Friday, August 27, 2010

Mona Lisa Smile Part 1

I recently read somewhere that the pursuit of happiness is the source of all misery. There was also a great article written recently in the New York Times about the new twenty-somethings.  And the one thing that really stuck out was that part of the reason we are now experiencing the rise of the so-called quarter-life crisis, is because we have too many options. 

Just a generation ago, when our parents graduated from college, there were much different expectations for twenty-two year olds.  My parents, for example, met in college, dated for four years, and got married as soon as my dad graduated. Just about two years later I was born, my father dropped out of law school, and the family moved the big city where my dad got a nice button-up corporate job and my mom was teacher.  Soon after, my brother was born and my family moved back to the quaint suburbs of the Midwest where they could own a home a raise a nuclear family.  All this before my parents were thirty.

I, on the other hand, spent six months abroad when I was twenty years old and didn't marry the guy I dated for four years in college because I wanted to pursue my own dreams.  I moved thousands of miles away and decided to get a masters in business five years after undergrad.  And that's a fairly linear career path as far as some of my peers are concerned.  Some took a year off after college to backpack across the globe.  Others took jobs in foreign countries, or even moved back in with their parents.  Many have done a combination of the former at different points since graduation. 

Watching 'Mona Lisa Smile' really makes me appreciate all the freedoms that a) I take for granted and b) make me miserable.  With the rapid rise in technology, communication and travel are easier than ever.  Nobody stays in one place anymore, let alone one job or even one career.

Even in the last few years, Generation Y has been taught lessons about the frail nature of a singular career.  My papa worked for GM for decades, retired at the ripe old age of 55 (not!), and has been retired now for almost longer than he worked.  GM didn't expect to have to pay out his pension for thirty-plus years and now everyone is paying the price.  After the financial crisis, GM's stock dove and my grandfather's life savings and benefits are in jeopardy.

If banks can crumble and nobody's job is safe, why should we live a linear life, doing the 'corporate' thing? When there are seemingly endless possibilities (internships in Fiji, nannying in Norway, tour guiding in Israel), it makes little sense to pick a single job, a single city or even a single person and settle down.  But is there ever an end?  Do we ever grow up?  Does there ever come a magic AHA moment when we decide that starting a 401K, investing for retirement, learning how to cook, buying a home and having that brood of children makes sense?

Psychologists say that we're most content with our decisions when we have fewer choices.  This makes sense, right?!  This means that even though we can travel the globe at the drop of a hat, stay in touch with our friends and family thousands of miles away and across the seas, float in and out of careers, jobs, partners and cities, we are not actually happier than our grandmothers who didn't go to college, married the man their parents approved of, and spent their days making a house for their family.

I've been feeling a little antsy lately because I feel like I'm coming to a crossroads in my life.  In just eleven short months I will be finished with my MBA and no longer tied to anything in LA.  Not a job, career, city or even a man.  The world is my oyster and I don't have the first clue what to do with it.  Part of me definitely wants to move closer to my family, find someone to spend the rest of my life with, get a predictable post-MBA job and live that life in the Midwest we're all expected to at some point. 

But I have to admit, LA has gotten to me a little bit lately. All this sunshine, great restaurants, beautiful beaches, good friends,  fun day trips, cultural activities.  Why grow up when I have another fifty years to be predictable?  But I'm lonely.  I've lived here for five years now and manage to keep myself detached from so many things.  Is that even relevant?  Attachment is a quaint idea we might have to retire along with things like rotary telephones and the Concorde.  

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Fall in my home state of Michigan means changing colors on trees, breezy cool evenings, warm socks, college football, cider mills, unexpected warm days, crunchy fallen leaves, and shorter days.  Unfortunately, there is really no fall in LA.  In fact, it is the end of August and we're having some of the warmest weather we've had in nearly a year.  I'm excited that we're finally getting some real beach weather, but I know I'll start missing the cooler temps when I'm watching football in my shorts (after five years in LA, that still feels wrong) and all cooped up doing finance homework again. 

Fall, regardless of the weather or geographic location, means change.  We go back to school; we prepare for a new academic year and for growth.  Like in nature, its a time of preparation so that we can blossom come spring. 

I'm really into making resolutions and setting goals because I love the fact that every morning is a new beginning.  Every day we wake up with the opportunity to be our best.  To change our bad habits.  To start over again.

So I'm going back to school in less than a week and it is high time for some new goals and better habits.  I bought a new pair of running shoes this weekend and signed up for another half marathon (my fourth) right after the fall semester ends.  I will go to the gym three to four times a week, even if it means I have to sneak it in during lunch.  I will go grocery shopping more often.  I will make sure I have fresh, whole foods in my refrigerator for consumption, not just frozen junk. 

