My No-Longer-Ironic Tattoo

 “…Carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”

(Robin Williams, as Mr. Keating in Dead Poet’s Society, quoting Walt Whitman)

Three years ago, I got an ironic tattoo on my thigh that reads “Carpe Diem.”

I didn’t think my new addition was ironic at the time. My intention was the new tat would be a good reminder to me to seize the freaking day in order to improve the quality of a life which was making me miserable. After seeing a movie with one of my long-time best friends, he and I had an in-depth conversation about life and it put a (temporary) fire under my ass to finally get my tattoo and quit the retail gig that was making me miserable, in favor of pursuing something in my field. It was a big deal for me, because I was going to quit the job without a safety net – I didn’t have anything lined up to replace it. Getting that tattoo and giving my two weeks’ notice felt a lot like seizing the day.

Also ironically, I had been planning to get this tattoo for about six months or more.
Also ironically, I had been planning to get this tattoo for about six months or more.

After the tattoo and quitting the job, I ended up failing to “seize the day,” nearly every day for almost three whole years. Fear crippled me and held me back in almost all aspects of my life to a degree I can’t say I’m proud of. I got a job, played it safe, stuck to what I knew, and unfortunately, the cost of doing these things was being gloomy and despondent most days. My dreams were big, and my execution of those dreams was nonexistent.

I started drafting this blog a week ago, smiling and writing in a tiny notebook aboard a train, while the English countryside whizzed by me in streaks of green and gray and white on my way to Paris, France.

My tiny Dino guarding my British coin. There may never be a post without a dinosaur.

I’ve mentioned that I had an “awakening” of sorts earlier this year. Sitting on the train reflecting on said awakening, I’m pretty sure I’ll always be pointing to February 2015 as the point at which my life went from being a “before” to being the start of a fantastic “after.” For as long as I can remember, I wanted to see London and Paris. In February, I stopped making excuses and booked the trip.

It is hard to put into words the way I felt in London, but the best I can do is to say I felt full, happy and pretty badass while I was there. Furthermore, I felt accomplished. I did something big. I mentally checked off a box on my Big List of Hopes and Dreams.

As I promised myself I would, I’ve been more active socially and physically, I’m trying new things, and expecting more from life in general. What I’ve learned in only six months’ time is that if you create the expectation of living your best life and you step out of your comfort zone, your life becomes rad as fuck. Quickly.

I can only recall one other time in my life when I loved waking up every day in the way I do now, and I’m pretty positive that if I went back to college as a live-in undergrad student I wouldn’t feel the same about the experience at thirty-two.  Everyone has bad days but lately it seems as if even my bad days are good, and those “bad” days are far overshadowed by the wonderful things I’m seeing and experiencing.

If you’re not living your best life, change it. Make a plan. Stick to it. Seize the day.

Just, carpe diem, man. And I guess, don’t let your tattoos become ironic.

The Evolution of Feelings About My Cell Phone

As a self-described extrovert, there’s very little more I love in the world than being with people, experiencing “adventures” with them, and sharing life and stories with others.

Confession: I really love my cell phone. A lot.

I’m not saying I love my cell phone more than people, I’m just saying I don’t feel complete if it’s not within an arm’s length. It’s like back when everyone wore a watch. If you left home without your trusty timepiece on your wrist, you felt naked. I feel naked if I can’t reach my phone. It provides me with hours of entertainment and reading material.  All of the important numbers and e-mail addresses I no longer have memorized are contained within it. I may not even be using my phone, but I just need to know it’s there.

My first cell phone was acquired in 2002 when I transferred from a local college to a school in Pennsylvania. It was a Trac Phone, prepaid and intended solely for the purpose of calling for help should my tired vehicle decide to quit during my four-hour drive west. To borrow a phrase from rapper and former TV host Xzibit, I “pimped out” my Nokia TracPhone with an iridescent purple and green snap- on shell, and a delightfully nostalgic 8-bit version of the Mario Brother’s theme song as my ringtone. I played snake often. Texting wasn’t really a “thing” just yet, but there was something really special about that little device.

You guessed it, it's current resale value is $0.00.
You guessed it, it’s current resale value is $0.00.

Despite the thirteen years which have passed and the leaps and bounds in technological advances, surprisingly I can still be reached by dialing the same exact combination of digits I had on that now-relic-like Nokia.

Recently, while preparing for a trip to London, I noticed I hold my phone a little bit closer to my heart. I spent a lot of time researching the level of phone use I could manage during my trip. Could I let my family know I had landed in the UK? Would I be able to access maps? Was I going to be charged approximately 1 million US dollars if I texted someone a photo of something goofy I saw? It was hard to imagine a scenario where my phone would be reduced to a simple timepiece for over a week.

