Apr 30, 2009

Long time, no blog

So it's been a while since I last blogged. In my defense, my life has been unusually exciting for the past week or two, and for about half of that time, either my laptop has been packed away, I've been without internet, or both. The reason for all this is two parts "Comcast is incompetent," one part "I have no motivation," and ten parts "I moved!"

So I've now officially moved...all of two miles up the road. However, that cuts my commute time in half, which means my gas bill will be cut nearly in half, too. The place is really nice, though. I got 300 extra square feet for an additional $3/month. My appliances aren't as new or swank, I don't have a doorbell or a back yard for Pippin to play in, and moving is expensive so I'm out close to $700 for the whole ordeal. But once Kellen and Max move in this summer (the extra 300 sq. ft. includes an extra bedroom), my rent is going to drop to $250 and my utilities will be practically negligible, which means for 6 months I'll be chucking away the extra $500/mo. at debt and can put all my current debt payments toward savings. I should have all my dental bills paid off by December, which is just...wow. I also have 10 more minutes added to my lunch break for the days when I come home, and as we all know, time is money! So, in the end, the place is a bargain, which is all I really need to make me happy.

I'm pretty excited about everything. All the important stuff is up and running. Most of the fairly-important-but-not-imperative stuff is out of boxes. Looks like everything is going to fit. The only bad part is that I left Pippin alone for half an hour on Sunday afternoon while I went to buy groceries, and he dug up (literally, dug) the carpet in the second bedroom. I'm hoping we can fix that ourselves, though, without having to call the management in or *shudder* having to pay to replace it.

Some other things have been going on, too. I've been sick since some time last week. Nothing major (not with treatment, anyhow), just annoying, and I've been shuffled from one antibiotic to the next trying to figure out what will work. Everything finally seems to be improving. Keep your fingers crossed.

I also got my first statement back from the insurance offered by my employer, which I enrolled for in January. My suspicions that they pay for nothing were confirmed, so I want to get myself good and well before I'm off my mom's insurance in July. (Since my brother is already on it, she can keep me on until I'm 25 for no extra charge. So for three more months, I have awesome insurance.) I'm going to start totaling up the cost of my after-insurance bills + premiums every month to see if it might actually be less expensive not to have insurance through my employer at all. Considering that so far, they've refused to cover anything, I'm beginning to think I'm being scammed out of $140/mo so they can pretend to insure me. Well, maybe I'm not being very generous. After all, they do have to pay postage on all of those statements they keep sending me that say, "We aren't covering any of this, sucker!"

I really hate insurance.

Apr 23, 2009

Did I mention I have joint custody of my dog?

PippinThis is probably one of the weirder arrangements that has come along with being in a long distance relationship. Last year, Kellen lived with me for six months while he was doing an internship in Portland. When we first started dating, I often commented that I wanted a dog someday. Kellen vetoed that idea immediately. Why? "Dogs shed. Gross." (Note: That's not a verbatim quote, but pretty close.) So I spent the next several months convincing him that dogs are awesome (I grew up with six), and we would be getting one someday.

I've always known that I'm pretty persuasive, and with Kellen, particularly so, but...I wasn't expecting to be quite as convincing as I ended up being. When Kellen moved in, he decided it was time for a dog. Immediately. (He will tell you that this isn't the case. Believe me. It was all his idea.) He also wanted a puppy, which I tried to caution him against since puppies are only half as cute as they are trouble. "Let's get an old dog!" I said. But noooo. We had to get a puppy.

We spent some time researching breeds and ended up deciding that a beagle was the right dog for us. They are kid friendly, sturdy, and smart. And best of all? They have short hair. Kellen was pretty sold. We eventually found Pippin, our ridiculously adorable beagle mix, at the Oregon Humane Society. As far as puppies go, Pippin really wasn't that bad. He was house trained. For a hound, he's surprisingly quiet. (He only barks on command. Or makes little low "mmmmuff, mmmmuff" sounds when he sees another dog out the back window.) He's incredibly smart and easy to train. Sure, he chewed through a few pairs of shoes, and he runs up vet bills like you would not believe...but he's so cute and sweet, it's impossible not to love him to pieces anyhow.

Come September, though, it was time for Kellen to go back to school and with his return to school, we had to make a big decision: who gets Pippin? I swore for months that Kellen was taking his dog with him back to school, but when the time came to ship him off, I had a change of heart. Now, we share custody of the dog, and depending on who's busiest, we take turns keeping him. For the past few weeks, I've been Pippin-free. Kellen is at the beginning of his term, so his workload is pretty light, and I've had a string of dentist appointments and this week, I'm moving. But next week, Pippin will be back, and I'll be very glad to have someone to cuddle with on the couch again.

In a couple of months, Kellen will be moving back in for another six-month internship, and Pippin will no longer have to be shuttled back and forth between cities every weekend. I'll be glad to have both of them back home full-time again. 

Apr 22, 2009

Why I always bring my lunch to work

brown bagging itBroke Grad Student recently wrote a post about why he never brings his lunch to work. As some of you might know, Broke Grad Student writes mostly about how to be frugal, and as some of you might also know, eating out is one of the big no-no's among the frugal crowd. Just mentioning that you eat out will get you a chorus of boos and hisses from the penny-pinching set. And I hate to pile on, but...there is a reason why eating out is so frowned upon by frugal aficionados.

