Monday, September 30, 2013

Pumpkins & Politics

I'm stealing this from my own facebook status because, whatever, it's long enough for a blog post. And I'm trying to blog more. Ergo, DOUBLE POST.

1. Can we just all sort of pinky-swear that we are collectively going to vote out of office everyone that's in Congress right now and get a brand new batch in next time 'round? And so and and so on until they've all been unseated? Because our government sucks at governing. They're REALLY good at bickering though.

 2. I saw a snide comment somewhere earlier where someone was all "ooh, the national parks are shutting down, big deal, whatever" - NO, ignoramous, that is not what the fuss is about. Clearly you don't know anyone that has a federally funded job because, hey, they're not going to be getting paid for a while - which IS a big deal if they have, y'know, houses and family and the desire to pay bills and/or eat. Meanwhile, Congress is getting paid regardless, so what do they care if this shutdown takes forever. Doesn't affect them. / Side though, aren't most of them rich from their previous jobs as lawyers or whatever anyway? Maybe we should just pay them minimum wage. I mean, that's a federal standard, right?

3. I saw a headline that was all MODERATE REPUBLICANS ARE PLANNING TO REVOLT and I hope that happens because that would be bad-ass. In my head I'm picturing them kicking open the doors to the chambers and walking in in slow-motion like a ragtag group of action heroes.

4. To steal my friend Sean's status: "So as I understand it, the GOP is willing to have a total govt shutdown and hurt the economy to make a point that the Affordable Care Act will hurt the economy..."

5. I still don't get why "Obamacare" is bad. Do we not want people to have health insurance? Do we not all like having health insurance? I LIKE HAVING HEALTH INSURANCE AND I AM GENERALLY A BIG FAN OF ANYTHING THAT IS "AFFORDABLE" USUALLY. Did I miss something? I'm actually kind of serious. What's the problem?  

6. The pumpkin spice bread I got today was highly disappointing. It kind of tastes just like the cinnamon raisin swirl bread by the same company. That didn't stop me from eating four slices of it, but, man. What a bummer. Also, in the comments for that pumpkin-hatin' article I posted the other day, someone pointed out that all y'all only have to deal with the deluge of pumpkin for a season, whereas the bacon fad is year-round and never stops. SO THERE.

EDIT (for future historical reference): the shutdown ended at the eleventh hour, we didn't default, and life returned to a relative normal, at least until January/February when this whole circus could repeat itself again. 'Merica!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

'Tis Almost The Season...

YOU GUYS. Despite the fact that there has never been a shortage of 5Ks around here, I've only picked out a small handful of them to do, because they can get kind of pricey and I'm not in great enough shape (yet!) to do them all the time. I have two more "real" 5Ks on the docket for November (they are even chip timed! I've never done a chip timed race!) and I had pretty much decided that that would be it for the year.

Then my mom forwarded me an email from Groupon (most of which I largely ignore, but can't quite bring myself to unsubscribe from), because she knows me entirely too well.

IT'S AN UGLY SWEATER 5K.



Oh, the joy that spread in my heart when I saw this. At first I was afraid that it was going to be on the same day as one of my other 5Ks but the fates smiled upon me and it's actually the week after the second one. It's a fun run, which means it's not timed, and since I'll have done two runs prior to this for the month, I'm not entirely opposed to the idea of walking/skipping/bounding excitedly through this one. Plus, they give you hot chocolate every mile. You can't run and drink hot chocolate at the same time. That seems like it would end badly.

The Ugly Sweater has become a cliche, but it's one that I embrace wholeheartedly. (You'll recall 2011's Ugly Sweater Contest, yes?) It reeks of hipsters but I don't even care. It's cheesy and funny and wonderful.

Image via Groupon

According to the race site, you get a custom vintage knit hat, lots of hot chocolate, two beers or hard ciders, and... a mustache, because mustaches are festive, apparently. ("If you can't grow one, we'll give you one.") There are also supposed to be hot chocolate stations along the route, snow blowers, Clark Griswold's yard, "reindeer games", a Santa inflatable, and holiday music all along the way. There are prizes for the best mustache and beard as well as worst/best sweaters (wait, what? Wouldn't the "worst" sweater technically be the best?). Last but not least, they are encouraging everyone to bring a toy to donate to Toys for Tots, which is incidentally also the charity that they are donating to.

