Whoa. It’s been a while, right? Completely. My bad. Turns out having a real job is like, tiring, exhausting, draining and time-consuming. I spend my nights dragging my feet past my apartment door, wondering how I’m going to do it all again the next day. Then I eat fried eggs on avocado toast because it’s cheap protein and turn on Netflix, because #RealLifeProblems, am I right?! I can’t say I have the same bright-eyed, bushy-tailed charm I once had in college.
The generation above us says we’re so entitled which… mostly another story for another day, but one thing on that: If millennials ever felt entitled to anything, it’s probably because of the older people who told us we had to empower ourselves to fight on our behalf because no one else was going to do it. I mean college does such a great job of convincing you that the real world is excited to have you, so much so that when you’re job hunting after graduation, you feel genuinely surprised (and slightly offended) that no one wants to hire a millennial without any experience. Speaking as a formerly unemployed recent grad, there’s a general overlying theme of “Wait, I was invited here, why is everyone looking at me like I don’t belong?”
But the ambition is still there, in fact, it’s probably stronger once you’ve landed your first real job because you’re so determined to prove everyone wrong. (i.e. the grumpy older generation of editors who won’t stop writing bitter op-eds, the grumpy older generation who claim to “be bold & new” but totally fear any and all risk, the neither grumpy nor older but equally awful, snarky ex-boyfriends who majored in Business and rolled their eyes at the thought of even making a living as a creative… those people, the horrible people who are the most worrisome of all, because something tells me they have no idea how genuinely bland they are.)
That said, it’s a tough world to navigate, that peculiar combination of being young, broke and creative. It’s messy, it’s complicated (partially because you make it that way) and it’s ever-evolving. But just because it’s evolving doesn’t always feel like you’re moving forward. It’s one of the strangest parts of being 24 (which, can I just say at the risk of sounding so cliché, it feels like I’ve been 24 for the last three years) is that you feel yourself grow and in little moments, there’s a mini-discovery that you’re becoming a full-functioning grown-up and yet, you don’t feel like you’re making any real progress. Let me explain.
So like, for me, my biggest challenge is making time to write outside of work. As a copywriter, I spend my days from 8:30-6:30 writing, (no lunch break, welcome to the real world yo) and so for me, it takes a lot of motivational Pinterest quotes and on-set guilt (think along the lines of… “Look at Lena Dunham, she’s killin’ it, what have you done with your life? Psh, what have you even done today? You ate two granola bars and wrote copy for paid ads on Facebook.”) to even get me to crack open my laptop after work.
Then it takes a motivational Spotify playlist, strategically placed on “private session” that is entirely comprised of Beyoncé songs. Perfectly timed Beyoncé songs. I sing along (probably a little too loud for my neighbors’ comfort) and wonder why I haven’t yet purchased a belly chain, then wonder how I can make this a practical purchase by trying to figure out the ways I could style it, since I don’t vacation on private islands or have a beach lover named Pablo who calls me his “preciosa” (all of which I believe to be things that people who actually own belly chains have in their respective lives).
I begin to consider if I can relocate to a private island and it’s not until #SecondDinner that I realize I’ve completely lost track of my initial goal, which was to write something, anything. Something to prove that I’m a creative who doesn’t break the sacred oath, or betray the promise we all consistently make to ourselves: Corporate can have me during the day (and I’ll admit the health insurance aint a bad gig) but take back the nights. I’m reassured by the fact that I imagine Justin Timberlake would totally approve of this, not only because he is also a creative (ahem, genius) but also because, Take Back The Night… obvs.
There’s only so many Buzzfeed quiz-ticles you can sift through, there’s only so many “brb, crying” kitten videos you can watch, there’s only so much Facebook-stalking and Beyoncé sing-alongs, before you stumble upon the work of another inspiring creative… and then it hits you, you have work to do. Real work, you’re young, you’re broke as hell, but you’ve got more creativity in you than you even know. So fail 100 times, fuck, fail, a million times, as long as you’re creating something with purpose. Maybe it’s not there yet, but it’ll get there.