Now, I could go on.  I could go on about how I want to open up to those people around me (a lesson I learned when he besties from Chicago were in town).  Or reign in my budget (I spend my money a lot differently than I did before I went back to school).  But one goal at a time.  From change comes change. Baby steps.  We're just gonna start running again. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


All semester, I dream of these days.  The three weeks between classes when I can go to bed early, wander around the mall aimlessly and catch up on my DVR.  The few weeks I can go out with my friends and not feel guilty about having to get up early the next day to study.  This is my summer vacation - it's supposed to be spent at the beach, wearing the dresses that haven't seen the light of day and doing all those summer LA activities I've been missing because a) I've been swamped between work and school and b) weather-wise, we haven't had much of a summer here in Lala land. 

But I'm sulking.  I have a handful of errands to run before Beth and Zak get to town tomorrow morning and I don't want to do anything.  I don't want to go to the grocery store, iron, vacuum, or even pick up the air mattress.  I'm super excited for them to get to LA because I know we're going to have an amazing time - we definitely all need the break - but all I want to do is chill out (i.e. watch MTV and go to bed early). 

It also doesn't help that I drank a wee bit too much tequila on Sunday.  I usually get pretty depressed after I drink hard liquor so I tend to stay away.  A drink or two isn't too bad, but an afternoon of imbibing at a Mexican restaurant on Sunday really did me in.  It is now 72 hours (and a good workout) later, and I'm still feeling it.  Not physically of course, but the anxiety is ridiculous. I've taken on some new responsibilities at work too.  And while it's a great opportunity and I'm learning a lot, taking on a new endeavor often causes stress.  Plus, the timing couldn't really be worse.  I've managed to get it all done, but only with a few extra hours and definitely some sweating. 

So it's time to get out of my funk and have a good time.  Snap out of it.  Get my stuff done.  I had a relaxing weekend of waking up late, meandering around Bed Bath & Beyond and catching up with friends.  And starting tomorrow, I get to spend some much-needed time with my favorite people whom I've known for well over a decade now.  Part of me wishes I were going to Chicago instead, but I know we'll have a better time here going to the beach, cooking and enjoying some of my favorite LA summer activities. 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Halfway Done!!!!!

It feels like just yesterday I met all these new people and gave up a huge part of my life to go back to school while continuing to work full time.  The last twelve months have totally flown by; heck the last semester has come and gone in a blink of an eye.  But honestly, I hardly recognize the girl I was last summer. 

I took my last final of the semester on Thursday and I really killed it.  I've been struggling through my finance class for the last fourteen weeks, but I knew at some point the light would come on.  A lot like my economics midterm and accounting final, an honest to goodness weekend of studying makes all the difference.  I wish I had really put in the effort throughout the entire semester, but I'm glad I finally connected the dots. 

There's a certain sense of accomplishment when you manage to do something you never thought you could.  School is a lot like running.  You have your ups and down, good days and bad.  Before it begins, you're totally freaked out, but as the days and weeks progress, you seem to get the hang of it.  There are speed bumps - bad quizzes, shortened runs, injuries.  But in the end, it all comes together.  And you always manage to finish, for better or worse. 

As I drove home from campus (ok, so I drove home from the W Hotel where a group of us had a few drinks), I had a rush of mixed emotions.  I am very proud of myself for a number of reasons.  But there was a certain sense of loneliness knowing that there was no chilled bottle of wine, no hug, no flowers and no dinner waiting for me when I walked into that apartment. Days like today I love living alone, when I can eat cheese and tomatoes on the couch, watch a chic flick and iron my new shower curtain.  But there are moments during this whole journey I wish I had someone to share it with. 

Sunday, August 1, 2010


I forgot about this.  I forgot how hard these weekends are.  Sundays aren't particularly fun around here, but today's been particularly difficult.  It's finals week again and I've been procrastinating all day by ironing, cooking and feeling sorry for myself.  Our marketing paper and presentation are due Wednesday and I have a daunting 20 chapter finance final on Thursday.  Guess who's gonna need a stiff drink with her girl friends Friday night?!  Guess who really needs a hug right now?!

Even when I had a roommate, this wasn't easy. Being forced to do something alone (studying for finance and writing a presentation) for an extended period of time is frustrating.  It's been so great to have a particular marketing classmate around this semester; I never had to study or write alone.  He was always just a call/text/BBM/email away and I knew that he was in just as much pain (if not more) than me.  He made me smile.  Hopefully we'll have another class or two together next year, but my window of opportunity for spending this much time with him is pretty much over.  So while I'm excited to officially be halfway done with my MBA, the end of this particular semester is a tad bittersweet.

Last semester at this time I had just ended all contact with the roadie.  I feel like I'm in a constant state of transition.  From one relationship to another, one semester to the next... I've never had consistency in my life and I don't know that I would know what to do with it if it smacked me in the face.  I'm in a much better place this semester and part of me is actually looking forward to the fall, but I'm mourning the passing of time as much as anything else.

The good news is that some things are falling into place.  I need to remember that things do really happen when they're meant to and are never what we expect.  I've said it before, but the more I try to control the universe around me, the more miserable I am and the more miserable I make everyone around me.  Letting go of some things is hard, but it's key.  Taking it all one day at a time would prove to be better for my mental health I'm sure.