To be honest, I was already on the sign up page before I even read through all of that. I was just kind of like OMG RUNNING AROUND IN UGLY SWEATERS THIS IS GOING TO BE HILARIOUS AND AWESOME AND GIMME GIMME GIMME. Then I was like, oh, what's this? free hat? free mustache? oh, there's their charity. Nifty! (Basically: it just kept getting better and better).

Of course, I have an ugly sweater tee, which is a bit snug because I've gotten fatter since I bought it (these things happen), so I might have to find a replacement. Top contenders abound, but I'm kind of being a cheapskate. This would be my ideal, if money weren't an object (it's about $55 which is... a bit much for something like this):


I regret not buying this hat last year, especially when it went on clearance and was like $5, because now they don't have it anymore:




Of course, these bad boys ARE still available, and I plan on making them mine:



I guess beyond that, I will need to accessorize. I wonder if I can find some cheap green pants or something. Maybe some Christmasy shades that aren't terribly expensive. As much ridiculous, tacky holiday adornment as I can find. It's gonna be great.



Here's their website, should you be keen on finding one in your area. Or you can come to Des Moines, because that should be your #1 destination of choice in November. (Hey, there's a 50/50 chance it won't have snowed yet. It could be 70 degrees and sunny or it could be 30 degrees with two feet of snow. There's no way of knowing! It's so wacky and unpredictable! Lolz!) No but seriously. You can even buy a Groupon for a $20 entry if you want. That's HALF THE PRICE for early registration. I don't even know if that's a legit referral link but I don't even caaaare. COME PRANCE AROUND IN RIDICULOUS MERRIMENT WITH ME!

[via]

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Starting My Last Year that Starts with a 2

Monday was my birthday - I don't know if I mentioned that? I think I had my pre-29 freakout and then never mentioned it again. Birthdays are weird when you're older. They're not nearly as fun and exciting as they are when you're a kid. Or even when you're in your early twenties. I'll still get a slight twinge of anticipation when I suddenly realize that my birthday is in two days, but maybe that's just nostalgia. You're not supposed to get excited about your birthday when you're an adult, it seems. Which wasn't hard for me this year. I was oddly depressed about it, for reasons I can't really articulate, but birthday plans had to be prodded out of me. It came and went and in some ways it was just another day, but in others, it was nice to feel special and loved.

As far as feeling older, well, nothing feels different. I suppose that I'd been making my peace with 29 for several weeks leading up to it (to the point where I had to remind myself several times that I was still, in fact, 28) so it kind of felt like I was already there. I feel a bit more older and wiser and mature than I did when I turned 28 last year, but I think that's largely because I've grown and changed quite a bit over the last year, in subtle ways that have added up, and that I only notice now because I'm taking stock of things. If that makes any sense.

My fuse is also shorter and my patience is much thinner for the vapid and the shallow, and for the glaring shortcomings of "kids" in their early 20s. I am officially, completely removed from that era - though I'm not quite "in" with the next age bracket yet - and, frankly, it kind of makes me feel like a snob. But at the same time, I think it's because I've mellowed out. Different things are important to me, and things that I used to give occasional concern to (for example, pageviews and traffic on this here blog) - I no longer give a flying kitten about. Because it doesn't matter. For the first time, I'm pretty content with being in a slower lane. Watching the vitriol that gets spewed at anyone with a high profile on the Internet, well... no thank you. I'd rather be a bit obscure and keep a positive space. Because the people that hang around here? Are awesome. They are friendly and smart and not bitter anonymous trolls. Which is worth way more than a higher Google Page Rank.

Not just Internet stuff though, either, even though that's where it seems to be the most obvious. I'm returning to my happy place, which mainly means that I've been reading more, staying in more, finding my center in solitude more. I don't meditate or do yoga but I've found that a lot of my personal inner peace, so to speak, simply comes from being alone for a while, practicing my hobbies and shutting out the noise of the world.

