Anything is Better than Nothing

I… haven’t got much going on right now. Don’t get me wrong, I have goals. Both long- and short-term. I know what I want to do in the abstract but making any of those ideas reality is challenging. Not because of roadblocks or anything, I’m just… lazy. I’m working on it. My current mantra is “Anything is better than nothing”.

Like, going to the gym and struggling on the elliptical for 30 minutes while smiling maniacally at a Friends rerun is better than being pestered by cats while I sit on my couch playing Dylan O’Brien 2048 while watching a rerun of Friends and smiling maniacally.

Or, researching grad programs is better than re-reading my favorite fic. Eating yogurt, blackberries, and cheerios for lunch was better than going downstairs to Chipotle. Making my own gifs of my favorite shows and posting them on tumblr is better than scrolling through tumblr lamenting the lack of gifs for my favorite shows.

Anything is better than nothing.

Which is also why I participated in Camp NaNo this year. It was the first time that I participated in any NaNo event because NaNoWriMo is in November and until very recently that was the lead-up to finals and, well, that wasn’t going to help me be any more productive or write any better. But now, now that I’m out of school and have all of this free time, I figured I’d give it a shot.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t “win”. To win NaNo you have to hit a specific word count. In November, for National Novel Writing Month, that means writing 50,000 words of a new novel. For Camp NaNo, participants can set their own goals. I set mine at a much more modest 15,000 words. I did not write 15,000 words. I added about 10,000 words to my draft in the month of April. I wrote another 1300 words or so as part of an outline, but that doesn’t count.

So I didn’t “win” Camp NaNo. But I wrote. I wrote a lot. I wrote in DC and Virginia and even in Boston.

I wrote up to the climax and then I froze.

Which is dumb. I’ve known how the climax will play out in this novel/draft/manuscript/whatever you want me to call it for ages. I know what’s going to happen next and I even have it written out in what is, for me, a surprisingly detailed outline. I just need to write it.

So that’s where I am. Trying to be a more productive human. Trying to finish this goddamn draft even though it’s already 99k words and I haven’t even written the climax. Trying to figure out what programs I’ll apply to for graduate school.

But I am working on those things. I’m being proactive instead of reactive. I’m writing, and planning edits, and thinking up the outline of a short story. (I’ll need something to work on after this draft is finished and I shelve it for a month or two to really let it ferment before I cut it to hell and back.) I’m still madly researching grad programs, and thinking of which professors to ask for recommendations. I’m making gifs. I’m occasionally going to the gym and trying to eat healthier. I’m reading books and impatiently waiting for new ones to be ready for me to pick up at the library. I’m marathoning TV shows to be prepared for ATX Festival in June. I’m looking for concerts to go to. I’m planning game nights with my friends and day trips to amusement parks and paintballing, and to trampoline parks.

Anything is better than nothing.

I don’t hate my job…

but I don’t love it. This week marks the 3-month anniversary of me being hired, and the end of my probationary period. The end of the probationary period really just means that I can start accruing paid time off at an entry-level rate. And so, with these 90 days of experience behind me, I’ve been thinking a lot about this job and what I want for my future.

It’s weird to think that this is the point I’ve been working towards all my life. Entering the work-force – the one comprised of adults, those working full-time that have to commute and dress in business casual clothes instead of a uniform, those that aren’t simply filling the seasonal employment void – was the first thing I wasn’t prepared for, even though life up to this point was on on-ramp for success. Merging proved to be the difficulty, as it always has been for me. Am I going fast enough? Too fast? What if I cut someone off? What if I fuck up and wreck? I worried about everything that could go wrong, had contingency plans for contingency plans, but I never really stopped to think about what life would be like when everything went right.

Getting a college education was the first step. Years of indoctrination in public schools had prepared me for the classes; I knew I could handle the homework. Making new friends terrified me, but living with people I had already vetted via Facebook helped. I could handle living in a new city because I was ready to leave my hometown. The thought of only seeing my parents on a sporadic basis was difficult, but it’s not like we couldn’t call each other, and email, and videochat. And when it came time to graduate, well, I’d seen friends do it; I braced myself for how difficult it could be to find a roommate, to find an apartment, to be able to afford an apartment, to find jobs to apply for whose descriptions didn’t sound completely awful and like something I might like to spend my life doing. Everybody told me about the importance of internships and a good resume, GPA and references.

