Stop Reading the Cosmo Snapchat

Hi, I’m Maggie. I don’t wear make-up , have had boy-short hair for much of the past 3 years, and have zero interest in dating men. Why did I read the Cosmo Snapchat every single day?

I read it all. The articles about what men think about blow-jobs,  about whether bra inserts work as well as a beauty blender, about whatever new product Kylie has come out with. If there are 10 little articles each day, I read the whole text of 8 of them and a heavy scan of the other two.

I could have been reading Octavia Butler. I could have been studying for the Jeopardy! test. I could have been meditating, flossing, petting my dog, or even sleeping for god’s sake. What a waste of time.

In the year since I’ve had an iPhone, I’m becoming disgusted with the amount of time I spend scrolling through articles I don’t care about. Sometimes it’s through Snapchat Discover, sometimes I just click on links through Twitter and scan all the way to the bottom before I realize I don’t care at all. It extends to TV watching as well – how many times have I plopped down on the couch on a Thursday night and sat through whatever Steve Harvey hosted show or NCIS spin-off was playing just because I was already sitting there and it was already on?

It seems silly to have to fight this instinct – reading what I want to read, watching what I want to watch, doing what I want to do, those are things that are supposed to be easy, instinctive even. Yet somehow inertia is so strong, habits are so well developed, that I have fallen into these routines that I do not enjoy.

Even though I have long since stopped going to church, Lent still seems like a time to better oneself. My Lenten goal this year seems self-serving and trivial, but it’s actually been a little difficult: I will not turn on the TV unless I know what I want to watch, and I will not read the Cosmo Snapchat.

The TV goal has been more fruitful. Instead of scrolling through Twitter while Modern Family re-runs play in the background on a Saturday afternoon, I’ve been watching The Great British Bake-Off with my mom. Yes, I am replacing TV with more TV, but this is better. This is debating whether we will ever try to make baguettes at home and rooting for Nadiya and Tamal. This is googling the American word for creme pat and making fun of Paul Hollywood. This is purposeful and meaningful (well, as meaningful as a bunch of innuendos about muffins can be).

Snapchat has been a little more difficult. While I technically have stopped reading the Cosmo Discover page, I have instead substituted in Refinery29, which is not much better, now matter how their brand pretends it is. I have tried to pass on articles that do not matter to me, habits are habits and they do stick.

I’m trying to embrace this more broadly, especially when it comes to media. Don’t listen to a song if silence would be better, don’t push to finish a book you have completely lost interest in. Instead I’ll use that energy to do the things I like, or the things that at least have a benefit to me. If I’m not gonna enjoy it, I should at least benefit from it, right?

So farewell, Cosmo Snapchat. Farewell, Vice Snapchat. Farewell, Dancing with the Stars and the local nightly news. I’ve got better things to do.

Advertisements

Lower Your Expectations

I got a Fitbit about a year ago, paid for with some last-minute expiring airline miles. Since then I’ve been wearing it almost every day, tracking my steps and activity levels for the past 12 months.

In the warmer months, I would fairly easily reach the standardized goal of 10,000 steps per day, especially if I went for a bike ride (somehow it knew my legs were moving?). But as I started working again, the combination of sitting at my internship, standing in place at my retail job, and lying around exhausted at home meant that on the average weekday I would only get 6,500 step – sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. This was significantly far off the goal of 10,000 and there was no way that I would go for a 3,500 step walk after I got home from work. Nope, 6,500 would do for the day.

10,000 steps is the “recommended” amount of steps to maintain weight, but it’s also just one indicator of activity, and a pretty arbitrary one at that. That’s why in January, I lowered the goal on my Fitbit app to 8,000 steps a day.

At first I felt guilty. Couldn’t I just step it up? Was I really so lazy/out of shape/worthless/exhausted that I couldn’t meet this bare minimum? This was supposed to be a key barometer of fitness?

Over time I realized that though I had decreased the expected steps per day, I was actually walking more. Instead of averaging 6,500 steps, over the past month I’ve hit 8,000 every single day. Now when I get home from work with only 6,500 steps, I know that just one quick walk with my dog to the cul de sac up the street will get me to my goal. I’m much more likely to do that quick walk than try and rally myself for a 30 minute plus hike to get to 10,000 steps. And once I started hitting my goal regularly, I found myself even more motivated. now that I’ve hit my step goal every  day for a month I am reluctant to break the chain of success. Now even if I’m 2,000 steps off of my goal I’ll walk in place while I watch TV or pace around the house while I’m on the phone.