Getting older terrifies me a bit, insomuch as the current lifestyle I have, the one that suits me so well, is very much one of someone in their late twenties/early thirties. I kind of feel like I'm in my prime and that my particular contentment isn't sustainable into the decades that come later. Because this type of freedom isn't something that you associate with middle age. I have no desire to trade my apartment for a house because I want nothing to do with the expense or the maintenance; I have no desire to trade my quirky yet pleasing aesthetic and decor for ivories and bieges and mature taste. Maybe this will be a natural progression as I age, and the things I like now, I will turn my nose up at in ten years - kind of the way I am doing it to my own younger self now. Maybe it just means I'm on track, I'm developing at the proper pace, and life will carry on as it should. I feel much more self-aware and well-adjusted now than I did at 26 or 27. It took me a while to find my footing, but then again, I've always been a late bloomer. But once I get there, everything clicks.

I don't even know what I'm trying to say, other than that 29 feels exactly like 29. It feels just right for where I am now. I fit pretty well in 28; it felt like I'd been 28 forever and would always be 28, but now it feels like 29 is okay too. Even though it's only been four days. (One thing is for sure, I'm definitely not getting more eloquent with age.)

Mostly, I just kind of felt like I should acknowledge it somewhere. Share a few initial observations about where I'm at. Because even if you're not supposed to get super excited about your birthday when you're an adult, it's kind of weird to outright ignore it. So here we are: I am now officially a year older, and even though I joke about it constantly, I don't really feel "old." I don't feel "young" either - I just feel like... me.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Caturday

It's been a while since I've posted some pictures of my cat. This needs remedied. She's been super cute lately.

'Cause this is THRILLER

Pretty girl.

That's all. Enjoy your weekend. xo

Monday, September 16, 2013

Older, Wiser, Wordier

Today is my blog's 5th birthday.

I got us cake. The blog can't have any. She's watching her girlish figure. More for me.

This year, as I noted once, though I don't remember when, was full of fives. Five years at my job... Five years with my cat (who, incidentally, also turned five.) Five years since my sister got married. Five years since I moved back to this town. Five years since Barack Obama was elected President. Five years since my first IKEA visit. (See, this is why people blog. To remember the important details of their life.)

My first post was me complaining about how someone else already had my username (which is, of course, a moot point since I finally bought my own domain back in, eh... 2011? Right before my first #BiSC) and my second post is me explaining why I started yet another blog and basically just sounding like a typical not-quite-24-year-old that has nothing to say but wants to be heard all the same.

The rest, as they say, is history.

I don't feel like a lot has changed around here, but I guess it has. I'm still me... but I'm older (obviously) and wiser (arguably) now. I swear a lot less because a lot more people read it; I post a lot less because I have too much to say (what? no, it makes sense: I get overwhelmed and then whatever I was going to say sort of eventually becomes irrelevant). I've tried to focus more on quality rather than quantity (debatable, but at least I feel like I'm putting more thought into things.) I've actually made a tiny bit of money from my prolonged presence, either directly or indirectly, though not really enough to write home about. I've made friends - some that I've met, some that I haven't. (YET.) I've had epiphanies and facepalm moments.

I got on a plane, by myself, to travel to a city I'd never been to, by myself, to hang out for an entire long weekend with people I'd never actually met, simply because they were like me and because it sounded fun. It was the scariest and most awesome thing I've ever done, and I will be forever grateful to myself for working up the courage to say yes to something crazy.

I'd like to think my writing as evolved and changed over five years... gotten better, with any luck. (Though I did make the mistake of reading through some of my early posts and, ugh. I should probably go through and delete all the dumb stuff I wrote back then. Is that cheating? Maybe that's cheating. Other people do it. On the one hand, I hate to get rid of anything, because at one point, that was reflective of who I was and how I saw the world and how I needed to express myself... on the other, while my worldview hasn't necessarily changed, my level of eloquence undoubtedly has. Nostalgia and self-preservation versus... the Non-Sucky Writing Police, I guess. Excuse me while I have a personal dilemma over here. BRB.)