But no one really told me about the shift from the academic life to the ‘real world’. Graduating and getting a job didn’t suddenly change my perspective on life, the universe, and everything. My life isn’t that different – I have the same friends, I drink the same alcohol, I go to the same places, I can only make the same dozen basic dishes.

I always knew that waking up five days a week at 7am was going to be a bit of a problem. I’ll own that I still hit snooze four times before rolling out of bed 10 minutes before I need to leave for work. (I shower, pick out my outfit, and pack my lunch the night before.) I still struggle to go to bed before midnight. But I make it work.

The thing I wasn’t prepared for wasn’t finding the balance of business and casual to get ‘business casual’. It wasn’t the commute, or using a Windows computer, or drinking coffee regularly.

The thing I wasn’t prepared for is how mundane my day can be. The rote tasks, the vaguely uncomfortable swivel chair, the lack of natural light – I never knew how much I liked natural light until I was put in a walled-off office space, with my dual-monitors and fluorescent lights as my only sources of illumination.

In preparation for my 90-day evaluation, my coworker mentioned that my boss is considering the possibility that I’ll keep this job and work through library school and work here indefinitely. But I don’t think that’s what I want. This was a position with which I was familiar from my work-study experience and knew I could do well. I expressed interest in the field, knowing full well that in a year or two I’d want to leave to pursue a Master’s degree, potentially in the Library and Info realm. But it was never definite. And the more time I spend here, the more I’m sure that, even if I do end up with an MLIS, I don’t want to work in law again. I’ve seen the reference requests and they don’t pique my interest. To me, they aren’t something I think I would find fulfilling.

 

The other day I was told that my paid time off (PTO) accrual between now and the end of the year would be 6.5 days. The PTO at my office covers vacation, sick, and personal days. And it wasn’t until I realized I’d only have 6.5 days available for my use that I realized how badly I want to go home and visit. I didn’t realize how badly I wanted to go home until I figured out that I don’t know when the next time I’ll be able to is. I realized that I have to sacrifice going home for Christmas because, what with the way the calendar worked out this year, Christmas is the only day I get off. Most likely, I will go for longer than a year without seeing most of my extended family.

I realize that I kind of want to quit. Even though I’ve only surrendered a few times in my life I start thinking ‘is this even worth it?’. And I know it is. I know this job I don’t like is paying for that apartment I really do. This job is the thing that’s keeping me surrounded by friends instead of living at home with my parents (where, let’s be honest, I’d be way more miserable than I am now). And really, and I know this – not even deep down, but superficially! – my job isn’t bad. I like it.

I know that this job is a stop-gap. It’s giving me the time to decide what I want to pursue for my Master’s degree and will give me a bit of a financial cushion when I do take that plunge. It’s giving me time to write, paying me a better salary than I expected, getting me out of the apartment five days a week. So I need to suck it up. And I will. It’s just taking some adjustments.

Blanket Fort Manifesto

On those hot, blustery days where the heat index tops out at 108 and you’re stuck in a dorm room, chilled to the bone thanks to the cranky thermostat you’re afraid to turn up in case you’ll never feel cool again, you need something to do. And it doesn’t matter that it’s Harry Potter Weekend, because that happens at least once a month and, besides, you can stream those movies online any damn time you want. What you can’t do any time is build a blanket fort. That requires a significant surplus of free time, an amenable roommate, and a damn good reason to not set foot outdoors for at least a few hours.