A lower goal has actually led to increased activity.

I’m trying to apply this logic to the other goals in my life. Sometimes that means shifting my thinking from “play ukulele for 30 minutes a day” to “play ukulele every day”. Sometimes that means being more realistic about how much money I’m actually expected to make this year and pushing myself to earn just a little bit more than that.

Setting a more attainable expectation means that I’m more likely to achieve it,  rather than giving up along the way, and thus I’m able to slowly increase my goals, meeting them along the way.

Those Boys Ain’t Worth Your Time

Five years ago when I was a senior in high school I started occasionally hanging out with a group of guys who went to the other high school in my town, a boys Catholic prep school. A girl I was friends with had started dating one of those boys and I slowly got invited to hang outs and parties. It felt so cool and new – the first three years of high school had been spent at pep band rehearsal and speech and debate practice; this was fresh and exciting. I admired these guys so much – they had cooler taste in music than I did, they seemed smarter than I was, they made funny witty jokes all the time. I desperately wanted their approval, I wanted them to think I was cool and funny and smart just like them. When I hung out with them I laughed extra hard and bit my tongue constantly, hesitant to say anything as I doubted whether my comments and jokes would be as good as theirs. I felt so lucky just to be there and wanted to make sure I wasn’t too loud.

When I was getting ready to leave the first college I went to, I spent a semester desperately craving approval from yet another group of guys. They listed to Neutral Milk Hotel on a record player in a tiny dorm room and drank way too much PBR (like, way too much). I laughed so much on those Friday and Saturday nights as they carefully analyzed everyone’s Meyers Briggs type and debated absolute minutia. I spent hours on weekday afternoons listening to the bands that they had mentioned, trying to be cool and knowledgeable enough to be seen as a reputable Modest Mouse fan. We were all struggling through a particularly bad semester of Linear Algebra, and when they asked me for help on a problem set late on a Thursday night, my heart and ego soared. I wanted needed them to think I was cool and chill and smart.

Those boys are not the ones who helped me get over my travel anxiety the summer before college. They are not the ones who sent me text messages the mornings of big exams. They did not congratulate me when I got into the college of my dreams, nor offer reassurance when I had to go somewhere else. They are not the ones who threw me a going away party when I transferred; they are not the ones who wrote me letters and text messages when I had moved away. My female friends did that.

These aren’t the only times I found myself admiring a group of guys like this. I can recognize this pattern in the friendships I had in 6th grade, 8th grade, the group of spring transfers I was close with at my second college. Meanwhile I was not putting effort into the girls who were surrounding me with real friendship; approval and acceptance that I did not have to earn with a chill girl attitude poorly masking desperation seemed to mean less.

those-boys-aint-worth-your-time

(This little Tumblr post spoke to me).

I am almost a year out of college living in my parents house. I have lost touch with all of those boys. I am finally investing my energy in friendships with women, women who respond to my Snapchats and letters. Girls who call me on the phone and talk me down from my hypochondria. Girls who I don’t have to feel embarrassed around when I talk about watching The Bachelor and Fresh Off the Boat.  Girls with whom I can be loud and silly and not worry about sounding stupid. It seems crude to view platonic friendships in terms of return on investment, but I finally feel out of the red.

Haircut Procrastination

I have been procrastinating on cutting my hair for 7 months.

Getting a pixie cut three years ago made me feel incredibly confident. It was a change I had wanted for a long time – ever since Emma Watson (the personification of my hero Hermione) reinvented herself after Harry Potter. I was looking for reinvention after a shitty freshman year of college, and I found it in that pixie cut. I felt free from having to put my hair up every day, free from the toxic friendships that had marred that freshman year, free from my past selves, free to be out and open. I frequently refer to that first cut as the best decision I have ever made.

Since then there have been a couple of dorm-bathroom buzzcuts, a couple of salon visits to keep it professional but short, and one semester with a ‘man-bun’. Until this year.

In January I went to the salon to get rid of the man-bun and prepare for the slew of interviews that I was sure would be along shortly.   I even got a trim in June, though this time at a barber shop where he decided to “leave it a little longer in the back, keep it feminine”. I think this is where things started to go wrong. I knew a couple months after this that I should have gone back to the salon, but I procrastinated and procrastinated. i was working two part time jobs and suddenly couldn’t spare the $40. I just kept not getting a haircut, and then I realized that at this point I was actively ‘growing out my hair’.