I'd be remiss if I didn't admit that I also post a lot less because I've been spending more time offline. A funny thing is happening to my generation: while we midwifed the birth of social media and threw our lives out into the abyss (perhaps not setting the best of examples for the generations after us, because having not had a time Before The Internet, they maybe don't know balance quite like we do; they don't know hesitation and they certainly don't know about boundaries)... we're getting older now. Our needs are fulfilled less and less by pixels on a screen and more and more by the things happening out in the world. We're growing up. We're starting to move on. Several other bloggers I know have made passing note of this, and I started a post once about it. The winds are shifting. It almost feels like the heyday is over (is it? It's hard to say for sure). But here's what I know: I'll still be here. I was writing online before it was Something That Everyone Did and I will continue to write here after people have gotten bored and moved on. It feeds the part of my soul that needs to connect, that needs to share, that needs to tell stories.

One thing, though, that hasn't changed, though I've learned to make my peace with it: I still hate the word "blog." 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Somewhere in Here is a Recipe

On the one hand, I miss writing my baking column for Twenties Hacker. Every time I make something new, in fact. It feels weird to not be taking photos or making notes or sharing some delicious goodness with my small but loyal legion of bake-sketeers. (That didn't work as well as I had hoped.)

On the other hand, I don't miss the stress of hitting a weekly deadline, especially not one that I wasn't getting paid for. It never really worked to "bake ahead" and do a bunch at once. I tried it, toward the end. I think it actually stressed me out more. It's also kind of nice to not stop every thirty seconds and take a photo - my cooking/baking process is much more streamlined and efficient without trying to document every step.

In order to reconcile these two conflicting sentiments, I've decided to go ahead and just occasionally post a recipe here. It makes sense - I've already got the real estate. I tried having a separate recipe blog but it's kind of a barren wasteland over there. I haven't posted on it in two years. I can't bring myself to delete it, either. But considering that everyone has to eat, and I'm not going to post recipes that are impossible or gross, I'm hoping it won't bother any of the ten or twelve of you that read this. If it does, in fact, impair your enjoyment of this site, I will move them over to the other one.

Blah blah blah, my point is: I made cookies.

If you know me at all, even casually, in passing, you've heard of me, maybe, you know that I am one of those crazy pumpkin people. The day that Starbucks releases the Pumpkin Spice Lattes is like an extra Christmas (is it just me, or are they exceptionally good this year?). I will buy everything I can find that has "pumpkin" in the name (this year's new finds so far: pumpkin spice M&Ms and pumpkin pie ice cream). I've finally even started a dedicated Pinterest board to Just Pumpkin. I've been sent multiple compilations of pumpkin recipes already... which means, it's time to get started.


I found this particular recipe through one of those articles and decided to start with it because I already had all the ingredients on hand (or ingredients that I could substitute, which slightly alters the original recipe) and because it finally stopped being 100+ degrees outside so I could finally turn the oven on without having a heat stroke. These cookies are stupidly easy, which means I'll probably have to make them again, which I say about everything but there's only SO MUCH TIME.


Anyway. Here's the recipe. In case that's what you came here for.


PUMPKIN CRANBERRY OATMEAL COOKIES
adapted from Eat Drink Love's Pumpkin Breakfast Cookies

Ingredients:
1 can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup almond oil
1/3 cup raw honey
1-1/2 cups quick oats
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Some notes on the ingredients: 

1. THE PUMPKIN

No matter what the recipe calls for, I will, without fail, put in an entire can of pumpkin. This has yet to cause me a problem, but I'm sure someday I will screw something up. Until that day, I will continue to change every single recipe I make to call for the whole can.

I mean, really. What are you going to do with a quarter can of pumpkin anyway? Exactly.

2. THE ALMOND OIL

Almond oil is great and I've subbed it in several recipes, usually ones that call for an oil that the BF is allergic to (macadamia nut oil, coconut oil, etc). I didn't really know it existed until I read about it in a cookbook that is full of healthy recipes and talks about the benefits and awesome properties of the various foods. It is an anomaly among my cookbooks, though at this point I would probably own more healthy cookbooks if I used them anymore - mostly, I just pull things from the Internet.

The reason almond oil is great is because it's pretty versatile and can be used in any range of temperatures. Not all oils "work" at high heats, but this one does. It's also high in "omega-3 essential fatty acids" which I don't really know much about but it's supposed to be good for you. Almonds are good for your heart, anyway. And I guess they can lower your cholesterol. See, this is educational.