I firmly believe that you’re never too old for a blanket fort. What is a better well of childhood nostalgia? The only thing better about building blanket forts at 21 instead of 8 is that now your juice boxes can be alcoholic. But of course a blanket fort, like every good compound, needs a set of rules to operate by. With no further ado, the Blanket Fort Manifesto:

1)    On Construction:

  1. Exterior

i.     Though called a blanket fort, the actual materials used to construct the fortress can include: blankets, comforters, sheets, quilts, and throws. Pillows are acceptable, but should be limited to increasing comfort of in-fort activities (see section 3). And remember, a successful fort is one that blocks most, but not necessarily all, ambient light from outside of your citadel.

ii.     Be smart when deciding on where to place your fort. If possible, it should be in the living room. However, if you are living in a dorm room, that might be impossible. If able, you should place your fort in the same room as a television. Then again, we live in the age of streaming video, so this isn’t really as necessary as it was a decade ago. You can just fire up your laptop and pull up your Netflix Instant. But don’t be that guy. You’re in it for the nostalgia, right? Hunker down with some of your favorite Disney movies. Your neck cramps won’t last forever.

iii.     A blanket fort need not be a free-standing structure. Acceptable supports include, but are not limited to: couches, beds, chairs, desks, and dressers.

iv.     Under no circumstances are you to use tape, glue, yarn, thread, clips, etc. to fasten blankets together. You’re better than that.

2.  Interior

i.     Comfort is the name of the game. Sleeping bags, couch cushions, and pillows can all be considered fair game.

ii.     Proper lighting is important. As you don’t want a lot of ambient light filtering through your blankets and into the interior of your fort (that would show shoddy craftsmanship), you may find yourself wanting to see once you’re inside. As good at setting an atmosphere as candles can be, they’re fire hazards. Act accordingly. Battery powered lanterns, strategically placed flashlights, or that Yule log youtube video are excellent alternatives.

3.  Location

i.     Blanket forts are most successful when built as an excuse to stay indoors. Periods of excessive heat or cold are perfect reasons. Doesn’t the thought of cozying up inside a blanket fort in the wake of a thunderstorm/blizzard/heat wave sound fantastic?

2)    On the admission policy

  1. Be exclusive. You want your fort to be the coolest place you’ve ever imagined. Those daydreams you had of tree houses way back in the sixth grade? Well unless you’re the coolest parent ever, you probably don’t have one waiting in your future. This is your chance, buddy! Go crazy. It should be a privilege, nay an honor, to be invited into your fort. Invite visitors accordingly.
  2. Listen, this is your fort, your sanctuary. It’s a given that it will have limited square-footage that will rival the studio apartment you’re barely able to afford. Ergo, you can be as picky as you want. No boys allowed? Fine. No girls allowed? Okay then. No redheads? I don’t know who in their right mind would make that call, but sure, if that’s how you feel.

3)    Acceptable In-Fort Activities

  1. Marathon movies and television shows. It’s absolutely a great idea.
  2. Cuddle. Admit it, a blanket fort is a small, cozy, dare I say intimate space. Chances are you can’t fit more than two people inside without resorting to close human contact regardless. It’s nice to cuddle with a good friend or significant other. But listen, you’re not a little kid anymore so if you want to make out in your blanket fort, go for it. Who’s going to stop you?
  3. Tell stories. Share your favorite misadventures, wait until 2am and make up scary ghost stories, reminisce about the recent past, and enrapture your friends with those wacky urban legends only people from your lost-on-the-map hometown have ever heard of.
  4. Play videogames. Scavenge your old Gameboy and pop in that Pokémon Blue you’ve been meaning to beat for a decade now. Set up the N64, crack a beer, and play Mario Kart. Let your boyfriend teach you how to play that first-person shooter you’ve never heard of before.
  5. Read. What a novel idea. Crack open a well-loved book or break the spine of a new one. Utilize your local library, or borrow a dog-eared, marked-up beater from a friend. Trudge your way through a classic or breeze through an easy-read. It doesn’t matter if you’re picking up a piece of literature you never actually got around to reading in high school English or that new Fug Girls book (which is great, btw), the point is you’re reading. I can’t endorse this activity enough.

4)    Deconstruction

  1. Set a time limit for your fort. Preferably no longer than 48. The fact that you only have so long to enjoy it makes your haven all the more magical. Nothing good lasts forever, right? Besides, if properly constructed, your fort is taking up a significant portion of your living space. You’ll probably be too tired come Monday morning to want to take precious time navigating your way around it while trying not to be late for work.