It is now January once again and I still have the mullet (thanks to that barber in June).My hair is long enough that it looks cute and I can put it in a pony-tail (plus side bangs). I like it how it looks right now, most of the time, especially when I have it up.

But I find myself constantly agonizing over how to move forward. Should I cut it short again? Or return to the bob I had in high school, even though I wore that in a ponytail every day and resented having to use conditioner? Was the liberation I felt with short hair limited to the queer casual spaces I inhabited in college? Am I willing to commit to the maintenance that having professional looking short hair requires? Am I having a gay life crisis, trying to hide myself behind my hair?

I don’t know why this feels so important to me, why I’m devoting so much time and ink and energy to debating what to move next. I hate that hair and presentation feels so important to me and I hate how much I know it impacts how I am viewed. I hate the weight that I’m placing on this next cut, as though I’m definitively choosing one path over another. I hate that I feel compelled to write these paragraphs. Short hair shouldn’t feel like such a statement.

For at least another few weeks I’ll let this mullet grow out more, putting it half-up in a bun for most of the day. We’ll see.

How to Survive Your Period at Work

Getting my period has long been a big problem in my life. In high school, I would almost faint from cramps, and in college pain and nausea would have me lying on the floor of my dorm room instead of sitting in class. I remember being worried about how I would handle this when I started working full time – I wouldn’t be able to miss a day of work once a month, every month!

After a couple of summer internships and a few months in my current office job, I’ve found some office-friendly solutions to keep me pain and nausea to a minimum, at least until period leave becomes a reality. While the pain still hits me like a bus, at least now I’m prepared, any day of the week.

1.  Track

When I got my first smartphone a year ago, one of the first apps I downloaded was Clue. One of the most popular period-tracking apps, I like it because it’s easy to use, not overly feminine, and has greatly reduced my anxiety about when my period is coming. Being able to plan and no longer being caught totally off-guard means I can have my anti-period-pain tools at the ready. The longer you use the app the more accurate it is, and I am now really reaping the benefits of being on top of my body’s cycle.

2. Keep supplies at the ready

In my work’s Secret Santa gift-swap, I was given a small bag that is the perfect size to keep in my work tote bag. I think it was originally a nail care kit, but I have instead filled it with a couple of pads, two types of pain reliever (you can take Advil and Tylenol together!), some mints that help me with nausea, and some band-aids (I handle a lot of paperwork and am prone to paper cuts). I don’t have a desk to keep personal items in so I bring it back and forth every day in my tote bag; even if I know I’m not getting my period that day (thanks, Clue!), I also am prone to stress headaches so it’s good to have those meds on hand throughout the month.

3. Bring a heating pad

When I was in high school I wasn’t able to swallow pills, so heating pads were a life saver for me, and in fact I’m still a little wary of excessive medication so I still rely on them every month. The one I have is relatively inexpensive, I think it cost around $14 at  CVS. At an office job, it’s very easy to have it plugged in by your chair, resting on  your back. Keep one at your desk if you can, or bring one back and forth when you need it like I do.

4. Take a walk

It’s the last thing I want to do on the first few days of my period, but I notice relief even from the four block walk from my car to the office. I usually spend my lunch break camped out in a Dunkin’ Donuts scrolling through Twitter, but taking a 20 minute walk makes me feel a lot better any time of the month. Since I’ve noticed this connection I’m trying to commit to moving throughout the day, not just sitting motionless at my desk until lunch. I find this keeps the muscles throughout my body a little looser, not to mention the ever-present relationship between exercise and endorphins.

How to Survive Your Post-Grad Retail Job

1 . Be prepared to be tired.

If your college jobs involved sitting at a desk, babysitting, or an occasional 2 hr barista shift, your body has forgotten the stress and fatigue of retail. The first two weeks back, your knees and feet and shoulders will ache. Invest in some good shoes, pop some ibuprofen, and take a post-shift nap until your body adjusts to the new routine of standing for 6+ hours at a time.

2. Look forward to something at work

I work in a copy center right now, and because I’m somewhat new I am still looking forward to learning new skills (like custom stamps and laminating foam board). There’s also a customer who comes in every Thursday night to have a meeting agenda printed in a very silly font. Knowing he’s coming in around 7:30 gives me a little bit more energy through a closing shift. Consciously picking something to look  forward to makes a long shift or a long week a little less draining.