My iPhone is perhaps overly important in my day-to-day life. It’s the last non-bedding item I touch before I fall asleep at night, and the alarm clock that wakes me in the morning. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t even sleep if it wasn’t near me. I don’t know when or how it happened, but I’ve become nearly as attached to my cell phone as the teens I scoff at when I see them standing in lines with their friends, awkwardly posing for selfies like it’s some kind of synchronized Olympic event.

I guess it’s not so bad, when I really think about it. It’s not necessarily the apps that I took a shine to; it’s the fodder for my extroversion. Phones enable us to reach out to anyone possessing a phone, anywhere, whenever you’d like. Sometimes you’re lucky and you even get to hear from someone who you didn’t know was thinking of you. Your friends and family can text or message you, e-mail you, tweet at you, or tag you in an Instagram photo. Our precious phones keep us connected in a more authentic way than Facebook or any social media ever can.

Among all of these things your phone can do, let’s not forget that you can still participate in the ancient art of the random phone call from a device that’s smaller than a TV remote control. That’s pretty magical.

Things I’ve Tweeted

Sometimes Adults Need Adults

One of the big, over-arching themes of My Third-Life Crisis is that life can be hard. Well, maybe “hard” is the wrong word. “Challenging” is probably more appropriate. I’m not sure that life is ever “easy” per se. I think that it cycles between being more challenging, less challenging, and then there’s that coasting thing that happens from time to time.

Coasting is that good feeling you get, when everything seems to be going really well. You’re happy, smiling, and life feels completely effortless. Though it’s not good for the premise of my blog, I’m happy to say that I’ve been coasting on and off lately, and I have my dino hunt to thank for that.

I know that even when I have my “10” life, I’ll still have bad days. We all have colossally bad days every now and again. These are the days when from the time you wake up, until the time you go to sleep, it appears that shit is rolling down a steep hill and you’re standing at the bottom.

I had one of those downhill kinds of days this week. As I found myself (TOTALLY NOT WEEPING) in my car while parked on a side street, I remember thinking “I want to go home.”

The trouble was, I AM home. There’s nowhere to go that’s more “home” than the very town and physical house where I grew up with my family all within a reasonable driving distance.

What I think I really wanted was an adult. In a technical sense, I am an adult, but when things get challenging, I always want to look to someone a bit wiser, and a bit more put together. An adult who is an adult-ier adult than the adult I felt like I was being. In that moment, I needed to talk to someone who was feeling just a bit more grounded than I was.

It’s funny because those crumbling, shit-storm kind of days make me feel like so much less than the adult I’ve become. As an independent person, I find it hard to reach out to friends at these times and ask for help. I’m getting better at it. I’m learning in my thirties that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. Asking for help doesn’t make me any less capable as a human. It just means that I’m aware of my strengths and weaknesses- and as long as you’re not some kind of robot, self-awareness is an invaluable tool in the world.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to cry in my car on a tough day, and I’m positive I won’t be the last. But really, who cares? We all have tough days, and that’s part of being the adult-iest adults we can be. We suck it up, put our big girl panties (or superman underoos) on, and move forward.

I’m not coasting again yet, but days following the shit-storm have been tremendously better. That, my friends, is what this awesome life is made of: bouncing back.

The Hole Interview

A while back I spent some time talking about what it means to be underemployed. I didn’t really touch the most frustrating part of underemployment: the perpetual job search. I’ve been applying to career-level jobs in my field for approximately ten years now, and I’ve learned a lot about résumé and cover letter writing in that time. What I haven’t learned more about, is fashion.

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My attitude is considerably less whiny in the last 3 years.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not the best at shopping for myself. I’ve stated publicly multiple times to colleagues and friends that I would be happiest at work if I could just wear jeans, chucks, and a wife-beater or graphic tee every day. I’m aware this is unrealistic, and aside from band front-woman or stand-up comedy, this type of ensemble is highly unlikely to be acceptable work attire for most people in their thirties.

My personal fashion choices at work are very run-of-the-mill. Again and again, I couple black pants with black tops. On occasion I’ve included navy blues and deep purples. I always wear solids, and always favor the same silhouettes. This past year I embraced some patterns, and even included pink and orange once or twice. It was a big deal for me.

I was elated when I received a call for a very important interview a few months ago. In an attempt to look pressed and polished, I decided I would grab some new clothes. I purchased a pair of red pants from a chain that will remain nameless, but let’s just say they have an association with a certain branch of the clothing-retailer military. I must emphasize that when I buy clothing, I try the item on, bring it home, cut off its tags and wear it. No washing, no inspecting. You can judge me for that if you’d like.

