An Open Letter To The Class of Graduating A Year Late

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It’s the last few weeks of April.
Friends are taking graduation photos with peace signs in university gardens.
Your instagram feed is flooded with pictures of caps and gowns and “Omg, last drunken night ordering pizza #sosad #adulthood” posts.

All while you’re casually avoiding registering for the classes you have to sign up and thus sign your soul to your school mascot for ten more months of your miserable college life.

Congratulations, you’re graduating late.

Your friends will be walking down the graduate aisle, receiving their diplomas, throwing their graduation caps. And you’re sitting here, trying to avoid attacking the next person who asks, “Are you excited about graduating in a month?”

All your friends getting ready to move on with their lives and you’re left feeling like a failure, like you aren’t good enough. “Am I defective?” you might say to yourself. “What’s wrong with me?” “Why aren’t I like everyone else?”
“I suck.”

“I’m the worst.”

et cetera, et cetera until you’re barely getting out of bed because, “What’s the point? I’m not doing anything with my life. I might as well just stay here and watch Law and Order re-runs until I get kicked out of college for being too old because I was too stupid to graduate.”

Image(It’s a slippery slope).

But I’m going to tell you something, you might not have thought about amongst your “My life is over” thoughts:

Wait for it…

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Graduating late is okay.
Graduating late is not the end of the world.

It sounds outrageous, an impossible idea, I know. But it’s true. It’s okay to graduate a year late.
Really, late isn’t even the right word. The “Class of 20xx” title is a suggestion, a generalized assumption of how long it would take a general amount people in your age group to get through the rigamarole of classes and papers and homework. It isn’t law. And it is not one size fits all. It doesn’t take into account that people are different. It doesn’t take into account that some people will hit snags or have family crises. It doesn’t take into account that some people deal with situations that make doing work like “everyone else” so much harder – depression, learning disabilities, low self-esteem, anxiety, the list goes on. The schools and administrators who obsess over their students graduating in four years may put it at the utmost importance, but it’s easy for them to forget that the students going to their schools aren’t robots – they’re people. But that idea gets passed down to us, the students. Then we start to believe that we have to graduate in four years, and then we forget that we aren’t robots and we put ourselves down for not doing what we’ve been programmed to do.

But you aren’t a robot. You are an individual. You aren’t everybody else. You are you. And you do what you need to do to get where you need to get to. And your worth has to do with what you accomplish, not how long it takes you to accomplish them. Rome wasn’t built in a day but look at it now. Do you think people visit the Colosseum and say, “Sure it looks nice, but I heard they finished it in 80 AD, but they were supposed to finish it in 75 AD. Amateurs.”

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No one says that. All people say is, “Dang. Look at that Colosseum. Look at how amazing it is. They worked their Roman tails off and made this masterpiece and I’m lucky enough to see it.” And that’s what people will say when you graduate. “You worked so hard. You got this degree. I’m proud of you. You should be proud of you.” That’s all. No one will mention that it took you longer than you expected or than you were told it would take. And if anyone does, punch that person right in the face and rub your diploma in their faces. Because you earned it.

“But what about all my friends? They’re all moving on with their lives and I’m stuck here…”

It’s okay to not be on the same pace as your friends. It might feel a little lonely and it might not feel right, but it’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with you. You aren’t defective. You’re just on a different path.

You were always meant to take a different path from your friends, weren’t you? You had different majors, you had different interests. You even had different friends. You and your friends, your peers, and other kids on campus, are not the same. You have different goals. You have different strengths, different weaknesses. You are different.

Maybe that’s the scariest thing about graduating “late”. It’s daunting because it forces you to think about the fact that you’re an individual, that sometimes, you’ll stand alone on your path to whatever goals you have set for yourself. And that seems scary. Sometimes it’s scary to be different but sometimes that’s life. Sometimes it feels like you’re the only one working towards what you happen to be working towards. And sometimes you might get discouraged. But in those situations, what’s most important isn’t what others are doing: what’s most important is keeping the focus on yourself. If you focus too much on others and their accomplishments, you start to put yourself down or maybe feel like you won’t match their accomplishments and you can’t achieve anything if you don’t believe that you can do anything. But if you focus on yourself and don’t worry about anyone else, and don’t compare yourself to others, you give yourself the opportunity to shine in your way.

Being on your own path isn’t negative. It gives you the chance to do what’s best for you and show the world just what you’re capable of in your own way. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
You fought through your depression and graduated.
You dealt with a family crisis and you graduated.
You changed your major three times until you were happy and you graduated.
You took time to find yourself, came back and you graduated.