The caveat? It's hella expensive, unless you can get a deal on it. I actually found a bottle at TJ Maxx, of all places, that was twice as large and half as expensive as the bottle I got at the grocery store. Go figure.

3.THE RAW HONEY

Raw honey is great, but kind of expensive, but worth it, in my opinion. The original recipe called for agave nectar which multiple people have told me isn't the greatest for baking, plus I already had a jar from a surprisingly delightful batch of chickpea brownies that I made a few months ago, so I decided to go ahead and swap it out.

I had a hard time finding it at first, and ended up victorious at our local food co-op. I think the health section of our regular grocery store has it now too. It looks different than regular honey - it's kind of an opaque gold color, and might still have bits of the honeycomb in it. It's better because it hasn't been processed to death like "regular" honey (you know, the kind that comes in the little bear-shaped containers) - it still has all of the original enzymes and antioxidants that get lost in the heating process.

4. THE OATS

If, like me, you happen to be standing in your kitchen at 9:15pm, still sweaty and gross from your run (because if you're going to turn the oven on and sweat some more, you may as well hold off on the shower), and realize that you only have 2/3 of a cup of quick oats left and you really don't want to go to the grocery store, and hey, there's an almost-full container of old-fashioned oats sitting right there, and you decide to mix the two together to get to the 1-1/2 cups that you need... it seems to work okay.

5. OTHER THINGS I CHANGED

The original recipe called for whole wheat flour, which is better for you, but I had perfectly good regular flour that I needed to use up. So I did. You can also add walnuts or other nuts to it but I left those out because (a) I did not have them and (b) the BF is allergic. I AM SO CONSIDERATE. You can also add chia or flax or whatever else moves you. I didn't because I forgot. But you totally could if you wanted.

IF YOU SURVIVED THE INGREDIENT LIST, HERE IS HOW TO MAKE THE COOKIES, BUT I DID NOT INCLUDE STEP-BY-STEP PHOTOS BECAUSE IT IS REALLY EASY AND ALSO THAT IS A LOT OF WORK AND IT'S ALREADY PAST MY BEDTIME:

Preheat your oven to 350ยบ Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin, honey, applesauce, and oil (aka: the wet ingredients). No need to get out the fancy mixer - using a spoon or spatula or whisk works great.

In a different, smaller bowl, mix together the oats, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt (aka: the dry ingredients.)

Mix the wet ingredients and dry ingredients.

Add the cranberries and/or any nuts that you might be using.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (you probably don't have to, but I did because I didn't feel like washing my cookie sheet) and scoop the batter into little balls. I found that mine stayed in ball formation even after they were baked (the original recipe showed them being flatter...) so you'll want to leave some room around them but you don't need a lot.

Bake for 14 minutes. Cool on a rack. EAT.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

1. These are really good. Usually when I think of "cranberry" my next thought is "orange" - I wasn't sure what to expect with the cranberry-pumpkin combo, but it was awesome. I did toy with the idea of throwing in chocolate chips, but that would have decreased the healthiness value... and also, I didn't have any. I don't think it really needs them though. But it might be interesting to try. The texture is pretty soft and chewy. In case you were expecting something else.

2. I took the word "breakfast" out of the title of my version because these taste too damn delicious to be something that would be appropriate for breakfast (not that that's going to stop me from using it as an excuse to eat them right when I wake up). I'm not sure what makes a breakfast cookie, a breakfast cookie, but it almost seems like cheating to me. Cookies for breakfast?! What is this madness?!

3. I got 35 cookies out of this batch. Enough for sharing! I mean, if I'm nice. That's kind of a lot of cookies to eat by myself though.

4. This post is probably indicative as to why the CIY franchise should remain resting in peace. Howeeeeeeeeever, it's not technically part of that series.... yeah, this post is a disaster. Whatever, it was fun. Next time it will be much more straightforward. Probably.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Quit Telling Me I Suck, I Already Know

It's my birthday month. I don't know how else to start what is going to be an inevitable existential braindump any other way than to assume that this annual marked passage of time is somehow responsible for it. I started in the middle and now I have had to wind my way back to the beginning in order to make sense of any of it.

