On wishing I never went to college

First, some background:

2004: Senior year of high school. Applied to five colleges. Three for theatre (acting), one for biology, one for nursing. Accepted to all of them, I chose to go to VCU for theatre.
2005: Started at VCU for theatre. Naive and starry-eyed.
Summer 2006: Decided not to go back to school for theatre, found it wanting. Move in with parents.
Late Summer 2006: Decided to go back to school for theatre after a late night drunken conversation with friends. Move out of parents’ house.
Spring 2007: Unsure of whether or not to continue into a third year of theatre, I said “fuck it” and continued on.
Fall 2007: After getting yelled at in an acting class for laughing during the typewriter game, I drop out of VCU for good.
Fall 2007 – Spring 2009: Epic amounts of floundering. Enroll in a wide variety of courses at local community college including emergency medical services, child psychology, and biology. Never complete a full semester.
Summer 2009 – Spring 2010: Start working at gym. Study on my own to become a personal trainer. Get certification. Enroll in local personal training institute to further my education. Never complete entire course after realizing it wasn’t for me.
Spring 2010: Enroll at University of Phoenix for AA in communications.
Summer 2011: Complete AA in communications.
Summer 2011 – Spring 2013: Try on two different majors – journalism and visual communications – until settling on health and human services (because I want to save the world, duh).
Spring 2014: Complete BA in health and human services.

Student loansYou know what’s dumb? Expecting a 16 year-old to know what the hell she wants to do with the rest of her life.

Filling out college applications my junior year I was an average (at best) student full of naivety about the future to come. I don’t have my VCU application essay anymore but that’s probably for the best. I vaguely remember an incredibly cliche essay about following my dreams and never looking back. #art #dreamer

I love theatre but surrounded by classmates willing to live in shoeboxes for the rest of their lives to live out their dreams, I realized I wasn’t like them. I never felt like I fit in with my classmates and maybe that’s why. I wanted to act but not if it meant being poor and never going on vacation. I had no business trying to figure out a college major when I hadn’t experienced anything outside of high school and my retail jobs. How was I supposed to know what to do with my life? I guessed. And I guessed a lot, hoping something would eventually stick. When I dropped out of college I spent time pursuing things that interested me because I had no other idea how to figure out the rest of my life and hey, college is what you’re supposed to do, right?

I now have two degrees: an associate’s and a bachelor’s, and I still can’t figure out if they were worth it.

I didn’t learn anything new to get my degrees. And that’s not because I took horrible classes and the degree programs were useless. It’s because I naturally seek out what interests me. I had already studied organizational communications concepts before I started my first day of my associate’s degree. I had already studied the largest pieces of the PPACA before starting my bachelor’s degree. After spending most of my life as an average student, I kicked ass in school for both of my degrees. Because I cared about the subject material and I work hard when I’m excited.

I learned. On my own time, in my own terms. I knew what I wanted to know more about and I researched until my face turned blue. And had I done all of that research and never completed those degrees, I would have all of the same knowledge but probably wouldn’t have the same career path.

As recruiters are flooded with resumes they need a way to quickly filter the applicants. Don’t have a degree? Well that’s an easy way to lose out on innumerable opportunities.

My two complete degrees are from for-profit institutions. they get a bad rap and I understand why, but they were my only chance at getting degrees. I needed to support myself and I couldn’t go back to school full time while working to pay my bills. And that scenario would have only been in a perfect world. The reality is that after dropping out of one school and failing to complete a single class in four semesters at another, no non-profit school would have touched me with a ten-foot pole. I was obviously unfit for education. So it was a for-profit school or it was nothing.

student-debtThe educational industrial complex is strong and overbearing, and it’s working.

And it’s bankrupting students. The generations before mine expect us to hop fresh out of college, get a job, start working, and stop bitching about how much money we don’t have. But education is different now. Abandoning logical growth, the rates of tuition increased at a rate higher than auto and home costs. In the last three decades, tuition prices have increased by a baffling 124% (when adjusted for inflation). Couple those numbers with a recent economic depression and you’ve got yourself the perfect financial disaster.

“The size of the average student loan in 2005 was $17,233. By 2012 the average U.S. student loan debt climbed to $27,253–a 58% increase in just seven years, according to FICO (Forbes).”