Graduating “late” doesn’t say to the world, “I’m a failure”. It says, “I took the path that was best for me and here I am. A graduate, ready for the world.”

The American Dream 2.0 Report on the college dropout crisis, published in 2013, said 46% of American college students don’t graduate college within six years.

But you aren’t a statistic. You aren’t a percentage. You’re you. And you are no less than anyone who graduates before you, or who graduates “on time”.

So, hang in there. One more year. A few more semesters. And you’ll be okay. You’re on the right track – your track. And there’s no time limit for that.

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25 Drinks And What They Should Actually Be Called

In case you wanted to know where you rank on the drinking scale, check out this Thought Catalog article on 25 drinks and what they *should* be called. In case you want to know which drinks I’d be ordering, I’ll take a couple glasses of “Come Over To My Apartment To Sit On My IKEA Couch And Discuss Being 23” as well as a couple “My Tastes Are Evolved And My Teeth Are Entirely Stain-Resistant”, thank you.

Thought Catalog

1. Bloody Mary: Slutty V8

2. Champagne: Looking Incredibly Classy And Chic While Getting Shithoused

3. Andre: Looking Incredibly Classy And Chic While Getting Shithoused, Extreme Couponing Edition

4. Light Domestic Beer: My Tastes And/Or Financial Standing Have Not Evolved Since Age 19

5. Green Juice: Make Sure Everyone Sees That You’re Drinking This, And Therefore Knows You’re Healthy

6. A Trenta-Sized Iced Latte: I Need 31 Full Fluid Ounces To Contain My Basic Bitch Multitudes

7. Mimosa: It’s Brunch, I Just Finished Soul Cycle, I Deserve This

8. Barefoot Wine: Come Over To My Apartment To Sit On My IKEA Couch And Discuss Being 23

9. Cupcake Wine: Come Over To My Apartment To Sit On My IKEA Couch And Discuss Being 25

10. Whiskey Neat: Time To Prove To This Bartender That I Am Cool As Shit

11. Cosmopolitan: I Could Not Care Less What This Asshole Bartender…

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Literal Adventures: Frenchie’s First Fish Dish

While I’ve always had visions of motherhood and wifehood, greeting my husband at the door in an apron and telling him to get the kids all cleaned up while I bustle around the kitchen making dinner, the sad truth is, I was having those visions while waiting for my Lean Cuisine pasta to finish cooking in the microwave. But at the start of this year (and after finding someone who might actually want to stay with me for longer than the 2013-2014 school year), I decided that I would venture to make dinners that my parents would be proud of and any potential mother-in-law might actually be happy for her son to eat.

Tonight, when dinnertime approached, I went through my routine fridge-to-freezer check to rummage for food. When I opened my freezer, I saw a pack of frozen tilapia that I’ve had for a while (not a gross while, like a few months, don’t judge me). I felt a wild hair and decided that today was the day. Today was the day I would make fish that wasn’t just waiting to be plunked on a cookie sheet and tossed in the oven. Today was the day I seasoned and cooked my own fish just like cavemen of yore.

Step one, however: Figure out how to thaw fish.
Naturally, I Googled, and found this thawing fish quickly tip on the food blog Make LIfe Special. As I scrolled through, I found a Baked tilapia recipe at the bottom of the page. Baked tilapia? Sounds easy enough. I decided to give it a try.

Here’s a quick look at the recipe:

Ingredients
  • 4 Tilapia fillets
  • 3 Tablespoons butter, divided into 4 pieces
  • Old Bay Seasoning, to taste ( I sprinkle this liberally on both sides of the fillets)
  • ½ teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 lemon, cut into 4 slices

Here are the things I had:

  • 2 Tilapia fillets
  • A whole stick of butter
  • …Poultry seasoning?
  • Garlic salt
  • No lemons. I totally have oranges, but that would be gross.