I'm almost 29. I didn't expect to be much affected by it. I expected next year to be the major blow to my being. The one with the big scary round number at the end. This year, I simply figured I would throw together some sort of shindig in which I would cleverly observe that it was my last birthday that started with a 2 - my last trip around the sun as a twenty-something. I didn't expect to get introspective and I didn't expect to suddenly feel suffocated by the reality that I was a certified grownup and that I felt like I still had the emotional and mental faculties of a teenager. Nothing makes a person feel more stunted than by a sudden realization that they have a lot of years under their belt that they were supposed to be using to gain wisdom and life experience but instead spent them passing from day to day with their head in the clouds.

I suspect I'm not alone in feeling like I don't have this adulthood schtick figured out just yet. I feel like an impostor most days of the week and on the days when I am safely ensconced in my personal apartmental sanctuary, I feel even more like a phony. I mean, sure, I've kept myself alive and functional in the last decade or so of independence, I've managed to secure food and shelter and pay all my taxes and even succeeded in keeping a cat alive for five years under my care and guidance. But I look around me and I feel like I know what I should be doing. People my age - and younger! - are having kids. They are directly responsible for the lives of other human beings. Human beings that they created. (It's also vaguely disconcerting to know that when my mother was my age, she had a five year old and a three year old running around.) On the other end of the spectrum, people my age are taking care of ill parents or grandparents and having to make medical, legal, and financial decisions. Something I am ill-equipped to do. I am grossly underinformed when it comes to such things, especially financial. I know I should have a 401(k) or a Roth IRA or something but I don't really know what those are. I don't feel qualified to make medical decisions on behalf of other people, if such a thing should be required, which someday, it probably will be, since I am the oldest child.

I haven't the slightest clue what I'm doing.

Youth is a plausible excuse for a lot of shortcomings. It offers you a learning curve that people are more or less understanding of. It takes time to learn all the grownup stuff you need to know. But I'm rapidly reaching a point where I can no longer hide behind youthful ignorance because I am barreling headfirst into the murky waters of middle-age. It's not acceptable for me not to know how to get a loan or shop for a new car without my dad's expertise and assistance or how life insurance works. It's irresponsible for me to let my gas tank run to the E without filling up, it's selfish of me not to think about calling my parents every week, it's downright shameful that I don't know how to use the broiler on my oven. I don't know how to fix a sink or shampoo carpet or fold a fitted sheet. I don't even think to clean my light fixtures or windowsills even though they are kind of nasty and insect-filled. I don't know how to negotiate for a better price. The list goes on and on and on until it leaves me curled up in the fetal position under a blanket on my futon. I don't even have a real couch. Hell, I don't have matching furniture.

Gearing up for my high school reunion nearly sent me into an existential tailspin simply because of the acknowledgement of the passing of time. Ten years. Which is both a lot, and not a lot, at the same time, and suddenly seems like much less when you realize that, on average, most people only get eight of those particular increments, if they're lucky. I've already wasted almost three. Though I suppose "wasted" isn't fair - the first two were spent largely preoccupied with the simple business of growing up. We use up almost a quarter of our lives just getting to the point where we can start living them. Not to incite panic or anything, but at some point in your twenties, you're going to be faced, probably more than once, with the realization of your own mortality. You are going to lose someone. Possibly multiple someones. I was hit over the head with this fact in the year that I turned twenty-two, which seems like an impossibly long time ago. I barely remember being in my early twenties, it almost feels like it didn't really happen. I've been the age I currently am, forever. I have always been this age. Obviously not true, but it feels like it.

And then you think: my life is almost half over. Or maybe not. Maybe it's only a third of the way over. Or maybe it's actually 95% over and you're going to die in two weeks. You have no way of knowing. It's incredibly morbid and incredibly unsettling. Sure, no one expects to die before "their time"-  but that's the thing. No one expects to die before their time. And yet, people do. Every day. It's tragic and shocking and what makes it even more tragic and shocking is that it could easily be any one of us, at any time. I could get hit by a bus this afternoon. I mean, I hope I don't, but that's my point: life is fragile and unpredictable and yet all we can do is keep on living it and keep looking both ways before we cross the street.