I take my lunch with me to work almost every day, and on the days that I don't, that's usually because I've gone home for lunch. (I have part-time custody of the dog while the boyfriend is away in school. When I have the dog, we go on a walk at lunch time.) The thing is, I really enjoy taking my lunches with me. I know that seems really weird, that doing something frugal would also be something pleasant, but hear me out.

1. It saves me money.

We're not just talking about a little money. I save a chunk of change every week by eating at home for all my meals. Carrying my lunch to work with me saves me about $50/week alone. When you consider the fact that five days of the week, I eat all of my meals at home, I save in the neighborhood of $100/week. That's $400/month. This is money that I put toward savings and credit card debt or, yes, small splurges for things that I want. I get an immense amount of satisfaction from the money I save, and for me, that's reason enough to eat at home.

2. It saves me time.

Whether I'm eating at home or at work, carrying my lunch saves me a lot of time. If I go home, I don't even have time to pick up food somewhere else. And generally speaking, it takes me 5-10 minutes to throw together a lunch in the morning before work. If I go out for lunch, I spend at least that much time (usually more) waiting in lines, waiting on food prep, waiting on wait staff, and traveling to an off-site location if I don't eat in the cafeteria at work. And because I prepared my food in advance, that usually means I have that extra time at my lunch break to enjoy a longer walk with my dog, to read a book, to run errands, etc.

3. It's healthier.

Granted, this isn't always true. If I packed nothing but PB&J and potato chips every day, there would be nothing healthy about it at all. However, because I've gotten in the habit of planning ahead for my lunch time meals, I make sure that my meals are the correct portion sizes, contain fresh ingredients, and fit into my dietary plans and needs. I don't eat fast food. I don't have to worry about the quality of ingredients. I don't worry about over-eating because the restaurant served portion sizes twice what I need. I don't have to worry about not being able to find something on the menu that will fit my needs. Packing your own lunch gives you greater control over your meals, and I've found that this is a very good thing.

4. I like my food better anyhow.

I used to hate cooking, but over time, it's grown to be one of my favorite things to do. Part of this is, again, the joy of saving money, but part of it is that as my skill in the kitchen have improved, so has the food that I make. Plus, I pick my favorite ingredients, my favorite seasonings, and my favorite combinations of foods. And just generally speaking, there are very few restaurants in my daily price range where their cooking staff can prepare a meal better than I can. My food tastes better. And if you'd told me that four years ago, when I couldn't even figure out how to pre-heat the oven without calling my mom, I would have laughed until my stomach ached. So if you want to use the excuse, "But I can't cook!" I'm sorry, but I'm here to tell you, "Oh, yes, you can."

So what should you do if you want to start brown bagging it more often?

For one, I advocate that you invest in quality food containers. I like ones with compartments and lids that seal very well, but generally speaking, I think durable and reusable are really the key things to go for. Bento boxes might also be something to look into, if you want to look adorable even when you bring your lunch to work. A nice insulated bag or lunchbox is nice to have, too. We're not talking about the plastic lunch pails with cartoon characters on them of yesteryear, either. You can get a lunch bag that is sporty, or sleek, or functional, or fun...or even one that looks like a purse. With the variety of options out there in terms of lunch bags, there's no reason why bringing your lunch to work should give others the impression that you still belong in grade school.

The next thing you'll need to do is plan ahead for your meals. This doesn't take much effort, trust me. It could mean as little as picking up extra supplies to make sandwiches when you are in the grocery store, or planning your meals so that your leftovers will translate into easy-to-pack lunches. Keep in mind that your brown bag doesn't need to be filled with pre-packaged lunchables, snack packs, potato chips and twinkies. Fresh fruits and veggies, salads, pastas, cheeses, and any other foods that generally stay in a single solid mass generally transport well. The City Cook and Lunch in a Box (bento blog) both have good suggestions for foods you can pack to bring to work with you.

In the beginning, you might struggle to squeeze the extra few minutes of packing a lunch into your daily schedule. One of the best tips I have to counteract that is to pack your lunch before you go to bed, and if you're planning to bring leftovers, just put everything together as you're cleaning up after dinner anyhow. If it's going into tupperware anyhow, might as well put it into the tupperware you're taking to work with you, right? Really, though, once you get in the habit of doing this every morning, you forget that you ever thought it was a hassle. And you'll even appreciate the added convenience of a packed lunch at lunch time when you, unlike everyone else, don't have to do anything to get ready to eat except maybe pop your food into the microwave.

It can be hard to keep it up at first, and that's something I definitely understand. It can be hard to convince yourself it's worth the extra ten minutes to pack your lunch, and it can be even harder to give up something that you see as a treat or as a perk for yourself. Still, I think it's important to note that once you get started in this new behavior, you might find new and different perks of changing the behavior. Like me, you could end up really liking it, and advocating it for more reasons than just the savings you get from doing it. And you can still eat out. I go out to lunch with coworkers once every couple of weeks, usually. However, it's become a rare treat, and it no longer interferes with my ability to stay on budget.

At any rate, everyone has to make the right choices for them. The Simple Dollar talks a lot about where you should draw the line between being frugal and just being miserable. If something makes you happy, by all means do it. However, I think it's important to think about whether an item you spend on regularly actually makes you happy, or if it's just a bad spending habit that you are, for whatever reason, not willing to break.

Update: My friend Hoon informed me that his wife Sarah recently wrote a post about safe food storage containers. It's a great post, especially for the health-conscious, so check it out!