But I did the best I could with what I had, which was still a lot. I’m sure the Old Bay Seasoning adds a particular type of flavor to the tilapia, but I’m not trying to be Emiril Lagasse, here. I’m just trying to feed myself. Here are the instructions:

Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9 X 13 baking dish.
  2. Place tilapia fillets in the baking dish. Sprinkle both sides of the fillets with Old Bay Seasoning and sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper.
  3. Top each fillet with a pat of butter and a lemon slice.
  4. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Here’s Vickie’s final product:

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Here was mine (sans lemon because, remember, I only had oranges):

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I decided to make some linguine to go with the tilapia and used this simmer sauce from Safeway:

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The Final Product:

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The Verdict: On a Yum Yum Yum Yum Yum scale, I’d give the tilapia I made a Yum Yum Mm. (That’s like 3 stars out of 5).
It was pretty good considering it was my first time making fish that didn’t come pre-cooked in a box. I will admit that I went light-handed on the seasoning for fear that I would smother the fish with way too much, but I think it could have used some more poultry seasoning. Also, I should probably get Old Bay or some other sort of seasoning for different tastes. But the parts of the fillets that had more seasoning on them were tastier so I’ll definitely keep that in mind for next time.

Also, not fish related, but I think I’ll go for a heavier sauce next time I make the tilapia with pasta, just to give a bit more weight to the meal which is pretty airy between the lightness of the fish and the lightness of the simmer sauce.

And on a college kid dinner making laziness scale rating from 1-5 (since I’m too lazy to think of a more clever rating scale), 1 being throw it in the oven easy and 5 being lots of bustling, I give this recipe a 2. Not too much prep, and most of the waiting time is waiting for the fish to come out of the oven.

But not too shabby for my first time.
Looks like I’m Mother-In-Law approved after all…or at least I will be with some more practice and dishes under my belt.

Lessons For The Emotional Handyman

My Dad is and always has been a fixer. If anything broke in our house, he fixed it. If anything came off of its hinges, he’d fix it. If a nail popped out of some hole, he could tell you what painting it was holding up, who painted it, and in what style and era. He fixed everything.

When I was a little kid, I used to think, “Wow, my Dad can fix anything. I want to be like that. I want to fix things!” But my mother bought me a kitchen set as a little girl and not a tool set (gender is a social construct) so I couldn’t fix things with hammers and screwdrivers.

pretty-pink-argyle-kitchen-set-for-kids-by-kidkraft          51NSWX5SF7L

Since I couldn’t use my Dad’s tools, I had to use tools of my own. And with those tools I became an expert at fixing things, but not the things my Dad was fixing: toasters, door frames, roofs and the like. No, with a different set of tools I decided to fix different sorts of problems. I became an emotional fixer.

I was very good at being an emotional fixer. Too good in fact. SO good, that I’d often put myself behind at least three other people to make sure that they were getting what they needed. I whipped out my tools quickly whenever people approached me as an emotional fixer-upper. Patience? You got it. I’d whip it out. Time? Of course! Endless amounts. And I’d whip that one out. Regular compliments and stories to make you feel good about yourself? Right here in my tool belt! If you had a problem I was the one to fix it, no questions asks, no wait time, 24/7.

But as the years went by and the longer I dabbled in being an emotional fixer, I found myself getting worn out and tired. I started to ask questions like, “Why am I always ready to give someone an emotional jack when I can’t find someone to help me move an emotional box from one part of my brain to another?” “Why am I available 24/7 for emotional service when I can’t seem to find anyone to help me during normal business hours?” “Why do I care when people ignore the appointment cards I leave them or don’t ask me to help when I can tell they’ve got an emotional chip in their paint?” I was a fixer, but my hobby seemed to have become a job, one that I was getting tired of performing. Yet at the same time, I couldn’t seem to give it up. I’d still get up when my phone rang, pick up my tool kit, do my job, then come home and sulk. And when your hobby starts to feel like a job, it might be time to get a new hobby.

The fact is I like helping people, especially those I care about, but it’s taken me a long time to realize that it isn’t my job. It is not my life’s work to fix everything that goes wrong with the people around me. I can’t. It’s impossible. Things are going to go wrong. Their feelings will get hurt. They’ll get insecure. They’ll get sad. But it is not my job to run for my emotional tool belt and fix them.

I never realized it, but I was learning a lesson when I would ask myself why others didn’t seem to make as much time for me as I did for them or when I would talk to someone and they wouldn’t pay me as much interest or give me the reassurance and hope that I would do my best to give them. I was learning that sometimes, you just can’t. You should make time for the people you love and you should do your best to help them, but you can’t always drop everything to do that. And you shouldn’t. Because you are not at anyone’s beck and call. And you shouldn’t feel like you’ve done something wrong because someone isn’t coming to you for help. It is not your job to be someone’s emotional repairman and when they start to see you that way, you’re the one who ends up frustrated and worn. You deserve peace of mind too. You deserve a chance to think to yourself, without having to worry about what’s wrong with someone else. What’s good with you? How are you doing?