But while our mortality is what makes life so beautiful in its immediacy and its fleetingness - it's so easy to forget about. And so those flickers of amazing human compassion and understanding light up our neurons for a few moments, and then we go back to the mundane, which roughly translates to being mean to each other and constantly making each other feel bad about ourselves in order to advance our own agendas. Humans are equal parts selfish and selfless - we like to help others (because it makes us feel good about ourselves?) but we are constantly told - and tell others - that the key to it all is to look out for #1. So that is what we do.

In the meantime, a lot of modern-gal helpfulness is disguised as motivation and advice, in a really passive-aggressive sort of way, at least in the current culture climate of North America. I can't speak for anywhere else. This is what I know.

We are bombarded with messages about what our lives are supposed to be, and this is especially true if you hang out on the Internet. I'm supposed to quit my stable job with a steady paycheck to go into business for myself or chase some ambiguous dream. I'm supposed to travel a lot and visit places that I can't afford to go. I'm supposed to network to within an inch of my life and I'm probably supposed to have a mentor (though what I would do with one, I don't even know). I'm supposed to be engaged and planning a picture-perfect wedding, or have an apartment (or house) that is decorated neatly and yet slightly eccentrically, but also pretty enough to grace the pages of a magazine or at least someone's Pinterest board, or I'm supposed to be procreating and taking awkwardly-posed maternity photos. I'm supposed to work out often enough to have an acceptable body, yet it's never exactly specified when I am going to find time to do this. I'm supposed to be self-aware, self-actualized, intentional, purpose-driven. I'm supposed to be charming and demure and polite and yet equally sassy and wise and savvy to the world. There's a quote floating around that declares You have just as many hours in a day as Beyonce - accusing me of being lazy and that if I was trying hard enough to manage my time and prioritize, I too could be fabulous and adored. I could be more. Here's the thing: Beyonce is a mega-celebrity. She doesn't have to do the mundane shit that plebeians like myself do. She actually has a lot more time than I do because her hours aren't bogged down with the same stuff mine is. And it's this kind of demotivational bullshit that makes me silently scream, "enough."

I cannot live up to these standards. I'm not sure anyone can.

In actuality, my life looks more like a tangled mess that people would scoff at. It's not picture-perfect and it's not pretty. I frequently sleep until the very last minute and don't give myself time to groom myself to perfection every morning. My apartment is a mess, it's small and filled with all of the clutter of the previous twenty-eight years of my life. It's far from immaculate and it's kind of a crap-hole most days and I'm embarrassed to have people over because not only do I not have anywhere to put them (did I say small? I meant tiny), but I feel them silently judging me. Sometimes not-so-silently. I sometimes chug a bottle of diet soda (oh, the cancer I will have!) to jumpstart my energy in the afternoon; I will frequently eat pre-packaged, overly-processed foods that are in no way organic or even composed of pronounceable ingredients, because I don't have time for anything else. I'm lumpy and squishy and frumpy and my appendages aren't even in the same universe as "toned" or "trim" and I'm sometimes catty and grouchy and thoughtless. I would love, just love, to quit my job to sit and write a book, but here's the thing: I have to live. I have to have a paycheck so I can pay my rent and my bills and eat and have health insurance and dental insurance. I'm not sure I would have the focus to sit down and hammer out a bestseller (or even a "seller") anyway. It's impractical and foolish, so I'm doing the responsible thing, but the world tells me I am betraying myself and my dreams. I'd like to know how the world is financing itself, frankly. Besides, having a 9-to-5 job isn't quite the urban horror that people make it out to be.

