to find that special someone in order to feel happiness and completion, start popping out cute mixed babies with! You need someone to buy Valentine’s Day gifts for!“ Um… no, I don’t.

I was in Macy’s earlier this week, looking at some glittery pieces in the jewelry section. My eyes wandered to the engagement ring enclosure and I wondered if I was ever going to get one. It was at that moment that I decided to truly listen to my heart. I do have so much love in my life and more importantly, I love myself. Despite being lazy, geeky and a some sort of misfit, I’m pretty awesome and that awesomeness deserves to cherished and celebrated even if I am the only one throwing a party for it. Moments later, I walked out the department store with a teeny diamond on my left hand (and massive credit card charge in my purse), ready to proclaim my self-love to the world. Yes, it would be cool to have a significant other to hold at the end of the day but I’m doing damn amazing without one because I have me. And I love me.

Suck on that, Valentine’s Day.

I Heard ‘Em Say, Nothin’s Ever Promised Tomorrow Today

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.“ -Eleanor Roosevelt

I hate MTV‘s ‘Jersey Shore’ with the deepest passion imaginable. When it comes on, my roommates crowd around the television to watch this hour of ridiculousness. Call me a prude but I don’t think anyone’s sexual misfortunes and drunken adventures should be on public television, especially when youthful eyes are watching. During my university stint, I had the privilege of interviewing Neal Sacharow, a then public relations representative for the Writer’s Guild of America during the 2007 Writer’s Strike. The strike was compromised of many issues; one of the debates surrounded the lack of written content in reality television, which alas as the genre continues to grows and become more popular, jobs will eventually be lost. Being a big fan of scripted series like ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and ‘Will and Grace,’ I want to write television screenplays. I never understood why people watch others live out their lives on the tube instead of being involved in their own and creating their own adventures. With the rise of reality television, I’m afraid that there will eventually be no quality written content for would-be writers like myself.

On the daily news, I watched the conflict in Cairo grow. Eager to talk about it with someone, I asked a co-worker what she thought about it. She responded with a puzzled look on her face and asked me what was going on. I was dumbfounded. News about Egypt was everywhere- all of the major network channels, online, even on the morning radio program. When the Wikileaks story first broke loose, I wanted to argue about the pros and cons about the faulty website but found no one to debate with. A few weeks ago, I was listening to NPR’s ‘Talk of the Nation’  interview Nat Hentoff, a journalist who has wrote for NYC’s ‘Village Voice.’ Hentoff wrote for ‘VV’ for the last fifty years, reporting about music (i.e. Bob Dylan, the Beatles), local and national politics and different New York City scandals. I thought about what the people around me were talking about: the Super Bowl, the so-called horrendous shoes a supervisor was wearing that day, the Real Housewives of Whatever County. They aren’t talking about the president’s latest decisions or coming up with ideas on how we should be fixing the economy. Footwear; they were talking about footwear. No wonder these journalistic legends were losing their jobs- no one cares about the issues they once did.

I wonder with this lack of knowledge if I am in the wrong about everything. I criticize myself for thinking too much. Most of the time, I overanalyze, causing headaches and early bedtimes. I am starting to believe that these people around me must have learned a life secret I haven’t yet discovered. Maybe thinking simpler is the key to an easy and better life. You wouldn’t get consumed by all the negativity and bad news around you. You wouldn’t lose sleep at night knowing wars are going on and someone’s car around the corner is getting broken into. Your head wouldn’t hurt as you tried to figure out the correct way to address your governor in a plea letter for the reinstatement of your area’s Planned Parenthood. Hearts wouldn’t be broken knowing the national unemployment rate as you watched a ‘Feed the Children’ ad on PBS. Creativity and inspiration wouldn’t be celebrated and strived for unless it was a painted nude dancer grinding in a music video. Is this the way that we should be living? It seems like it. Maybe naivety is ACTUALLY genius.

I understand that there are too many problems in the world for one person to solve in their lifetime. But with staying well-versed, we can bring a small glimmer of light to a cause’s darkness. If you don’t know, then you can’t care. Stay informed and fight for something you believe in.