Maybe everyone else is older, they have more experience, maybe they’re all VPs of something impressive. Maybe they’re all richer, maybe they refuse to slum it with the likes of the young creatives, but that’s cool. They’ll never have to come out on top out of necessity, they’ll never know that hunger to win (not for the power or the upper hand, but for the genuine fulfillment) they’ll never know what it’s like to create something out of nothing. They’ll never expect, that against all odds (yes, even viral video distractions) your creativity will win out, every time. So, let’s fucking do this shit.
Today’s first major crisis of the day happened this morning at approximately 8:30 a.m. when I got to work, pulled up my Twitter feed and saw a tweet linking to a picture of Mindy Kaling and Miss America Nina Davaluri hanging out, and I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Fuck, come on guys, is everyone hanging out without me?” I mean, I definitely tried to fight it, but there was a definite jealousy that I was simultaneously committed to and yet totally embarrassed by.
Then I listened to the Haim album on Spotify—a band deemed cool and VICE-y enough that it’s one of the few exceptions to my strict Always-Private-All-The-Time Spotify guidelines—and had to resist the urge to hop on top of my desk and kick things off in the midst of a solo sesh dance party.
So that was a thing that happened. I mean, I’m 24, so I can go from zero (read: being left out of the cool Indian girls clique) to dance party in .5 seconds. I secretly consider it to be a personally awesome burden.
On a sort of related side-note, I still think I could have a very promising career as one of M.I.A’s backup dancers.
That’s all for now. More to come later, or maybe not. I mean, it’s been a year, so here’s to trying harder to write after a day of doing exactly that all day at work. Oh yeah, I like, work now. Because that’s apparently a thing 24 year olds do. So, yeah.
Feeling my way through college involved my deciding on a major my parents never totally understood, a lesson quickly learned that some girls are just straight up bitches (not because they have daddy issues, not because they seek approval to overcompensate for their self-loathing, but just fucking because) and that you should never, under any circumstances, mix wine and whiskey. Sidebar: You’ll convince yourself that it’s okay because it sounds fun, not like the idea, but the actual act of saying the words “wine and whiskey”… but you’ll be wrong.
There was a moment in college when I thought I was so lucky to be lost. I was living in a state of bliss because it was unexpected of me to have it all figured out. It was my four years to have another chance at my formative years, I could recreate them without the awkward high school haircut. I could reshape myself, become “Anjli the Journalism Major” or “Anjli the Dating Columnist” or for a second there, “Anjli the Wearer of Hooker Heels” (RIP Steven Madden stilettos, you did me proud until you didn’t… because I fell flat on my ass at the bar… sober…). But the truth is four years is far too long to be questioning your entire life, especially when most of your “entire life” hasn’t even happened yet.
But then that horrible eventual moment happens, when you approach 24, your official mid-20s, your official time to hate your life. You could not pay me be 24 again and I’m not even there yet. There was some delightful delusion about college that made me think I had the ability to change the world, to shape my future. I blame university marketing efforts, (“what starts here changes the world,” um, can I get a more specific ETA on that change?). But then you get to your future and you’re just like, “Ha, that was funny College, did you and the guy who led me on most of sophomore year like hook up and think it’d be really funny to pull that shit all over again? Realllllll slick.”
It seems like every chunk of five or so years are the formative years of your life until you fucking hit 40 and you’ve already pretty much decided who you’re going to be in your life, whether it’s someone you’re particularly enthused about or not. First it was high school, then college, now I’m stewing in my 20s like a fucking flailing mess, just hoping my life will magically figure itself out at 25, secretly knowing that’s not a real thing that just happens. (Obviously, I mean, um, Lindsay Lohan?) I know that we’re supposed to experience growth every day, soaking it like sponges who are blessed to welcome a new day and meadows and rainbows and fucking glitter, like I get that. But is anyone ever just like, “okay, I’m ready to not grow anymore”? Like, “I’ve had enough ‘growing experiences’ and I’m now I’m just ready to be who I’m gonna be”? I know it’s not very becoming of me to ask, but isn’t that the point?