But that's not even the problem, not what I sat down to write today. It's just a side rant that's been bubbling up every time I see some preachy or life-coachy advice. I hate being called Sunshine or Gorgeous or Darling and I hate sticky-sweet messages of motivation and the verbal pom-pom shaking and the false praise and the blanket statements of following my heart. My heart can be an idiot. My heart doesn't have to pay the bills. It can't just "go do" the Thing I've been wanting to do. And I'm sorry because I have friends that are totally in this, they're building a brand or a mantra around it, and that's great. For them. It's not applicable to my life. My life is rooted in lower-middle class reality, hovering dangerously close to the poverty line, knowing all too well what it feels like to have maxed out credit cards and to overdraw your bank account paying your electric bill. My early twenties were dodgy; the job market was dodgy (still is, really), and it's not like I came from money. I come straight from the heart of middle America, and that is the simple fact of the matter. It was something I resisted for most of my adolescence, craving the mystical "more" - I was bombarded with messages that the only way to consider my life a success was to run like hell from the small town where I was born and raised, get a fancy job, make something of myself, never settle for less than I "deserved."

I don't deserve shit, and neither does anyone else.

Those messages are kind of damaging, because they are as deeply ingrained in my psyche as those of ideal beauty and body shape/size. They tell you that simply living your life day to day means you have failed. You will never be a whole or worthwhile human being until you achieve greatness. You need to do something with your life. Something remarkable. And it's always on someone else's terms, someone else's definitions. Someone else gets to decide what counts as being successful and I'm pretty sure that all notions of success are, somewhere, rooted in some past marketing campaign that was trying to get someone to buy into something at some point. It worked. It always works. Someone always makes money off of your pain and insecurities. It's twisted. Here, buy some waterproof mascara so you can look pretty while you cry yourself to sleep.

Do I sound bitter? Maybe I am. Am I jealous? Sure. I wish I could have the easy-breezy free-spirited life that I'm told I should/could have. I would love to travel and be location-independent and completely and totally in love with my life. But maybe, mayyyybe, I'm just kind of tired of hearing about it, because it's unrealistic. I'm frustrated by constantly being told that I'm not doing it right. That I'm not enough simply by being me. I'm tired of being made to feel bad about myself because I'm not exceptional. I'm so sick of feeling like I need something to brag about, some defining specialness that I can lord over others. I'm not special. I keep fighting that notion, trying to convince myself that I'm uniquely awesome and should climb on up some invisible pedestal. But I'm not. I'm not special, I'm actually far from it. I'm so unbelievably average that it's almost painful to think about.

So here I am. I'm 28 and change, saving up a few more pennies until I have an even dollar to make it to that next tier. I have done nothing of note during my adult life, nothing to brag about, and no real reason to believe that that's going to change anytime soon. I am not a free spirit. I am not living with intention. I am floundering my way through existence the best way that I know how and it's pretty much the opposite of intentional most days. I have no idea what happens next. I feel small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things, and yet my presence seems to be so magnified in my own daily existence that every little move I make seems huge. It's paralyzing.

I hesitate to hit the post button (so I've been stalling by continuing to ramble, because everyone knows that that always makes it better) because I've been trying so damn hard to cultivate a positive attitude to combat all the secondhand negativity that seeps into my life like smoke into lungs. I'm whining, and I know it. Or at least I started to somewhere in the middle. I kind of hate the fact that I can't even go on a tirade without apologizing for it. I continue to be just as insecure as I've always been. Like me, dammit. I beg of you. Validate my existence. Ugh. But there's really no use in pretending that I'm not, I guess? It would almost be lying by omission. Isn't that the point of blogging, anymore? To be honest? Even if that means you are wittingly revealing all your flaws and shortcomings. Even if you are kind of being a whiny brat and/or going on frustrated verbal flailing sprees. Even if, even if, even if. I don't care, I guess. I've never been one to follow all the blogging rules anyway. I guess I'm just trying to justify being such a turd. Sorry I'm bitter at your brag-worthy lives. Out loud. In public. I'm a jerk. I'm sorry. But I had to get it out of my system. Not that any of those people read this blog or care what I have to say. Even so.

So, there it is. I will be honest. I'm lost and confused and bitter and depressed and suffocating in my I'm-An-Adult mask. I've been trying to figure out what it means to be a full-fledged human adult and what the hell I'm supposed to be doing with this pocket of time that I was so graciously given custody of. Turns out, I have no idea, I am simply more aware of the fact that I have no idea, and I'm really cranky at all of the outside forces rubbing salt into my particular wound. It's kind of an ugly process, self-awareness, and I don't feel any better now than I did when I started typing, but, hey, at least I wrote something.

Progress.