[Who cares about] Before 30 lists

When you’re in your late twenties, sometimes it kind of feels like you’re on a very fast rollercoaster – you’re white-knuckled, screaming, and on a terrifying free-fall towards thirty.

At this time, you’re bombarded with lists – the before-thirty bucket list, thirty things every woman should know/own/do before she turns thirty, etc. etc. Which only makes the fall seem that much faster and more terrifying. (There was even a list out there of thirty places you should “do it” before you turn thirty, which inexplicably included the zoo, a public bus, and Radio City Music Hall. I can’t even…)

I recently came across this article: “30 Epic Places You Absolutely Must Visit Before You’re 30.” The list includes places such as Bhutan, Namibia, the Egyptian Pyramids, Antarctica, and the XS Nightclub in Las Vegas (…?).

Got that, everyone? You absolutely must visit Antarctica before you turn thirty. Otherwise don’t even bother.

Heaven forbid you leave one stone unturned, one lesson unlearned, one skill unmastered, before the clock strikes thirty and you turn into a big ol’ washed-up hag pumpkin.

It’s okay if you’re still workin’ on your night cheese!

Who cares if you haven’t traveled the entire world by age 29? Little known fact – they still stamp your passport if you’re 32.

Who cares if you’re not where you thought you’d be in your career, or if you’re starting a new one entirely? Guess what – you have a good 30 or 40 more years to work that out.

Who cares if you’re not married yet, or not quite ready to have kids? Maybe you thought you’d have a ring on your finger and a cute baby bump at 28; I did too. But if that’s not what life had in store for you, if you’re still searching, if you have your first sweet little baby at 36 instead of 26 – well, you’ll still be just as happy about it then.

Who cares if your skirt’s sometimes wrinkled and you know nothing about wine pairings and you sometimes leave dishes in the sink and burn yourself with the curling iron and eat cheese and crackers for dinner?

It’s not that I don’t think you should be intentional with your life, make goals, and strive for improvement. But thirty’s not a deadline.

Contrary to what these lists suggest, you don’t have to be done. You don’t suddenly have to be the Perfect Version of You. You can still make mistakes and have doubts. You can still feel like a hot mess from time to time. You can still have dreams and plans you’ve yet to achieve.

I think many of us, especially women, are waiting for this one magical moment where we feel like a Very Serious Adult who Has It All Together. Where we’re always poised and confident and effortlessly chic. Friends…I don’t think that day is coming. I actually sort of believe there may be women like that out there, but in the same way I believe there may be aliens out there.

You don’t have to be that woman to turn thirty. You can just be you.

Hey, you — you’re the worst

I don’t really like Halloween.

There, I said it. I want to. I used to. But now, as an adult, it’s just disappointing. Like, it makes me disappointed in society.

Every year, I can’t help but feel a vague sense of dread, just waiting to see what kind of destruction takes place. And today, the day after Halloween, is when all the lovely details come out.

This is how I feel about Halloween

About twenty cars were vandalized in my neighborhood last night – I’m talking graffiti, slashed tires, broken windows, theft. Just…why? I live in a city, in a neighborhood with people from all walks of life. It’s not crime-free, but it’s far from a scary, violent place. Except on Halloween, I guess.

I did walk away from my car with some trepidation last night, worried that perhaps I’d find it egged or a pumpkin smashed across the hood. I gave people too much credit. Thankfully my car was spared, but many of my neighbors had their day/week/month ruined this morning for no reason at all.

A few miles away, my dad, a man in his sixties, reluctantly answered the door shortly before midnight after relentless knocking and ringing of the doorbell – simply to stop the racket that I’m sure was stressing out both him and our elderly family dog (who has major anxiety). At which point a bunch of jackass teenagers silly-stringed him – a retired man, relaxing alone in his home. Really?

Every year it’s the same thing – teenagers, even adults, smash to pieces jack-o-lanterns lovingly carved by small children. Homes and cars are vandalized. Actual riots break out.

I get that Halloween involves mischief – kids being kids, pulling pranks, a little TP and shaving cream. But it’s not that anymore. Now it’s genuine cruelty and destruction and just makes me wonder what is so wrong in people’s lives. A holiday that should be so fun – for adults too but especially for kids – has just become sinister.