I really savored my “losing myself through finding myself in college” phase, I mean I was a Journalism major for crying out loud. I really took advantage of it. But the worst part is when you look back after all of it and wish you could go back, wish that it was still socially acceptable to blow off figuring shit out so you can go to Sixth Street and get drunk and dance instead, because we’d convinced ourselves it was all somehow part of “the process.” There was nothing magical about wearing a dress from Forever 21 that was half polyester, half acrylic and drinking $5 pitchers of well liquor, and yet, there was some magic in knowing that you didn’t have to have it all. And when you leave college, the only thing on the agenda is finding a way to have it all; the job, the guy, the social calendar, the self-worth you were promised with your diploma. #FirstWorldProblems, for real, huh?
Maybe some day I’ll look back on my 23 (approaching 24) year old self, and think “You don’t have to have it all just yet,” but then I’ll immediately remember that’s a lie. Sure, maybe I don’t have to have it all, but the assumption is that I should be on my way, that I should be within reach, carefully calculating the plan of action. Why isn’t there a marketing tagline for your early 20s? Like, “what you do now will be the start of everything you ever do,” or “the choices you make now will stay with you for life” or “good luck bro.” For now, I’m just trying to keep it together. Maybe you don’t have to have it all for ages 20-39, maybe you just spend that time trying to fucking keep it together and when 40 happens you just sort of accept that having it all simply means, getting 50% of the remote control time and getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night.
On a warm summer night just before sunset, when the evening was still edged in just the faintest strand of gold, I knew it was going to be one of those nights… with him. What is it about a guy with tattoos and a crooked smile that makes you feel like you could do anything if you wanted to? Those tattoos, that smile, plus an endless summer night, just another in a series of July weekdays that felt like weekends… that’s a lethal combination. He raised his eyebrows as he glanced my way, bit his bottom lip and I knew immediately that he would always be that guy who could make every night a night of firsts. So I gave in, because that’s what you do when you meet a guy who can speak with his eyebrows; because that’s what you do when the bad boy wants you; because that’s what you do when you’ve convinced yourself he’s more than just the bad boy. He broods, I crumble, it’s the routine I’ve been falling for for years.
And that crooked smile, the most obvious metaphor almost too cliche to be real, every time he flaunts it, I feel core tighten like I’m instinctively preparing to be swept off my feet. He’s the kind of guy who feels so cold until you’re right there, next to him. In those few inches he all of the sudden puts his hands on all the right places, the exact points that don’t just make me want to rip his clothes off, but the ones that make me feel protected, like I’m the only thing in the universe that’s on his mind. He slowly brushes the hair out of my face, rhythmically switching from gentle to slightly more forceful as he runs his hand through the rest of my hair, barely pulling it until his hand finds it way to the small my back. In those moments, the morning doesn’t exist and the guilt of knowing this guy is all wrong for me is shrouded by how right his body feels next to mine. He’d trace his fingertips down my back and give me the most satisfying chills of my life, like my body reveled in being on edge every time I was around him. After every kiss, his face lingered close as he bit his bottom lip and pressed his forehead into mine, like he was holding back. And there’s nothing like watching an incredibly sexy guy hold back, it just makes you want to rip his clothes off and bring him to his knees. Every moment I was with him was a moment spent wishing he would just reel me in and pull my body in to fit perfectly with the nooks of his own body.
He had these big, gorgeous brown eyes that no matter how long you looked into them you never seemed to get anything out of it, like they were always some place else, thinking about things that were bigger than me, bigger than him. Which is probably me just giving a guy who didn’t care enough about much of anything too much credit for appearing mysterious, but sexy nonetheless. His eyes looked the same way with his every expression, big and unapologetically piercing, which I found both frightening and totally sexy. And each time he looked up at me, I melted, I mean, I fucking melted. Those eyes can make you say yes to anything and he knew it. Those eyes were the reason we made up after every fight.