3. Do something outside of work every day

Before I go to bed at night, part of my evening routine is writing down in a notebook what I did that day. It’s a little bit of purposeful reflection that prevents ruminating in the dark. But when all I did that day was watch Youtube videos and eat chips until I went to work, I don’t close the notebook feeling very good. To prevent this, I try to accomplish one specific thing outside of work every day. Sometimes it’s mundane, like doing laundry or booking a doctor’s appointment. Other times I bake cookies or go for a run or talk to a friend on the phone. Making time and energy for these personal things keeps me grounded and reminds me that we all have lives outside of careers.

4. Remember: you are not your work

In the age of “do what you love”, I feel bombarded by messages that your identity is entirely wrapped up in your major/career/job/parenthood status. Break away from that. Your job is how you make money. Maybe it’s emotionally fulfilling, maybe it’s not. But either way, you have an identity and worth outside of whatever you do to earn that paycheck.

5. Get over yourself

Is there a voice in the back of your head insistently whispering that you should have a ‘real job’ by now? That this doesn’t count? Maybe that voice isn’t just in your head – maybe these are things you actually say out loud. Shut that down and get over yourself. This is real work, real work that millions of people do every day. This is work that keeps society running. I feel very lucky that in my store there’s people at all stages of life: managers who used to work at corporate, high schoolers, students working their way through college, people who studied graphic design, a recent engineering grad who hates offices, middle aged moms. This is not any more or any less of a job than whatever your old roommates are doing in Manhattan. I’m not saying you have to work here forever, but please, quash those elitist thoughts before you sabotage your relationship with your coworkers. Take some ibuprofen, pick something to look forward to, and put on your nametag.

It’s time to go to work.

The Job Search Is Lonely

I don’t know if it’s the seasons changing and the sun setting earlier or my mom and brother going back to school. I’m sure everyone feels like this sometimes. But right now, for me, the job search feels lonely. Maybe you’re in a similar boat, becoming numb and isolated from afternoon after afternoon of just you and your cover letters at the dining room table. To prevent this from turning into a period of low-productivity/high-anxiety, I’ve been developing some habits to quell the loneliness and keep me connected.

1 . Leave the house

Yes, I know this sounds obvious, but there have been countless days where I notice the sunset and realize I haven’t left the property (maybe I walked the dog up the street). You gotta leave the house. I follow a lot of freelancers on Twitter and Snapchat and I greatly admire their commitment to working in coffeeshops or group work spaces. It gets them out of their apartment and even if they don’t talk to anyone but the barista, being around other people who are moving and doing keeps you from feeling stagnant. Even my grandma does this – while she’s retired, she has a routine where she goes to the diner every morning. Sometimes with a friend, sometimes alone, this routine gets her out of the house in the morning and guarantees human contact, even if it’s just the waiter. Read More

Should I Graduate Early?

Are you a little burnt out from school? Trying to save money? Have a fantastic job opportunity you would need to leave school to take? Last year, I decided to graduate a semester early from college. It was a really hard decision to make and I spent many months thinking about it, but now I have been out of school for 8 months and I know it was the right choice for me. Is it right for you? Here are five things to think about as you make the big decision.

(This is geared towards people who, like me, only started thinking about graduating early right before senior year. Many people plan from the start to graduate a semester or year early and I hope that some of this can be helpful to those people as well).

1 . Is it too late?

Most colleges have a deadline to apply for early graduation. Check at your school – if it’s already past this deadline, congratulations! The decision has been made for you and you can wonder no more. Focus on enjoying the rest of senior year and know this happened for a reason.

2. Do I have the credits? Will I finish my major? Read More

Things That Will Happen When You Cut Your Hair Short

0. You will schedule the transformative salon appointment for a few days after a semi-professional photographer is coming to do a family portrait. This way your mother will have a respectable Christmas card photo regardless of what happens.

1. Your sister will drive to the salon with you and provide small talk as you assure the hairdresser that yes, when you say short you mean ‘boy’ short.

2. You will go home and ask your brother if he likes your haircut. At 13, he cannot control himself and stutters an emphatic “n-n-o!”.

3. Over the course of the next 3 years, every member of your extended family will comment that you look like your great aunt.

a) This is not a bad thing. Your great aunt is young and cool and has been to every                        continent. She also has short hair. Read More

First Not First Day of School

I can hear my dad cooking eggs at 6:27, the whites just starting to sizzle in the pan. This early morning cooking is an effort to get this school year off on the right foot for my brother, who is starting his junior year of high school. My mom is back at school this week as well, a middle school teacher, and there’s an egg on an English muffin for her as well. My dad comes upstairs to say goodbye to me before he leaves for work. For him, it is just another Tuesday.  Read More