Honestly, what’s next? Breaking into people’s homes and stealing their Thanksgiving turkey? Throwing coal through people’s windows on Christmas Day? Crashing a child’s birthday party and slapping him or her in the face?

To the people who pull this crap: You are high on the list of the worst people in the world. Below terrorists and serial killers – but far above litterers. And you know how I feel about litterers.

I blame my sister (costume edition)

When I was in elementary school, my family would get really into decorating the outside of our house for Halloween. My older sister, who was a teenager at the time, was especially into making it legitimately creepy.

One year, when I was in fourth or fifth grade, I had just gotten home from trick-or-treating, and my sister and her boyfriend were passing out candy. I was dressed as a gypsy girl. As we stood on the porch waiting for the next round of kids, my sister had a vision. “Kelly!” she said. “Go sit in that chair and pretend to be dead!”

Obediently, I draped myself across the chair, eyes closed, mouth slightly agape. I must have been like that for a while (and possibly fallen asleep), because by the time I heard the rustle of candy dropping into plastic bags, I was over it. I abruptly stood up – at which point the little costumed boy on our porch let out a blood-curdling scream. Apparently he’d been a little too convinced by our ruse, and thought I’d either woken from the dead or was a dummy come to life.

His mom was pissed. It was very awkward.

WTF, sis?

Fast forward ten years…

This time it was not actually Halloween. However, I was home on break from college, and my sister excitedly called to tell me that she and her neighbors were throwing a Napoleon Dynamite-themed costume party. I was pumped and started crafting the perfect outfit to be Deb: calf-length leggings, a short, pastel tie-dye dress, fanny pack, slouchy socks with sneakers, and of course – the piece de resistance – a major side ponytail.

I showed up to the party feeling pretty good. I walked in, and it was a scene straight out of a movie – music blaring, everyone’s heads turning in slow motion to stare at me, and my heart thumping with the realization: no one else is in costume.

Soon my sister emerged from the crowd, covering her mouth with her hand to hold back laughter. “Oh my god,” she said. “Oh my god, I forgot to tell you we changed it.”

Shortly thereafter I grabbed hold of a bottle of wine, and thus began an epic failure of a night, the details of which do NOT need to end up on the Internet – but all of which I do blame on my sister.

Happy Halloween, sis!

Don’t ruin Halloween

Recently, for a freelance assignment, I was researching ways to have a more “green” Halloween.

To be honest, I had never given much – okay, any – thought to the environmental impact of Halloween. Probably because when you’re the one picking out plastic-y costumes from the party store and rolling around in candy wrappers, you’re a child. And then after that, you’re more concerned with a costume’s impact on your boobs than its impact on the environment.  And after that, you’re not really concerned with Halloween at all until you have your own kids.

So I had never really thought about it. But once I started reading about it, it made sense, and there were actually a lot of really simple ways to make Halloween a bit more eco-friendly. I found myself nodding in agreement with the reasonable suggestions.

The way it should be

But then. Oh then… Then my head exploded. Several of the sources I found advocated handing out organic, fair-trade dark chocolate to trick-or-treaters. Another suggested giving them soy candles. SOY CANDLES. I had to read that one like 12 times to make sure I was understanding it correctly.

Ok. If I, as an adult woman, show up at your house trick-or-treating, feel free to give me organic dark chocolate and a soy candle. I welcome it. However, if I were a child and received this, I’m pretty sure I would throw myself on the floor screaming. In fact, even now I’d probably be pissed if I didn’t get any Smarties or Reese’s Pieces. Also – if you do this, you should probably expect to have your house egged by an angry mob of children. Just a fair warning.

Can’t we be environmentally responsible without ruining childhood? That’s all I have to say.

(Actually, no it’s not. It’s ridiculous standards like these that make actual important causes seem so elitist/inaccessible to people. Isn’t it better to give everyone simple, affordable ways to make a difference rather than suggesting you need to spend $350 on chocolate at Whole Foods to be a good citizen?  End rant.)

A cluttered mind

I never used to be messy. Sure, as a teenager there were some clothes strewn about my room, but it was usually pretty tidy. In college, my roommate and I kept our room so clean and adorable that it was shown on campus tours. As an adult, I’ve placed a lot of value on my own home being cozy, inviting, and cutely decorated. And unlike my sister’s car, which one would think she actually lives in, mine has traditionally been neat with little more than a stray umbrella on the floor.