His body was always sprawled out in this way that exuded confidence, and made me just want to straddle him and make out for hours. A guy you can make out with is actually harder to find than you might think, where every move is more intense than the last; almost as if you’re both competing to show how into each other you are, but in this weirdly natural way. Even in the least suspecting moments, I couldn’t help but find myself thinking, “I just want to be on him,” like when he’d lean with his back against the car door and raise his eyebrows as I walked toward him. That’s how you know he’s not good for you, if you does that whole arms-crossed-leaning-against-the-car-door thing,
He made the night feel like it was my last chance to do everything I ever wanted to do before the sun came up. He was the same song on repeat, and somehow managed to make every move he made feel new and yet totally comfortable at the same time. When he draped his arm around my shoulder as we walked side by side, it always caught me by surprise in that “Who, me?” way and within seconds it felt like second nature. He knew he wasn’t the best guy around, but he had no idea how incredibly sexy that could be.
Losing him felt exactly like meeting him, breathless and weak in the knees over some guy with a crooked smile, covered in tattoos who knew exactly where to put his hands and when to look at you with a face like, “well, shit, it’s now or never, what kind of person do you wanna be anyway?”
I have this really weird habit. Well, maybe “habit” isn’t the right word, perhaps, it’s more of a pattern that I’ve recently become aware of having. You know all of the really despicable characters in TV shows, the ones who never fail to cross over into territory that can really only be accurately described using the words “wormy” and “sleazy,” sometimes underhanded, but mostly just really douchey? The Pete Campbells, the Ray Ploshanksys, the Ryan Howards and the Don Keefers,(just to name a few of my personal favorites)? I love them. Like, a lot. Somehow the douchiest guys on television wormed their way into my heart with the perfect balance of slimy and endearing. I know, it’s disgusting, I’m engrossed with the genuinely gross. And that’s only my list of TV’s hottest douchebags. God, the running list doesn’t really discriminate against platforms—TV, movies, music and YouTube sensations—really I guess the only discrimination is that against the obviously good guy. The Jim Halperts of the world are great and all but it’s time someone uncovered the allure of the sleazy guy.
But while we’re clarifying the genre of douchebags I’m referring to, let’s first point out these are fictional and romanticized characters. Second, let’s make it known these are not like actually dangerous, Chris Brown types who harbor resent and relish in taking it out on others.
So yeah, there’s the obvious, “Oh god, what is wrong with me reaction, what does my attraction to TV’s biggest douchebags say about me as a person?” sort of response, but for the sake of getting back into writing, why not delve into full-on douchebag why‘s, how‘s and oh hell no‘s. Come on, it’ll be fun, maybe.
Let’s skip past the whole “maybe I can fix him” complex, shall we? I mean really at this point, I don’t even think the thought of wanting to “fix” a douchebag crosses my mind, the whole process seems too exhausting to actually consider. So there’s that. Additionally, I think that if you’ve convinced yourself you can “fix” a douchebag, than you probably think there’s not much (read: nothing) wrong with you, which also seems like a clichéd effort toward altering someone to better fit into the narrow confines of the “perfect” life you think you have, but actually probably don’t have. It’s like when you read someone’s Facebook status and it’s like, “So blessed to have my perfect life” and your instinctive reaction is scoffing and sort of wanting to punch that person in their virtual face/profile picture. Maybe I’m just an asshole, but if you have a Facebook status telling me your life is perfect, I immediately assume that your life actually really sucks and you just don’t want anyone to know about it. But then again, maybe I’m just an asshole. Sidenote: I could just end this post with, “Oh, so it’s solved, I like fictional douchebags because I’m a real life one.” But again, for the sake of attempting to bring new perspective, let’s continue.
Here’s what’s great about a douchebag: It’s the fact there’s absolutely no pressure to say or do the right thing all of the time. I mean, there’s no way you live your life in the enlightened moral high ground all of the time, especially while you’re in your early 20′s trying to figure things out in 2013. What with the economy and Tinder, I mean there’s an abundance of opportunities to really fuck up your life. So if I was dating any of my favorite fictional douchebags (which happens to consume most of my fantasies) there’s this oddly calming reassurance in knowing that the both of us are not concerned with adhering to a strict moral compass, that we have room to fight over petty things, make mistakes, say things that we probably shouldn’t and again, make more mistakes. As unhealthy as it sounds be in a relationship where fucking up is encouraged, I sort of believe it reflects our generation’s acceptance that there’s no such thing as perfection and that sometimes, it takes a mistake (or five) to get things right. (Just ask any of my drunken 2 a.m. texts, I mean, sometimes you really need that fourth chance to really nail down the spelling of “$5 liquor pitchers.)