Apr 21, 2009

Why do I long for the "good old days"?

in a bathtubIt's a natural human tendency to look back on a part of your life when you, your situation and your responsibilities were different, and to wax nostalgic for "happier times." Why else would we have phrases like "the good old days"? Sometimes I wonder about the purpose of nostalgia. Why do we look back to our past, and why do we do it with such unabashed and more often than not unwarranted good will?

I really liked college. I grew up in a teeny, tiny town in Northeast Texas. Mine was probably the only liberal, non-Christian family in the entire community. I was smart, wasn't interested in chasing boys, and had every intention of getting the hell out of Dodge as soon as I finished high school. (Note: Hometown will henceforth be referred to as Dodge.) I was, in short, the antithesis to pretty much everyone else I knew for the first 18 years of my life, and my stick-out-like-a-sore-thumb-ness wasn't lost on my peers...or anyone else I knew, really.

Going to a college in a city that everyone in Dodge referred to as the "queers" part of the "steers and queers" description of Texas was unbelievably liberating. Even though I struggled to make new friends at first, I loved Austin. And eventually, I made friends and I loved my friends. (*waves* Hi, friends!) And then I got into my upper division (and later, graduate) coursework, and I loved my classes and my research. In short, I was happy as a pig in mud. Or so nostalgia says.

Looking back on it, I know I'm leaving out a lot of the difficult stuff. I ignore the fact that I really struggled to make friends, and once I did have them, they were sometimes mean to me (or to each other) and that sometimes I got my feelings hurt. I ignore the fact that for several years, I barely slept or ate, and as a result, had recurrent bronchitis, chronic yeast infections, massive unneeded weight loss, crippling carpal tunnel, and a host of other bizarre health problems that kept Student Health Services busy for the five years I was in school. I ignore the fact that my work load was usually so high that I never got everything done, at least not to my satisfaction, and the never-ending self-flagellation over what I viewed as my subpar performance. I ignore (really ignore) the string of bad boyfriends and worse break-ups. Logically, I know it wasn't all sunshine and roses. But...

There are days when I really miss it. Like today when I come across a quote about the subaltern speaking, a phrase which references a key work by Gayatri Spivak that heavily influenced my graduate research. Or when I read an article about Austin or hear about someone going to visit Austin or read a blog by someone who lives in Austin. Or pretty much any time I see old pictures, or talk to one of my friends from college, or reminisce with the boyfriend about "the good old days." And sometimes even the bad stuff (e.g. bad breakups or not sleeping for five days straight) can be almost romanticized.

So why do I do this? Why do humans in general look back to the past with such fondness? I thought it might be "the grass is greener" situation. You look back, because you believe that any point in your life had to have been better then than it is now. But then, I think back upon high school and realize, no, I honestly don't think the grass was always greener in the past. So if it's not about the grass being greener, than what is it?

Patrick at Very Evolved wrote a really cool article about nostalgia and the brain. In part, nostalgia might be a sort of "natural anti-depressant." Because nostalgia is almost always associated with positive emotions, having something good to look back on, something that makes you feel good about yourself and about life in general, gives you something to hold onto when depression and/or apathy about yourself and your life might cause you to stop wanting to go on living. A little melodramatic, but definitely an interesting. I know when I'm feeling down about myself or my current situation, I just look back to my past and remind myself, "Hey! It hasn't always been that bad!"

Another theory is that you just feel good about yourself when you can accurately recall a memory. I've always prided myself on my long memory, and get a kick out of it when I remember something that no one else remembers, so maybe there's some truth to this one, too.

Whatever the reason:

"Nostalgia is exceptionally good at making us feel better when times are tough. It’s a little mental pick-me-up that reminds us of good times, good friends and a why it’s great to be alive."

So maybe it's not so bad that I look back over my shoulder. As long as I'm making some good memories now to be nostalgic about later, it can't be too bad, right?

Apr 20, 2009

The Gen X Files asks: Is the Millennial Generation a bunch of Cylons?

How to spot a CylonThe Gen X Files:

"Science fiction has a history of taking on social concepts, from Star Trek with it’s strong social themes to Star Wars which was profiled by Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell as the modern telling of the Hero’s Journey. Thinking in those terms, of the mythical meaning of the Battlestar Galactica, (which is produced and directed by Boomers and X’ers), I couldn’t help but wonder if the battle going on right now between the generations is represented in the story."

I found this analysis both humorous and thought-provoking. I recommend reading.

Apr 17, 2009

20-somethings and mental illness

I have multiple friends and family members in their early 20s who suffer from mental illness. I have watched them struggle to maintain their social lives, their family relationships, their finances, their jobs. I have watched them struggle with medication changes, paying for medications/treatment, suffering the consequences when they can no longer afford their medications/treatment. 20-somethings are often less likely to seek treatment for mental illness, less likely to be able to afford treatment, less likely to have support through treatment, and more likely to have their first experiences with mental illness than any other age group.

One in five young adults suffers from mental illness. For many, the onset of mental illness begins just as they are leaving their parents' homes, leaving school systems where they are under adult supervision for most of the day, and are entering either into the workforce or into college where they have far less supervision and where their problems are far less likely to be noticed by someone else who cares enough to help them. It comes as they are experiencing higher levels of stress than they are accustomed to (as a result of college workloads, new jobs, more serious relationships, having children, and increased financial responsibilities), which can serve as triggers for mental illness. Many mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, also tend to manifest themselves when a person is in their late teens or early 20s.