So it’s okay to hang up your emotional tool belt for a day or two. It’s okay to tell someone “you’ll talk to them later” or to say you aren’t available right now. It’s okay to see someone having trouble but they don’t want to talk to you about it even though you asked. All of that is just fine. You aren’t selfish. You aren’t a bad friend. You don’t have to wear that fixer hat every day. You were not chosen by your loved ones because they assumed you would fix all of their problems. After all, let’s face it- we all have those loved ones that are impossible to fix…
You were chosen because they wanted to be around you – the person you are without that fixer hat. And it’s okay to just want to be that person. It’s okay to just be that person. It’s okay to take off that tool belt (or at least take a few breaks).

Unapologetically Lady Thoughts

As we say goodbye to March and hello to April we may be quick to forget that March was National Women’s Month. And while it’s flattering to know that there’s a whole month dedicated to my XX chromosomes, I, personally, like to live every month like it’s Women’s Month. What does that mean? It means unapologetically being my womanly self, emphasis on the words unapologetically and my.

When it comes to talking about women and gender equality in our society, it’s common to come across people who have a particular picture of what being an unapologetic woman means and what beliefs that woman will have. Sometimes, some people think it means being dedicated to crushing the patriarchy and squeezing the balls of Man with your bare hands until they explode, thereby finally giving women the power they deserve. To others, being an unapologetic woman might be wearing and sassily walking in high heels and lifting and separating our sweater sisters while smiling at guys through red painted lips because we can.

But being an unapologetic woman doesn’t have to mean being an extreme (or being a caricature for that matter). Being a woman unapologetically means being yourself, being the woman you are, regardless of what others (male and female) think “being a woman” means. It means wearing yoga pants to class every day among girls in tight jeans and skirts. It means wearing tight jeans and skirts to the grocery store. It means buying twelve packs of beer from the grocery store, regardless of dress. And it means drinking those twelve packs of beer on the couch while watching a baseball game and burping loudly in front of your TV.

It means wanting to be married and raise a family. It means never wanting to change a baby’s diaper.
It means believing it’s wrong terminate a pregnancy and it means believing that everyone’s body is theirs and that they have their own choice.

Unapologetically being a woman means unapologetically being the person you want to be and standing up for being that person.

We as people, and especially as women, need to remember that while we are similar, we all are not all the same. We share the same title – woman – but we all have different wants and needs and beliefs and desires and we aren’t always going to agree with each other. But we won’t get anywhere by putting each other down just because we don’t see eye to eye. Conversation is what solves conflict, not insulting the validity of one’s being. I’ve known women who have dismissed others because they didn’t feel as strongly about a gender issue as they did, saying that they should be ashamed of themselves as women for being on the wrong side, making the disagreeing women feel like they aren’t “correctly” being women. But the thing about it is there is no correct way. The correct way is your way; the correct way is the woman you are. You don’t have to be your neighbor’s woman or your mother’s woman or society’s woman. The only woman you should be or have to be is the one you want to be.

The take-away is this: If I had to list some of the things about myself according to other peoples’ standards of womanness, I’d have a two to three item list. But I refuse to reduce myself to that:

  1. Despite my semi-perfectionist tendencies, my room is always a mess.
  2. I could live off of burritos and pizza my entire life.
  3. I stick my hair to shower walls and am sometimes impressed when it’s still there the next day.
  4. I rarely wear pants.
  5. I have a weird voice that isn’t very girly.
  6. I love kids but they terrify me at the same time.
  7. I fight for what I believe.
  8. I’m bad at spending money/I hate spending money
  9. I care a lot about people that are close to me. Too much, even.
  10. I’m weird and unconventional. I’m all over the place, mentally and physically. I can be absolutely ridiculous…

And that’s the woman I am. A weird, awkward, pizza obsessed woman. And I’ll shout it from a rooftop, just like you should. If you reduce yourself to what is expected from you or what you’re told to be, you’ll hide the things about your womanness that is the most important part: who you really are. And we as women are stifled enough by our society. Why stifle yourself? National Woman’s Month might only be 31 days long, but the other 334 days of the year are all chances to show what kind of woman you really are, without remorse, without apology, but with womanly pride.

Who are you? What are the things about your womanness that you are unapologetic about? How do you show the world the kind of woman you are?