Also great about a douchebag: You don’t feel the pressing urgency to commit. You have time to really get to know his personality, to truly decide how long you think he’s funny before he becomes intolerable. We all have that guy that we got a kick out of because he didn’t give a shit, until you finally realized that he truly doesn’t give a shit like about real life things too, like wearing seat belts and you know, like your feelings and stuff. You have time to figure out if his antics might become endearing. And in the meantime, you have plenty of time to do really important things like not feel bad for blowing him off to watch Netflix at home on a Friday night.
One last perk of dating a douchebag: You know what you’re getting into. Perhaps this is hardest one to explain so I’ll put it as simply as I can. A douchebag can be easy to fall for if he’s unapologetic about who he is, if he seems to lay it all out there and says, “Look, I sometimes make shitty decisions about things and you can take it or leave it or we can bullshit around for 6 months to a year and maybe we’ll find a way to fit into each other’s lives.” He knows what he is and he doesn’t really care what you think and this just in: It’s kind of sexy. I KNOW, it’s so wrong on so many levels, but why do you think girls fall for rappers?! Some unexpected appeal about a braggadocio, irreverent attitude creeps its way into your mind and just nestles in there forever. It’s wrong but then again, maybe our generation doesn’t want to be right.
Sure, you can grow tired of a douchebag’s behavior, penchant for hair products and overuse of the phrase “’bout that life” but there’s always going to be some initial draw to him. I think it all starts with simply wondering “Why the fuck aren’t you nicer?” and then it sort of spirals into “I guess, I have to respect that you are what you are and you’re not going to slow down just because someone had a problem with it.”
College flashed by me all bright-eyed and packed with experiences that I somehow always managed to laugh my way through with the help of my best friends. The late-night study sessions for exams in classes so frivolous I barely remember their names, the morning-after recaps with a cup of Folgers and your roommate, and the breakfast taco runs were some enlightened existence. College quickly became some alternate universe where you actually got away with thinking you had it all figured out, perhaps the once in a lifetime moment when all the circumstances you’re faced with enable you to believe that you’re the exception to every rule. It’s the best time of your life, right before you hit the worst. It’s a quick drop to the bottom when you leave college and you realize that you weren’t in fact the exception to many rules—like scoring a job post-grad, like balancing your career life (before it’s even started of course) and your love life, and like, thinking that you would be the rare twenty-something who really had it all figured out.
In college, you justified wearing something with rhinestones and hooking up with some guy from your internship because you were under the impression that it wasn’t your real life, that it was all some last hurrah before the “real life” part of your life sinks in. Weird blue shots at the bar no one can ever really remember the name of? Sure! Trying fashion trends that were never meant for your body type? Hell yes! Texting the guy who you know better than to text?! Done and done, double (okay, triple) texted! What other kinds of self-deprecating acts can I somehow involve myself in?! It’s college, it’s being 21, it couldn’t possibly be real, right? The thing is, there was no lingering guilt because society told you all of this batshit crazy insane stuff was okay because it fell under the College Loophole, the “Let’s pick off-the-wall majors, request Rihanna songs at the bar and get queso at 4 a.m.” loophole that promises it’s all going to work out no matter how many typos your last text message had. And it was amazing, it was the best time of your life. It was a fleeting moment of enchanting illusion that was made acceptable because it was temporary. Simply put, they let us have it because they knew it wouldn’t last.