Despite the high numbers, relatively few young adults suffering from mental illness seek treatment—as low as 25%. This isn't particularly surprising when you consider that 20-somethings are less likely in general to seek treatment for any kind of ailment, to receive regular preventative care, or to have health insurance. There's even (yet another) term for young people who fall into this category: the young invincibles. It's even less surprising when you consider that many people in the general population are reluctant to seek treatment for mental illness, not only because of the cost and frustration that comes with treatment, but also because of the social stigma attached to mental illness.

All the same, when you consider that people in their 20s experience among the highest rates of suicide of any age group, it becomes clear that treating mental illness should be a priority for our age group.

More links:

Apr 14, 2009

Big news at work: Moving on up?

So a position has come open at work that I'm kind of really excited about. I don't want to get my hopes up too high because I know there is at least one other highly qualified person at work who is interested in the position (and there are possibly others), and I don't want to get myself all worked into a tizzy when it's very likely I won't get it. BUT...

It's a project management position, which I think sounds like a basket of kittens. While I really love web developing (I've been coding for half my life at this point—I think I would have to like it to do it for so long), I'm always excited about the opportunity to try something new, and I've been wanting to get more involved in the process that goes into getting a massive corporate website like the one I work on from rough sketches on paper to being live on the internet pretty much since I started at my current company. It would be a really big step up, but I feel like it would be something I'd be very good at doing. To be honest, just thinking about it makes my inner control freak (who is not so internal sometimes) start doing cartwheels. That's not to say I want to control everything. I'm just saying I have a knack for finding efficient, effective ways for getting things done, and I often find myself saying at work, "You know, there's a better way to do this." I think that makes me pretty spot on for this position. I know I'll still have a lot of people over me, but this way I would have a lot more input, for influencing process, and a lot more potential to really do some great things at work.

So keep your fingers crossed for me. Like I said, I don't know how good my chances are or if I'm even in the runnings, so I'm not getting cocky about it. I just think this is a fantastic opportunity, and it's always good to have something to be excited about, right?

PS: I realize all of this is being pretty vague. I just don't want to get too specific since I'm still not entirely comfortable with blogging about work.

Apr 13, 2009

"So when are you going to reproduce?"

Yesterday the boyfriend and I spent Easter with his parents, my future in-laws. While we were sitting around talking after dinner, the future mother-in-law (henceforth known as FMIL) and my boyfriend's brother's girlfriend (henceforth known as H2) started talking about weddings. H2 and my boyfriend's brother (henceforth known as H1) started dating something like six years ago, when they were still in high school, and so like the boyfriend and me, it's pretty much a given they will get married eventually.

As H2 started talking about all of her big wedding plans, I got kind of excited that someone else would be doing the big wedding that the boyfriend's family is so fond of, and I chirped in (stupidly), "Good! That means the pressure's off me to have the big wedding!"

Wrong thing to say.

FMIL swivels to give me a hard look. "Oh, so that's what you think?" She was just kidding, but it did mean that suddenly the scrutiny over wedding dates was now on me. So the question had to be asked (as it is regularly asked by all of my relatives too), "So when are you getting married?"

I really hate the question, "When are you getting married?" I have no idea when I'm getting married. I don't even know when I'm getting engaged. That alone could be over a year away. So wedding? I don't know. And when I look to my boyfriend to help me out, he's staring very pointedly off into space, faux ignoring the whole conversation. Thanks, boyfriend!

Luckily, I have some experience with this question, and I managed to deflect through the magical powers of the "My boyfriend is still in college" excuse. Unfortunately, though, answering this question just means it's time to move on to bigger fish. You know the question I'm talking about.

"So when are you going to have kids?"

Uhhhh... I think it's worth pointing out that my boyfriend is still in school. We're only 24, three years younger than any of our parents were when they started spawning. Kellen doesn't even have health insurance. On what planet are we qualified to have kids? (Don't answer that. I know many people think functioning reproductive organs are all you need to qualify for baby-making.) And, you know, I'm not ready to have kids. I want to enjoy my size 4 bikini body while I have it. I want to enjoy my free time while I have it. I want to enjoy traveling and snuggling with my boyfriend and going to movies whenever I want and getting to do nothing in the evenings and the weekends and pretty much whenever the eff I want for as long as possible. I want to start a savings account and pay off my credit card debt and get to enjoy my income for a while.

I just don't want children right now. It's not even something I really want to discuss. And while I know my response to the question probably leads people to believe I don't want children at all or that I'll be a selfish mother if I do have them, neither of these is true. I just want my life to myself for a little while longer. I know that's horribly selfish, but better for me to indulge that impulse now than a few years from now when I do have children.

I don't know. It's a question that makes me nervous just answering it. I know people are going to pass judgment no matter how I answer the question, and I know there are going to always be rebuttals. "But, dear, no one is ever ready to have children." Maybe not. But I know a lot of people who make the decision that now is the best time, actually go out of their way to try to have them, and then are very, very excited when they find out they are pregnant. I don't want to have children at any point in my life if the response to the plus sign is tears. I know that day will come at some point in the probably not too distant future, but for now, I'm happy with my life the way it is.