But lately…things have changed. Clutter follows me. Amorphous masses that my boyfriend affectionately (?) calls “crap piles” materialize out of nowhere.

Now, my car rivals my sister’s (well, not really…hers should probably be condemned by the health department), laundry piles up in the bedroom, and assorted out-of-place objects pepper the surfaces in my apartment. I literally hear the music from Psycho playing in my head when I open one particularly disastrous cabinet in my kitchen, never knowing what might come tumbling out.

How I feel now (source)

You know that scene in 50/50 where JGL (swoon) insists that Anna Kendrick pull her car over so he can clean out the random trash? This is a scenario that now occurs in my relationship regularly.

I am not proud of this. And I try to combat it! Sometimes motivation strikes and I clean and organize various areas…but they fall into disarray again. Just to clarify: my apartment isn’t dirty. I do the requisite cleaning to maintain a sanitary home. It’s just cluttered. Disheveled. Kind of like me at the moment.

I may not be Susie Homemaker (when I was in first grade, I drew a picture of me, my mom, and the stove and wrote, “I like to help my mother make diner. But I don’t like helping her clen it up” – that still holds up), but I know this is about something more. For me, and I think for a lot of people, the more stressed out, anxious and scattered I feel – the more my space reflects that.

When my emotions are messy, so are my surroundings. And of course it’s a vicious cycle – being surrounded by clutter makes me more anxious, the more anxious I feel the more disorganized I become – and on and on.

Ahhh (source)

I remember my mom trying to teach me this when I was as young as ten or eleven: “Clean your room, you’ll feel better.” And it’s so incredibly true. Even at that age, I remember the serenity I felt getting into a bed with freshly changed sheets in a room that had just been cleaned – floor vacuumed, shelves dusted, every little thing in its place.

And I feel the same overwhelming sense of peace now when I clean my apartment from top to bottom, light candles, buy flowers. I may not be able to control all the stress and emotional clutter going on in my mind right now, but I can take control of my spaces and thereby lighten it just a bit. Seems like a good lesson – focus on what you can change.

My mom finds going through the car wash so relaxing that she calls it “the mini-spa.” Maybe I’ll start there. Quick. Cleansing. And way cheaper than a facial.

I don’t know about you, but I’m [SO NOT] feeling 22

I haven’t slept through the night in about two weeks. Saturday night, for example, I slept from midnight until 3:20 a.m. By 5:54 a.m. I was making muffins. By 6:45 a.m. I was in the fetal position under an afghan watching Everybody Loves Raymond.

So I apologize in advance if this post is unreadable, because my mental faculties have severely declined. Like yesterday at the gas station, halfway through filling my tank, I realized I had chosen – not regular, not super – premium unleaded. Then very nearly cried about it.

It’s been a fun couple weeks! (I have a feeling the culprit is a big stressful change about to occur in my life, but that’s not what I want to get into — let’s keep it nice and frivolous today.)

Aside from having a hard time accomplishing basic tasks, the biggest side effect of lack of sleep has been this: I look awful. I once blogged about the many situations where I physically cannot look pretty – this needs to be added to that list.

Once upon a time, in my early twenties, I could stay up til four, consume many margaritas, and wake up the next day all bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked. Sure, my hair may have been tousled and my eyeliner smudged, but in a cute way – not in a horror movie way which is what I’m working with now.

I literally looked in the mirror yesterday and thought, “Well, this is it. I’ve lost my looks. It’s all downhill from here.” And then I tried – very slowly – to reason with my sleep-deprived mind. That doesn’t make sense, I told myself. You’re still only in your twenties. It can’t all be over. There must be an explanation for why you currently look like Kristen Stewart’s much older and even more miserable aunt.

And then it dawned on me: oh yeah, because you haven’t slept in days.

When I was 20, there was a period of months where I routinely went to sleep at 2 a.m., then hopped out of bed at 6:30, showered, did my makeup, straightened my hair, and went to work looking fresh. Sure my energy would dip in the afternoon, but it was nothing a quick brownie break couldn’t handle (which, of course, I could consume daily without gaining weight – because I was 20).

But friends, that’s all over now. Now, lack of sleep turns me into a shell of a human – and an unsightly one at that.

But, hey. To quote The Mindy Project: “You’re not 22, so what? No one is.”

And if you are 22…enjoy it. Soon you too will need a solid eight hours…and a really good moisturizer.