When I was in college, I used to think four years really is too long to be questioning your entire life, especially because it hadn’t even really happened yet. But now, as recent grad, I cant help but miss the piece of me in college that had no reason to believe everything would work out for me, but fiercely believed it would anyway. The conviction you learn after the many lows college is priceless. Perhaps, it’s what makes you fearless and so willing to believe that you are the exception to any and every rule. (“But I have a college degree, goddamnit!” sound familiar to anyone?!) It’s easy to look at the real world from the outside and see yourself taking it on, conquering it the way your professors said you could; it’s easy because you envision it, but tell yourself you wont have to actually do it for a while.
Recent grad life is by far the biggest mess I’ve ever encountered. Not the kind of stumbling home arm-in-arm with my roommate on a Thursday night, “Let’s celebrate how we managed to get an ‘A’ on that test!” kind of mess. It’s entirely more vague than the very specific little messes of college life. It’s a bigger picture mess. My love life is literally stretched cross country, my career is just taking off and I have no idea where it’s taking me, home is a million miles away and it changes with my every mood. To put it shortly, it’s that horribly awkward moment in between thinking you’ve got it all figured out and realizing that nothing ever really happens at the right times or for the right reasons, that there’s no such thing as fate or destiny, but that all you have of yourself is the decisions you make and the people you choose to care about.
I’m not going to lie and glorify it like the college version of myself would’ve been trained to. It’s a wonderfully miserable mess.
With that, I cautiously followed Bobby as we did reps around the weight machines that were foreign to my body and the muscles in it (muscles that I didn’t know existed until that day). Though I’d never worked with the legalized torture devices Bobby insisted would “rock my workout world”, my dance training got me through the reps without breaking too much of a sweat. Bobby and I politely made small talk as I contorted my body in between metal rods and bars on the weight machines and tried my best to hold my own.
When the hour neared its end, I’d learned more about Bobby than I’d learned about working out. He was 20 and a sophomore at the university 45 minutes outside of town. He’d picked up personal training as a summer job and ended up loving it so much that he was working toward a business degree to start his own private personal training company. He lived with his four best friends, in a virtual frat house without actual Greek letters, and he drove a black Toyota 4runner. And as I learned his favorite movie (Homeward Bound) and his favorite thing to do on the weekends (hit the running trails) I’d learned enough to know he wasn’t my type.
In high school, I’d taken the liberty of convincing myself my type of guy was the unshaven loner in the back row in class who took pride in carving The Doors’ lyrics into desk surfaces, the tattooed ones who read books I’d never heard of, the ones who couldn’t wait to graduate high school and leave town. This type of guy usually played an instrument and there were major bonus points if the instrument was loud and had the potential annoy my father. Bobby, with his practically catalog boyish good looks, Nalgene water bottle and a smile that might has well have “dinged!” was definitely not that guy. In fact, Bobby was so clean cut, it was beginning to annoy me.
At the end of the training session, Bobby had me fill out a survey for gym records. And just when I thought I was home free and feeling relatively confident about my athletic ability, it happened.
“Alright, let’s take your BMI,” Bobby said as he stood up grabbing a pair of oversized plastic tweezers from the desk.
“Body Mass Index, it tells us your body fat percentages.”
I don’t even want to know my body fat percentages, why would he want to know them?
“Really? You really want to go there?” I asked incredulously.
“Come on, it’s not going to be so bad and we’ll do it quick and painless, like ripping off a band-aid,” he said.
I hated when people said that. If you have to convince me that something isn’t going to be painful, then I can, with complete confidence, know it was going to be painful.
I just couldn’t bring myself watch him focus on tweezing the skin above the waistband of my track shorts so I cringed and looked to the side instead. To this day, it is still the longest moment that has ever existed in my life.
He told me the percentage of fat I had on my body and it could’ve been zero and I still would’ve wished the experience had never happened. I’d been tweezed. I was mortified. I looked pathetically down at the indent the giant plastic Tweezers of shame had left in my skin around my hip bone and wanted to crawl into a hole in the ground in the middle of nowhere and never come out.
This had to end now.
After Bobby wrapped up with his pre-rehearsed spiel trying to sell me on the “benefits of personal training,” I rushed out of there before he could give me more reasons to never leave the house for the rest of the summer.
So I fled. I fled straight to Panera Bread.