Anyhow. Apart from that, I had a really lovely weekend. I love the boyfriend's parents and had a great time hanging out with them this weekend. I'm super happy that they will be my kids' grandparents someday, because they are wonderful, wonderful people. I just hope everyone is cool with the fact that for now my reproductive mantra is, "No babies."

Apr 11, 2009

Happy Easter!

Easter 1987This weekend, the boyfriend and I are headed to the Coast to celebrate Easter with his family. I'm kind of excited. While I've celebrated holidays belatedly with Kellen's family before, this is my first actual holiday with his folks. His brother and his brother's girlfriend will also be there. It should be pretty fun.

All the same, I can't help but feel a little sad that I'm missing out on the fun back home. I talked to my mom this afternoon, and they'd celebrated Easter today. My whole family came to my parents' place, ate burgers (a new tradition, I guess?), and my cousin's little girl went on several egg hunts. Mom said she teared up a little as they were preparing for the festivities. All the family would be there except her kids.* I think she'll be fine, though. She was talking about opening a bottle of wine and relaxing on the back porch when I called, so I'm assuming she's moving on to other things.

Growing up, I came from a big, close knit family. Every Saturday, we would have dinner (in Southern speak, this is lunch) at my great-grandmother's, and every Sunday, we would have dinner at my grandmother's. I had several cousins that I saw on a weekly (at least) basis. In a lot of ways, they seemed more like siblings because they were always there, and certainly when I was younger, more constant companions than any of my other friends.

Easter with cousinsThe holidays were always a complete mess, with kids running everywhere, lots of noise, and lots and lots of love.

Easters were always very fun. They would start first thing Sunday morning with presents from the Easter bunny and an egg hunt around the house. Then, my mom would dress my brother and me to the nines. Some years, my aunt would pick us up for church. Other years, we skipped church and went straight to my grandmother's. What I remember most about Easters are the big dinners (with deviled eggs and mashed potatoes...mmm) and the egg hunts in my grandmother's back yard. My older cousins, the red heads Sarah and Toni, would hide eggs for us younger kids.

As I got older, the holiday changed. For one, all of the kids grew up. Even Kelli, who is four years younger than the youngest of us grew up and got too old for the tradition. Easters became more like every other Sunday: lots of food, lots of family, not so many egg hunts. And when I started college, I usually didn't even come home for Easter, because school rarely ever gave us an extra day off to make the 12-hour round trip worth it. Still...I get nostalgic looking back on the holiday as it was when I was little.

Me and my grandmotherThis isn't my first year to spend Easter with a boyfriend's family. My freshman year of college, I got my first "real" boyfriend, and his parents invited me to spend Easter with them. It was the first time I'd actually met them, and I was kind of nervous about it—not least of all because they were sort of the stereotypical East Texas conservative types, and I was sort of...not that at all. All the same, it ended up being a pretty good experience. Everyone seemed to like me, his mom made me an Easter basket which made me feel very sweet, and I didn't get outed as the evil liberal I am...that time.

This year is obviously a little different. For one, I know Kellen's family pretty well already, and they love me because I'm an evil liberal. For another, this is a family I know I'm going to be a part of long-term, which means that the Easter traditions they have are going to become in many ways my traditions, too.

great-grandparents, mom, meI wonder what kinds of memories our kids will have of Easter. Kellen and I are both one of two children in our families, so obviously, the number of cousins our kids will have to run with will probably be a lot smaller. Also, because our families are all over the United States, it's less likely our kids will see their cousins as often as I saw mine growing up. It's weird to think that my kids could have such a different experience growing up than my own...but I guess that's a part of starting a new family. Making your own traditions.

Anyhow. I'm really missing my mom and all the rest of my family today, and maybe I'm missing childhood a little, too. But I'm also very excited about the future.

* My brother is in the Air Force and is in training in California.

Apr 9, 2009

Comparing arguments about Gen Y

How 'entitlement attitudes' harm America
"Alarmingly increasing numbers of Americans, however, seem to have difficulty seeing any limits to their entitlement, and as a result of their "entitlement attitudes," they're behaving in ways that are harming themselves in the short run and the country in the long run. These are the 20-somethings who took six years to earn bachelors' degrees, left college with $10,000 in credit card debt, and still feel entitled to big-screen televisions because "other people" have them, even though "other people" have worked harder, educated themselves better and saved longer... Slowly, over time, with the help of their parents, their teachers and our popular culture, entitlement attitudes blossomed, grew and ripened into full-blown, individual and societal, economic and interpersonal, disasters.

"Well-meaning parents are the foremost instillers and nurturers of entitlement attitudes. When they go beyond satisfying all of their children's needs and start satisfying all of the children's wants as well, these parents not only "spoil" the kids figuratively, but they also literally spoil the kids' chances of learning how to manage resources responsibly. When kids learn to expect excess rather than to anticipate scarcity, they learn to expect needs and wants to be satisfied equally rather than to differentiate and prioritize between and among them. They also learn to expect others to make sacrifices for them rather than to be self-reliant. They lose the connection between getting what they want and doing something of value, and they learn to go about getting what they want by placing demands on others rather than by making themselves useful to others."

Most 20-Somethings avoiding shortcuts, taking proven paths
"Fast forward to 2009 and the argument that 20 Somethings are softening America’s economic drive and resolve plus are generally self-centered. Get real. Yes, there are probably those that are guilty as charged but that applies to every age group.

"Those stepping forward to fill most of the military ranks are still 20-Somethings. And when it comes to having their head screwed on straight about delayed gratification when it comes to building a life, 20-Somethings in Manteca look especially smart.