For all of my years trying to figure out how I want to spend the next 50 years of my life, I have $73,587.62 in student debt.

Take a moment, because that’s not a typo.

$73,587.62

Under the current debt forgiveness program the remainder of my loans will be forgiven after 20 years. See how kind the government is? I only have to pay $500 per month for the next 20 years and then I’m scot-free. That’s all. Another potential avenue is to find work with a non-profit. If I make every payment for 10 years while working at a non-profit (with no breaks in employment whatsoever) then I can have the remainder of my loans forgiven that way. Except I happen to like my current job and my current career trajectory.

Couple that disgusting number with the rest of our debt (mostly medical, plus credit) and David and I are around $100,000 in debt. Did that number make you throw up? Because it should. It keeps me up at night.

It’s the kind of number that makes a person want to file for bankruptcy. Until she realizes that student loans are obscenely difficult to get discharged and since they are the bulk of her debt it’s kind of a waste of a credit-score-damning maneuver.

I guess I should end with something positive but I just don’t have it. My student loans are crippling and there’s no way out. But I know that I wouldn’t have the continually-improving career that I’ve had without a degree.

california-student-protests.gi.topWas it worth it?

Should I have stayed a personal trainer forever? Should I have just tried to make ends meet without a degree at a low-paying job instead of trying to make ends meet with a decent salary and mountains of debt? What’s the right answer? I can’t see the other side. I don’t know what would have happened if I had chosen the other route so I have to hope that this is the better choice.

I have to hope because if at any point I come to the realization that none of this was worth it, I’m not sure I’ll be able to maintain sanity. I have to hope that things will just keep getting better for me and David and that we’ll get out of this financial hell hole much quicker than we plan.

I have to hope, I have to work hard and budget harder, and I have to play the lottery occasionally. Because what else can you do when you realize you’re going to be suffocating in debt for the next 20 years? #AmericanDream

How to Adult: Dressing for work

hooters uniform
so pantyhose

My first couple of jobs were in restaurants. Then retail. Then more restaurants. Then gyms. All of these jobs came with mostly hideous uniforms. Seriously hideous. So many oversized polos and button up shirts with ties. So much khaki. So many strange smells. So much discomfort. Really, I think my Hooters uniform was the one I hated the least. And not because of the distinctly 80’s style (scrunch socks holler) but because it was the only uniform that was supposed to make me feel happy in my own skin. Flaunt it!

I then transitioned into the world of gray cubicle walls and branded pencil holders. This world came with its own uniform: business casual. In the past eight years I have been in only one office that was anything less than business casual, and since that office was mostly college-aged girls, we often wore yoga pants at least two days a week. Yoga Pants Office was years ago and during my time in the business casual world I struggled with how to meet the dress code and express myself.

87665813
bleeeech

I failed. A lot. I always felt frumpy. I never felt comfortable. Lots of money spent on my NY & Co. credit card for boring ass clothes that I can never get back (although let’s get real, their sweaters and cardigans are perfection). And when I tried to step outside of a typical business casual ensemble into something with more personality, I felt awkward at best. I think pencil skirts are supposed to be cute. I have one that is not flattering. At all. If you thought that was impossible, you were wrong. Frumpy pencil skirt is a thing. I found it.

The only time I felt like I was making headway with my business casual dress code was when my boss at a government project gave me the green light on dying my hair pink and purple. “Yes! I get to be myself!” I thought. Then my hair dye faded and I cut it all off for charity and it was back to square one. And it still didn’t solve my frumpy-attire problem anyway. I cool hair and a super not cool wardrobe to match (I’m so complex).

Until I found the job I have now. I work in marketing for a tech startup in DC. My job is challenging and rewarding, and after two months I still haven’t had a boring day yet.

And there’s no dress code.

I mean, I’m sure if I showed up in a “Go KKK!” tee or a Frederick’s of Hollywood teddy then my boss might sit me down for a chat. But outside of the kind of outfits no one should wear in public anyway, we’re free to be whoever we want to be. After accepting the job I counted down the days from government contracting business casual to tech startup do-what-I-want attire. I eyed my jeans with anticipation. I’m certain my Vans flats were smiling at me.

There’s only one problem. I don’t know how to adult.