I liked my red pants, I really did. I paired them with a nice black blouse and a pair of heels on the big day. I felt confident. I was wearing red. I don’t wear red. I had this moment, when examining my final interview ensemble in the mirror of “RED PANTS! HEY EVERYONE! COME SEE HOW GOOD I LOOK!” (Allow me to remind you here that I live alone. There is no “everyone.”)

When I hopped in my car to start the drive, I was feeling pumped and positive. NOTHING could shake me.

Except for one thing, which I noticed by chance while sitting at a red light. I looked down to admire my pants and noticed a gap. By “noticed a gap” I mean that while fully clothed and zipped up, I could see my panties.

There was a hole. In my brand-new red pants.

Just below the red zipper.

Big enough for me to put my pointer finger through…

Up to the FINAL knuckle.

My inner monologue went from confident mantras to a more profane, less professional version of “Crap! Crap, crap, crap!”

 

As the light turned green, my mind raced. How could I have possibly missed a hole? Can I go home and change? No time to change. How did I buy a pair of pants with a hole in them? I should have looked at these pants more closely. How would my interviewers feel if they see the hole? Would them assume my nude-colored seamless panties were in fact, my pale skin peeking through at them to say hello? Is there any way I can use the masking tape in my car to hold the hole together and not look like a complete lunatic?

 

The answer to that last question, was an emphatic “no.”

So hole and all, I went into that interview, standing as tall as I possibly could. I’d like to say I meant that figuratively, but I mean it literally. Standing tall got that seam to appear as though it was a seam, and not poor workmanship and a lapse in my judgment.

Naturally, I don’t own those red pants anymore.

No word on the job just yet.

I Might Be Married to Comedy

In pursuit of happiness and on my undying quest to find my dinosaur, I’ve been reflecting a lot about what makes me most joyful. Comedy is one of the themes that keeps appearing.

As far back as I can recall watching TV; I always shied away from action, adventure, horror, and drama, to good, old, sweet (or raunchy) and reliable comedy. I wasn’t picky. As a kid I watched classic sitcom reruns and SNL with my dad. Wayne’s World came out in 1992 when I was a mere 9 years old, and I watched it so often I wore out the VHS and can still recite the whole movie from memory. I got my hands on an Adam Sandler comedy tape as a kid and listened to it on my Walkman, snickering endlessly at inappropriate humor my mom wouldn’t have appreciated or approved. For my 12th birthday, I opted to have an at-home party so I could watch my favorite movie at the time, Billy Madison, with my friends. My adoration of stand-up specials began with I whatever I was allowed to watch on HBO, at the time seeing specials from the likes of Wendy Liebman, Paula Poundstone, Gallagher, and so on. That was back when I still had my parental units censoring my virgin ears from greats like George Carlin.

It’s no wonder that when I went to high school my love for theatre and performing blossomed most through exposure to great comedic plays and actors. I taught my straight-edge, well-behaved, arts-loving friends improv games I learned, not from my theatre classes, but from years of watching the original UK and US runs of Whose Line Is It Anyway? During my stint as an officer in the International Thespian Society, we even launched an improv night and gathered some of our fellow high school thespians to be players. There is no measure for the elation I felt playing a game called “New Choice” on stage with a pal and having the audience erupt into laughter. That same friend introduced me to Monty Python, and one of my absolute favorite stand-ups of all time, Eddie Izzard. (She later became one of the brilliant authors of a “little” webcomic called Darwin Carmichael is Going to Hell.)

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Circa 2001, I (left) wore fake glasses and gave a fake road test. It got big laughs.

Admittedly, I may have gone a little overboard through the years where comedy is concerned. I have more girlish crushes on stand-up comedians and SNL cast members than “mainstream” celebrities.

In college, I had delusions of writing a letter to Lorne Michaels so that I might audition for SNL with no formal comedic training. Of the 75 DVDs I own, more than 40 of them are comedy. I named my dog “Rowdy” after a stuffed dog prop from Scrubs. I can apply a quote from a sit-com, a comedian, or a comedy flick to nearly any situation I find myself in. I buried myself so deep in comedy that I undoubtedly missed some good classic films along the way. For a frame of reference, I just saw the original Star Wars Trilogy at thirty-two years of age.

Whether I went overboard or not, I have no intention of discontinuing my love of comedy. Comedy is joyful. It makes me feel free. When I feel lousy, I turn to my favorite comedies to lift my spirits. I even listen to stand-up comedy while I’m on the treadmill at the gym. I laugh out loud. I get stares. I don’t care.

You don’t care what people think when you’re with someone you love. I’m in love with comedy. I’m not speaking in hyperbole. I am in mad, passionate, never-ending love with comedy.  This is the shit that successful long-term marriages are made of.

You read correctly. I am mentally married to a genre.

Maybe I need therapy.