"It is easy to come across those in their 20s – single and married – who are resisting dining out every night, spending tons of money on entertainment, pursuing new car lust, or spending every last dime so they can buy homes. They aren’t mortgaging to the max. They aren’t insisting on granite counter tops. They understand needs are more important than wants. They don’t talk of starter homes. They talk of paying off the mortgage.

"The generation of 20-Somethings may actually be more attuned to living within their means than any generation since the Great Depression. It has something to do with the current economic crisis created by easy money and greed that ballooned housing prices that led to the mortgage meltdown. They also saw the dot.com boom go bust.

"If the truth be told, though, most 20-Somethings never got caught up in the get rich quick or entitlement mindset."

I think it's interesting to look where different arguments about Gen Y come from. Age, for instance, creates a pretty significant difference. I think older generations are obviously more inclined to look down on the generations that follow. It's a mix of "When I was your age, I had to walk three miles, uphill, barefoot, in the snow" critiques, as well as the fear that everything is going to go to the dogs once you're no longer there to protect it.

I think politics also have something to do with it. For conservatives, who see the movement away from marrying early, starting a family, and joining the traditional workforce as a negative thing for society at large, there's little surprise that the younger generation's delaying of "adult" responsibilities (i.e. getting a job, getting married, having children) is seen as bad.

I'm sure a lot of other factors go into this difference of opinion. Still, it's so funny to see different people taking the same information, the same group, and drawing such wildly different conclusions.

Apr 8, 2009

Is moving back home with your parents really that weird?

There are many who argue that moving back home with your parents after college or after entering the real world is somehow synonymous with failure. Young adults who move back home are often characterized as people who have failed to grow up, given names like "kidult" and "adultolescents", all which stress the idea that these are people who have not yet exited childhood. In talking about this group, there is often an emphasis on the fact that people who move back home obviously do so to avoid the real world, to delay adult responsibility, to receive hand-outs and free services from mom and dad, and generally speaking, to act like moving home is a permanent grade school summer vacation of endless laziness and self-indulgence.

However, this isn't necessarily true. Many kids are moving back home because it seems like the most financially responsible thing to do. Considering that entry level wages have not kept up with the pace of inflation, most 20-somethings are less able to be financially independent than their parents were 30 years ago, even when they are in the same fields or positions. Beyond that, young adult employment rate is twice as high as that of the general employment rate, and at a time when many are being laid off, companies are often hiring older, more experienced employees in positions where they once would have hired those fresh from college, or those who might have been retiring have delayed doing so because they've lost a large percentage of their retirement funds in the stock market.

Because the number of people who have college degrees have gone up over the years, it means that young people often have to get more education to perform the same jobs—leaving 20-somethings entering the work force later than previous generations and with more debt. Many see living with their parents as a way to reduce their own spending, while paying down debt and saving for their future. Other things that have been regularly cited as reasons for young people to delay striking out on their own: they are remaining unmarried and childless longer, they often delay entering the workforce to volunteer or to travel, and generally speaking are taking on the traditional responsibilities of adulthood later.

Knowing all of that, why is there still the stigma that moving back home with your parents is a sure sign of failure to grow up?

Well, because for the last 100 years or so, moving out has been the moment that has defined both adult independence and adult success. While perhaps in the earlier half of the century unmarried women might remain in their parents' home after receiving an education, overwhelmingly the marker of adulthood has been getting a job and living on your own. However, Stephanie Coontz, an academic who specializes in history and family studies, says that this has not always been the case. In the 19th century, it was not as uncommon to see adults living with their parents as it is today. In fact, it wasn't until there was a cultural shift in the 1950s regarding what constitutes a happy marriage and a happy family that people began to discourage adult children from living with their parents. Looking at living with your parents and notions of adulthood and independence in this light, it begins to become clear that what constitutes adulthood and independence are more social constructs than anything. But...does that still mean you've failed to "grow up" by our cultural standards? Have you failed in our society?

I don't think so. More and more adult children are moving back home, and not so they can spend all day watching porn in their basement-cum-living-quarters while Mom does their laundry and brings them PBJ sandwiches all day long. Most these days have jobs, have financial obligations they are meeting, and are contributing financially and/or in terms of responsibilities in their parents' home. Some parents even say it's given them a financial break. Also, many families cite that it has fostered closer inter-generational relationships and that they feel like they appreciate and respect one another more for the experience. That's not always the case, obviously, but...

I'd say that rather than writing off every kid who moves back home as just another mooching slacker, we should argue that moving back home could actually be a responsible thing to do and the sign not of failure, but rather of a smart transition into adulthood. And just like there was a shift in the 50s of what constituted adulthood and independence (and also when adulthood and independence was socially conferred upon a person), then it's entirely possible we're going through a similar cultural shift now. In 10 years, living with your mom and dad could be completely normal. As it stands now, I would say that before we make any arguments about whether young people are actually "failing to grow up" simply because they're going back to their parents' home, maybe we should evaluate the individual circumstances and see how the concept of adulthood and independence are changing, perhaps not even necessarily for the worse.

Up to 39 hits from Pittsburgh Craigslist


Apr 7, 2009

This is a conversation I have with my boyfriend pretty regularly.

People are stupid.

Adding this to the long list of things I need to work on.

The impulse to leave everything behind.