I’ve tried doing the jeans and a tee thing at work and it doesn’t quite fit. I might be in the minority, but I want to dress my age (most of the time). I want to dress in a way that says “Hey, I’m professional and also very smart and also super important but also I am fun and nice and happy to help.” Picking out that outfit everyday has proven harder than I expected.

I tried to put together some hip outfits. Like my black/gray monochrome ensembles, my short skirt with baggy sweater. They felt good. But they still didn’t fit. They felt like great outfits for a weekend movie with my husband or brunch with my girlfriends. I love the shabby chic look. The messy hippie thing. It’s comfortable and I love the aesthetic but it doesn’t feel like it fits at work.

I’m surrounded by people in jeans and t-shirts but I’m coming to the realization that just isn’t me.

Coated-Jeans-for-Office-Wear
now we’re getting somewhere

I’ve felt the most comfortable at work in my more polished outfits. Not quite business casual but not quite weekend casual either. Skinny jeans, flats, and a button-up shirt. A tee underneath a blazer. These are the outfits that make me feel good. These are the outfits that make me feel like myself at work and while strolling through the streets of DC. I need more of these outfits.

I need to embrace that I’m not the cool, jeans and a tee at work kind of girl.

Not most days anyway. Most days I want a little bit more. Most days I want to be a little more put together. More feminine and more fashionable. And I’m not alone. The two other ladies on the marketing team are more polished than jeans and tees most days too. Maybe it’s a marketing thing…

Only two months into freedom, I’m still figuring my style out but it’s getting better every day. I’m figuring out what outfits make me feel just as frumpy and tried as business casual and what outfits make me feel like a million bucks (and ready to kick some digital marketing ass).

Maybe it’s the almost-30-year-old part of me, or the marketer part of me, or the never-taken-seriously-in-corporate-settings part of me… or maybe it’s all of those and more. Whatever the catalyst, I’m eager to spend some time figuring out what my personal style is as an adult.

I’ve divided my Pinterest fashion board into one casual and one upgraded board to help guide my style as I get comfortable with my clothes-personality. And I plan on documenting my favorite outfits for a while so I can really look back and see what makes me feel good.

Things that make me feel good: being “put together.”

Things that make me feel like sleeping: jeans and a hoodie.

Now it’s time to get fashionable.

Or to try really hard anyway.

I’m still here

Don’t worry friends, I’m still here. It’s been a crazy summer for me but I’m hoping to get back on track with my blogging now that I have everything organized again. My life remains pretty crazy but I think I have a better hold on all of the nonsense now. So what have I been up to?

 

-New job! I celebrated my birthday by moving on up in the world. I’ve joined an awesome team that’s allowing me to really define my own role with the company and that’s kind of awesome. I have high hopes for this place!

-New apartment! Husband and I moved out of the house we were sharing with roommates and into our own apartment. The neighbors aren’t too friendly but the apartment is nice and new and secured – so no major complaints there! Also, I FYI, I hate moving.

-Still classes! Oh me oh my. I will be so happy when I’m finally done with my degree. In case you don’t know the story – I went to university for two years, dropped out, took random classes at a community college for two years, left school for two years, got my associate’s degree, took a little less than a year, then went back to school to get my bachelor’s. I expect to have my bachelor’s degree by the end of winter 2014 and when that day comes I’m going to party my ass off. It has taken me so long to get to this point. If you had told me, graduating high school at 17, that it would take me around nine years before I would see a bachelor’s degree I would have laughed. And cried. And ran away. Long, arduous process does not even begin to cover it. But now I’m rocking a 4.0 GPA, a member of Golden Key International Society, and working my ass off in my 400 level classes. I can’t wait for the weekend that doesn’t have a homework assignment mixed in. It will be oh so glorious.

Geeked Out Fitness. If you’re following me on twitter (and you should be) then you might have seen this project I’m working on. Some friends and I are created a retail store that allows us to design and sell geeky fitness apparel. We built a Kickstarter to get our company off of the ground and we met our goal! The Kickstarter is still running for a couple more days so please consider donating to the fund. The more money we earn from this Kickstarter – the more we have to put into the business and we have some pretty big and awesome plans for this company.

