An Odd Even Year

It’s 2014 and I am entering my last and final semester of college. Panic ensues. Now what?

This December marked a year since I graduated college. I said goodbye to my friends, goodbye to a place that has been home for three years, goodbye to familiarity, comfort, and norm, and goodbye to a chapter. I entered 2014 twenty-two and stressed. I was living back at home in my bedroom that was frozen in time. I was back in my childhood town that housed everything that I so desperately ran away from three years ago.

In the wise words of Frank Sinatra, “I faced it all and stood tall and did it my way.” I was twenty-two, my adult life was finally beginning. It was the time in my life I’ve been fawning over in movies growing up that I had been so desperately waiting to attain. The freedom and youth of being in my 20s was finally here. I cleaned out my room and threw out the bad energy. I glued myself to the computer and began bookmarking any and every job that I could even slightly relate. I came on full force.

I joined my old team at Michael Kors in the Galleria and I had a job [yay retail]. I was shaken back into the work force with guidance from my manager who gave me the tough love I needed. I applied for job after job until finally I had to succumb to looking at internships. [NOTE to all my college friends, intern as much as you can even if it’s unpaid, any experience is good experience.]

I gave myself goals, if I had not heard back from at least one company I applied for then I had to apply for 5 more. In what seemed like a never ending process I finally heard back from someone. Northern Virginia Magazine, a small regional magazine in Chantilly, emailed me regarding a Fashion and Beauty internship I applied for. I was on cloud nine. FINALLY a response.

I didn’t realize it at the time but this internship opened all the doors I needed. In May I returned to Charleston to graduate. White dresses, white tuxes, and a red rose, why would anyone choose to graduate anywhere else?

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When I transferred to the College of Charleston I wouldn’t have expected the changes I ended up experiencing. It was the first time I moved away from home. I surprised even myself by uprooting my life and moving to a culture the complete opposite of what I knew. Returning for graduation I knew I had to continue that frame of mind, constantly be taking on new and frightening challenges because if it does not challenge you then, it wont change you.

I began my internship at NoVA Mag and grew my portfolio from an eclectic group of samples to multiple online and print pieces. There are a lot of benefits to working with a small company, one being in the week I started I was already working on a print piece, and I had a blog post up on the website by Friday. I got to work one on one with my editor who gave me honest feedback directly. Downside, it was unpaid. Plus side, I can now say I have pieces published in over 6 print issues of the magazine.

When my term was over at the magazine a marketing position opened up. With guidance from our previous admin and support from editorial I applied and became the new Marketing Specialist and Event Coordinator. I was finally in the big leagues.

I had a desk, a company pass, and a business card. It was a great start. I looked for ways to brand the magazine and took over the Instagram growing our followers from 84 to 438. I discovered my passion for social media, branding, and promotion. I got to work closely with editorial, design, and sales broadening my understanding of the how a small company functions. After 5 months I had learned all I needed and was ready for my next challenge.

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I’m entering 2015 twenty-three and unemployed. But, surprisingly content with the fact. If you are unhappy with your life change it, you are in charge of your own success. I’m ready for all 2015 has to offer because 2014 brought a lot more than I expected but has shaped and molded every decision I made. I had the opportunity to move back home, to save money, to travel back to Charleston a few times, visit New York a few times, visit family a few times, I wrote, I loved, and I lost. I look to constantly be facing forward and learning from the past, if you’re not learning then are you truly living?

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

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The Brain On 23

Written by: 
We are the 23-year-olds. We are the ones squirming in our chairs at the office because we still feel awkward in our grown-up clothes. We strut through city streets with eyes cast toward our screens, desperately seeking any source that will tell us the decisions we’ve made are valid. We work hard in jobs we aren’t sure we want to make those fancy degrees feel worth it, and we date people we aren’t sure we love to make everything feel less lonely.

We spend hours drinking wine on apartment floors, promising one another that those who broke our hearts will not own us forever. We zone out in grad school classrooms or type away in junior offices or teach English in Rwanda, all the while wondering if we are supposed to be somewhere else.

We are 23, and hangovers hurt now. Most of our conversations these days center on assuring one another we are going to be okay. We are proud of each other but hard on ourselves. When a friend does something as simple as cooking a food more complex than pasta, we applaud her, yet we berate ourselves for not yet having a corner office or a bestselling memoir or a thriving startup.

We dance all night to Taylor Swift because she understands. We love who we want, and we hate labels. We are not in college anymore, and we’ve just become too old to crash their parties. Everyone we know no longer lives on the same block, and we long for the days of running back and forth between houses at 1 a.m. We have few obligations, yet we are always stressed, wondering if life will ever be more certain.

Our breakups never end because social media keeps reminding us of our exes. Even when we block them or unfriend them, their names are bound to pop up on our news feeds below pictures they’ve liked, and their faces assault us when mutual friends post albums. We hate online dating, but we all do it because it feels like the only way. We spend as much time swiping on Tinder as we do with actual human beings.