Sometimes I get this impulse to set everything on fire (figuratively--definitely not literally) and walk away from my life completely. I just want to go someplace new and start all over again, watch my life take shape in a place where no one knows me, where no one has any preconceived notions about me or pre-existing judgment. Someplace where I have complete freedom to be myself, do whatever I want, and ignore all the rules we're told to follow.

I know this impulse comes from the fact that I want to stop following all the rules but am too afraid to. I think somehow that if I can get away from my current life, maybe the rules will matter less. If I'm not the same person anymore, maybe I won't care. I know that's not true, but that's still the impulse.

Do you ever feel like this? Do you ever wish you could just walk out on your life and start somewhere completely new, as a completely new person?

Apr 6, 2009

Gen Y: The definitions of adulthood have changed.

A pretty cool response to this post about 20-somethings delaying adulthood:

I think that the notion that 20-somethings are all fragmented, dissillusioned, dreamy-eyed wanderers is simplistic at best; history is full of stories idolizing the noble wanderer (the Beat generation, etc). I think the real question is, what has our society done to incentivize joining the “rank and file”? Without pensions, and with our shrinking 401(k) plans and our inability to buy appreciating homes and properties; without the knowlege that joining the “rank and file” would actually be better than, say, freelancing our unique talents, or collection experiences in different jobs rather than stasis in a career, why would anyone make such a choice?

Same thing with the spouse/kids thing. The world is smaller now and more accessible, but more expensive. People want experiences that were never available to our parents or our grandparents. Our grandparents fought and feared the Japanese; today its a tourist destination known for its food and quirky fashion and oddball vending machines. Will our grandchildren buy tickets to Disney’s Iraq Theme Park? Or will it all just be gone, obliterated, dusty bits of old money and sand and ash? We don’t know. There’s so much uncertainty.

20-somethings are not shirking “adult” responsibilities. I think the definition of what an “adult” responsibility is has fundamentally changed. 20-somethings are merely adapting their outlook and actions to a world where security, responsibility, and the notion of “the adult” is much different than the generation before us.

I just want to show you something

I'm driving everyone at work crazy with my constant absences.

But before I launch into that part, I must back up...to the beginning. Last January, shortly after I quit the flight attendant gig and began looking for other work, I started to notice something kind of weird going on in my mouth. A baby tooth, one that I've known since I was about 6 had no adult tooth underneath it, started to fall out.

For several months, first because I was unemployed and then because I was employed but still didn't have the time-off or the money to go the dentist, I ignored the fact that the tooth was falling out. And when I say "ignore," I mean I did my typical worry wart thing where I think about it non-stop, become a woman obsessed, google it, ask questions on those "Ask a Dentist" forums and generally speaking, think the sky is falling because my tooth is coming out. I'm sure you've all realized that this is what I do by now.

In September, after hitting my six month mark at work and after finally building up a reserve of cash which I thought might cover at least part of what I knew was inevitable (taking the tooth out and getting a replacement), I went to the dentist. And over the following seven months, I've had a series of dental procedures to: remove the tooth, crown the tooth next to the missing tooth to prevent it from breaking in surgery, reinforce the gum with a bone graft, have a titanium post implanted in my jaw. Eventually, there will be a crown there, too.

This has meant a lot of visits to the dentist. I'm guessing I've been to the dentist 15-20 times in the last seven months. (No exaggeration.) When you add to that the fact that my dentist office has a chronic problem with punctuality (I now assume that I will wait an hour before they bring me in, and that the time it will take to do any given procedure will be at least double what the dentist tells me in advance), we're talking a LOT of hours spent in the dentist office. I used up all of my sick time last year (32 hours worth) all in the dentist office...and then almost 2 days of my vacation time to cover the rest. And I'm already almost in the hole for sick time so far this year.

The number of absences of course isn't lost on my boss, who has to scrounge up coverage for me every time I'm out. Last week, we had a major launch of a website at work (the biggest we've ever done) due at noon on Monday, but from 8-10 on Monday morning I was sitting in a dentist chair having a titanium post drilled into my face. If anything had happened with one of my assignments or suddenly there was a need for an extra thing to be completed before noon, it's entirely likely I could have missed the deadline. I didn't, which is great, but I know it makes my boss (and the rest of my team) uneasy because I miss work so much, sometimes at really critical times, because I'm sitting in the dentist's office. (If I hadn't scheduled the procedure weeks before the launch stuff, that wouldn't have happened, obviously.)

I'm almost done with all of the dental procedures, and I'm hoping I don't have any health-related absences again for a very long time. The whole experience, though, has made me really appreciate working at a place that has sick time, because not all places do. (The flight attendant gig subtracted pay for every missed day.) The experience has also driven home the fact that if you do really well at work, people are more forgiving if you miss, say, 60 hours of work in a handful of months for health-related reasons. I still feel like I'm driving everyone crazy, though. Only a few more visits...I just keep telling myself that. Hopefully nothing else will come up.

My question is: How on earth do people with kids ever make it through a year without going way over on their sick time?

I've gotten 15 hits from Pittsburgh craigslist.

In my experience, there are only three reasons why someone gets put on craigslist, and I am neither unwanted furniture nor a job advertisement.

Should I be worried?

Apr 5, 2009

Twenty Somethings in the News: Delaying Adulthood

USA Today: It's time to grow up later.