-Speaking of companies, I’m a fairly active part of Hashtag Studios. If you’re one of the two people that watched DrewTV, you know that this fledgling studio has been around for a little minute. We just moved the studio in a great space in a local business park and took on a great partnership opportunity. I’m helping to get the studio operational on an administrative level and you can also catch me doing some interviews at upcoming cons. Watch out for Hashtag – we’re making moves!

 

So I’ve been a tad busy. But I’m going to start making time for writing again. I hope someone is still reading this (hi mom!) and if not – well it’s time to get my content rolling again so there’s something to read!

Thanks for your patience, awesome readers. Tell me if there’s anything you’d like to see from my blog (more unicorns?) and I’ll try to make it happen. As long as you don’t request something totally weird.

 

Weirdo.

Your business emails suck

1281188199461918026075766-3d-glossy-blue-orb-icon-business-envelope1-338184247-hiI’m not a CEO. I’m not a CFO. Heck, I’m not even a manager. But I can tell you this much, your business emails suck. Seriously. What are you – fifteen? I have a lot of personality and I know that but you wouldn’t know I’m a total oddball from the emails I send to extended colleagues and that’s the way it should be.

Need help understanding? Let me break it down for you with some helpful fun facts.

1. Your signature. Are you kidding me with the cutesy graphics? No one you work with needs to see a banner about the upcoming holiday, your favorite LOLcat, or a silly graphic. That hopping smiley face that’s waving? It’s not cute. It’s annoying and childish.

2. CAPS ARE NEVER ACCEPTABLE. NOT EVER. Did you feel that? Did you feel how FUCKING INTENSE CAPS FEELS?! That’s because it is. Chill out. Are you abbreviating something? Cool. Are you not abbreviating something? Then stop shouting at me. It’s uncalled for and quite frankly it’s unnecessary. You mean to tell me that the only way you know how to emphasize a point is by typing in really big letters? Did you not take an English class? Let’s talk about italics. Or – better yet – let’s talk about having a good enough grip on the English language that you know how to emphasize a thought or phrase using the proper words instead of typing features.

3. Ellipses… Are pointless… An ellipsis is “series of marks that usually indicate an intentional omission…can also be used to indicate an unfinished thought or, at the end of a sentence, a trailing off into silence.” SeewhatIdidthere? See how I incorporated one into the quote I used? If you’re quoting – then go right ahead – but you’re not quoting are you? You’re giving directions or answering a question or a plethora of other things that aren’t quoting something. Really, you’re implying something when you type … Typing an ellipsis makes you look frazzled and confused at best; rude and condescending at worst.

4. Full sentences rock. Really? Do I really need to explain this one?

5. One punctuation mark is all that’s necessary. Review #3 for the use of a period. Multiple commas never make sense. Multiple question marks make you look like an impatient ass. And never – under any circumstance – use an exclamation point. Why? See #2. Calm down.

6. The people reading the email are not your friends or your family. They do not need to know the details of your personal life. Didn’t respond to an email quickly? Apologize for the delay and respond. Unless the person on the other end of that email is a close confidant they don’t need to know that you were out because your grandmother died, your wife left you, your dog is in the hospital, you had the runs, whatever. Telling them this when they don’t need that information is just weird. And uncomfortable. You made someone asking you about a business deal squirm in their chair to figure out how to respond to your awkward email. Good job. Oh and if they are a close confidant that you do want to share some detail with? A phone call is much better. Much.

7. Did the business world not get the memo that email forwards are out? Just like DayGlo t-shirts and mullets (were mullets ever really “in”?) it’s time to let them go. Send them from your personal email to your mom and your uncle. Stop sending them to everyone on your business email contact list. You’re not going to win a million dollars, you’re not going to be cursed if you don’t resend it, and some little kid won’t die of a fatal disease just because you didn’t click the button to forward it to everyone you know. If you really love it, send it to yourself at home and use it later. Otherwise, read it and walk away.

The key here is that this isn’t your personal email. You aren’t writing an email to your mom or a personal blog post. When you’re writing emails to coworkers, bosses, businesses you work with, etc. you need to take a step back from yourself for a second and attempt to be someone like you – except way more professional. It doesn’t matter if the company you work for now isn’t the company you dream of working for. Email is fairly permanent and traceable which means if you use it poorly it could come back to haunt you. Trust me, you don’t want there to be physical proof that you’re unprofessional and you’re not going to get any leg up in the professional world until you start typing like you deserve one.