We are 23, and we constantly try to tell ourselves to stop complaining and enjoy our youth. Life isn’t really that bad. We have our families, our friends and our health. We are young and vibrant and the world is ours. We are closer to our parents than the 23-year-olds who came before us, and many of us are lucky enough to still have their support. We have the time to go to bars and be with friends. We get to party and work and not worry about others depending on us. Yet all this fear remains, and it melts us into pessimists. Because life is pretty good, and still we can’t stop worrying. So we worry even more about what will happen to us when there are real things to worry about.

We hear the grown-ups urge us to calm down. They tell us it will all fall into place, that if they could give advice to their younger selves it’d be to send the butterflies away and have a good time before age catches up with us. We hear them say these things, but we don’t believe them. Things don’t just fall into place. We have to put them there, and we feel like every second we spend streaming movies from our bedrooms is a second we are not putting ourselves out there. Yet we stream on.

We waste time the same way we did in college, only now doing so makes us uncomfortable. We are at the point in our lives where we have realized the futility of sitting around watching Gilmore Girls episodes we’ve seen one hundred times, but we lack the resources and maturity to actually do something to change that. We are too old to go out every night, but we are too young to stay in and do nothing. We want to be more productive and live a more worthwhile existence, but we haven’t quite figured out how. We don’t yet have children or spouses or secure jobs or whatever it is that would make us feel like we had more of a reason to live. We don’t necessarily want those things, but we do want something. So we sit in this limbo, wishing there was something less worthless to do than watch Luke and Lorelei argue over coffee, yet continuing to do it while the butterflies flutter around our stomachs.

We are 23, and even though we are worried all the time, we still don’t want to get older. We never want to reach the point where we cannot be considered kids, even though the studies we read say people are actually happier in their 30s. Because we may be scared, but we are still 23, and boy do we have fun.

We try to stop punishing ourselves for not becoming the next Lena Dunhams and Mark Zuckerbergs, but we overlook the fact that they are the exception to the rule of 23. Because for most of us, at 23 life detonates as we suddenly forget why we chose that major or moved to this city or loved that person. All we want is to understand who we are, and we can’t. Only time will tell us.

Posted: 10/27/2014 11:27 am EDT Updated: 10/27/2014 11:59 am EDT

Closing Time

I was always the girl that had to leave the party early. Was busier on the weekends than weekdays. Was never at the party of the year or the summer concert series. I was the girl that had more name tags than knew what to do with. And more jobs on my resume than extracurricular activities.

Yes – you named it, I work retail.

I have always worked retail – it’s been my job safe haven, mr. reliable, always hiring. It’s there when I want it to be, and when I don’t. I’m the girl “that works at ____, her discount is ____, hit her up if you want something”. In the early years of 2006 when I was on the cusp of turning 14 [in two months] and had to get a workers permit just so I could work, it was then I began my life with a name tag.

A school uniform store was where I had my retail girl start and it was ever so humbling. Folding, helping, ringing, and inventory[ing]. Learning the basics of the glamorous industry I was becoming familiar with. Twas my first summer behind the cash-wrap.

If it were possible I could say I’ve worked the whole spectrum of the industry – from my beginning in a uniform store to working in a furniture store to the highest of luxury [LVMH] I feel as though I’ve seen every kind of stockroom.

I never could picture myself working in another industry though. I even studied fashion in college [for a portion of time] and still saw myself working towards a career where I would buy or sell for a major label. I can honestly say as much as I bitched and moaned about my hours in the mall, shopping center, you name it – I learned a lot of core parts of my work ethic from these jobs.

Jobs where you are literally the bottom of the barrel. You are the face of the company and are treated as such – not treated as Mr. CEO but the one person in the company the customer can complain “to a real human being”. You must face a reality – do I yell back, or stand my ground? Sounds like an easy decision but getting yelled at for something that is, and never will be, your fault is not an easy feat.

You learn how to work with people who do not care about their jobs, lives, or anything. You learn how to manage a team when you’re not the manager, and in the same instance you learn how to not manage a team.

I’ve always partially compared my experience in retail to that of the food-and-beverage industry because of its similarities – to name a few:

You’re on your feet from 6-8 sometimes 10 hours out of the day. Mainly work weekends unless you’re the lucky few that has a golden reason why you can’t. You smile and nod when being told something is “entirely you’re fault you disgrace” because customer service is all that truly matters to your business. You take on more shifts then you can handle, then complain how ugly your feet are. During the holidays you and your coworkers become delirious with fatigue and you can only continue onward by mindlessly laughing at every ridiculous encounter, What’s a break? I should take up smoking just to get 5 minutes to myself.

Now, don’t get me wrong it was not all that bad, obviously. Keep note I did work retail from ages 13 to 23 [oh God has it been 10 years insert blushing emoji here]. You create a makeshift family – because you spend more time with your coworkers then you do your own family at some point. You’re there for some really hard days, and some really great days. You lean on your boss maybe more than you should and, at times, they end up becoming a close friend. It is a challenging, demeaning, industry that truly tests your inner ego.

I am grateful for the enlightening, exhausting, draining, fulfilling, and eyeopening experience. It has taught me the importance of creating a relationship inside and outside of work. Interpersonal skills and multitasking. How to handle high stress situations while also balancing other customers. It has taught me to listen more than speak, and what it takes to truly be a sales person – in all sense of the word.

Cheers to retail and all those in the grunge of the customer service industry and to those who believe sales is a easy man’s job? Good luck.