Reading this, what struck me is both how true a lot of this is, and also how easily the truth in this could be taken the wrong way and turned into arguments like the one I recently critiqued. I do feel a lot like one's 20s have sort of become a big unknown. Whereas 30 years ago, your 20s were a time to find a job, get married, have babies, buy a house and settle down, young people these days are more cautious about making those big life-changing decisions and more focused on figuring out what they want from life and how best to pursue those desires. Not surprisingly, a lot of these desires do not involve a cubicle job at 25 with a spouse and a couple of kids up the spout. I can see how in a lot of ways this is comparable to an extended adolescence, because it is a delaying of traditional responsibilities and because many more young people are financially reliant on their parents at this point than they were a few decades back.

However, I think this sense of "extended adolescence" plagues even those of us who do have stable jobs, who do support ourselves...even those of us who choose to start families at a younger age—perhaps even moreso because we often feel like we are wasting our potential by doing what people have always done. I think that this extended adolescence is less about what responsibilities we have, and more about a lack of definite direction in our lives, a definite idea of what it is we're supposed to be doing. Most of us, though, don't refer to this as an extended adolescence. We call it a quarter life crisis...or that period in our lives where we are trying to figure out who we are, what we want from life, and where we want to be. And in that sense, we are able to do that kind of questioning for a lot longer than any previous generation.

What I think is interesting is that this article doesn't accuse us of being spoiled or lazy because we've delayed taking on traditional adult responsibilities, but rather looks at the facts. People just don't settle down as early anymore. Because of easy access to the pill, we don't have to worry about pregnancy or marriage as much as our parents did. Education doesn't go as far as it once did, and more and more people are attending school longer and at much greater expense than previous generations to achieve similar results, making settling down and starting a career more difficult when you are young. Our generation has also seen how marrying at a young age ups the odds for divorce, and many of us shy away from making that commitment when we are young.

In short, a lot of what we're experiencing is a function of practical realities—not a lot of coddling or parental hand-holding. And a lot of what we're going through isn't about living high on the hog on our parents' dime, but rather is about trying to find the right place for ourselves in the world, about rising above tradition and really doing something exceptional. Is that such a bad thing?

What the article doesn't address, though, is what will happen after our 20s. What will happen to us when we enter our 30s? Will we suddenly start jumping into the rank and file of older Americans who did the traditional 9-to-5, spouse, house, kids thing for 40 years and then retired to their RVs and games of bridge? Will all of the idealism that is so apparent and tangible with our generation disappear as we get older and begin taking on "adult" responsibilities more and more? Or will this searching, this striving for something more and something better be a defining part of our generation even into old age? Is this an extended adolescence or a permanent change in values and goals?

That's a question maybe no one can answer.

Apr 4, 2009

Apr 1, 2009

Twenty Somethings in the News: Young men aren't interested in marriage (or, tell me something I didn't know)

I'm never getting marriedHalf of 'twenty-something' men shun relationships

While this is a statement almost any single girl in her 20s could probably tell you without thinking twice, the Gender Institute at the London School of Economics has turned this into a scientific conclusion. Out to prove that the decreasing numbers of 20-somethings joining the married ranks isn't due to 20-somethings cohabitating, the Gender Institute's study found that really, it's because men just aren't interested in getting married. Ever.

Of course, what the Gender Institute didn't really explain was why this is happening. They hypothesize that it might have something to do with the fact that there is no stigma attached to men not settling down these days, but somehow, that doesn't seem like enough to fully explain the trend. Why do you think men are waiting longer to settle down or avoiding it altogether?

Sometimes I complain on my blog.

And apparently this fact REALLY annoys people. I've received almost as many attacks for complaining about things going on in my life on my blog as I have for voicing my opinions on abortion, religion, feminism, politics, or pretty much any other controversial topic that I regularly bloviate about (and I'm very opinionated and very vocal, so we're talking about lots of opportunities for attack.)

So I just want to set a little disclaimer, for all of you who think blogs should be all about puppies and sunshine and who have violent allergic reactions to any and all whining (unless, of course, it's your own, which you will invariably post in my comments section): sometimes I bitch about my life in my blog. You can call it venting, or indulging my inner brat, or being a pessimist or just plain being obnoxious, but it's something I do, and it is something I will continue to do probably for as long as I have a blog. Griping here doesn't mean that I hate my life, that I don't appreciate what I have, or that I always complain. I don't do any of these things, and in fact, I keep a blog largely so that I can get my complaints out all at once and keep them contained. Not that my saying this will convince anyone on the internet of its truth, since most people prefer to believe whatever they want to believe.

Regardless, if you don't like my blog, you're welcome to click the little X in the top right-hand corner or the little red button in the top left-hand corner, and never read any of my bitching again. For people who are so put off by my complaints that they can't resist complaining about it themselves in my comments, I really only have one word for you: hypocrite. For all the advice I've gotten about "Get over it!", I've yet to have a single one of these people actually do that themselves.

So, really, what I do with my life doesn't affect you, and nobody's forcing you to read my blog. You are perfectly welcome to leave. I, however, am not obligated to change what I write about, or how I feel for that matter, just because someone else doesn't like it. I've been pretty committed to being myself for, oh, 24 years now, and if middle school and high school didn't stamp out all desire I had to say exactly what I think and to be exactly who I am, then you can pretty much put money on it that some asshole on the internet with nothing better to do with his or her time than read my blog and then bitch about it isn't going to change that about me now.

Thanks for reading.