Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What I really learned from college

I miss college so much right now.

Everyone said the weirdness of graduating would be worst when August came back around. And it's true. Today, as so many of my friends welcomed the beginning of classes and the return of college, I said the final goodbye to college. It's final. This isn't just a summer job, despite my growing restlessness, which I'm conditioned to feel after sticking with something for two or three months. I'm not going home. Welcome to the world, they say.

I miss the excitement of new things. I miss the overwhelming options of activities and causes to get involved in. I miss the endless energy of freshmen and their willingness to follow you wherever you lead. I miss the openness to friendship that comes when you throw a bunch of same-aged people into a new place. I miss living in a community where it's acceptable to knock on your neighbor's door and ask if they have chocolate chips because you ran out, and you desperately need your college-kid-Reese's-fix (Ritz crackers, peanut butter and chocolate chips). I miss running out for food at 12:50 because Alpine Bagel closes at 1 a.m. and for no good reason, you're still up and inexplicably hungry. I miss sharing almost every meal with a friend, or 15.

I miss the mentoring relationships naturally created by the hierarchy of upperclassmen and underclassmen -- that ability to look up to those who have gone before, and then to pay it forward in your turn.

I miss being in a community that felt called to minister to and serve the community it lived in and was surrounded by.

I miss the driving passion that leads students to start term papers at 3 in the morning, not primarily because they are lazy or procrastinators, but because they've spent every waking hour of their day til that point giving to others, be it working to raise money to build schools in Africa, to comfort and provide for children and families in the hospital, or helping to make a freshman's transition into college that much easier.

I miss the live-it-up mindset that leads every senior to craft a bucket list to make sure they don't miss one ounce of the essential Carolina and/or college experience.

And it seems a crime to leave all that behind. With so many things in my life changing with my 500-mile move to Ohio, where I knew no one, I've started to ask myself, why does everything have to change, just because my life is no longer mostly contained in the 729-acre campus bursting with the enthusiasm of 18,000 undergrads?

After approximately two months of off and on moping, crying myself to sleep, and doggedly following on social media my friends who are lucky enough to have one, two or three more years of college, I have resolved to defy the conventional wisdom that all those advantages of college have to end when you zip up your gown, don your cap and smile for that photo by the Old Well.

So here's what I really learned from college, which I am doing my best to apply to life in a slowly recovering, midwest industrial city:

1. Life is about relationships, and you can't afford to discriminate.
Who says a neighborhood street has to be any different than a dorm hall?

Your hall mates were party animals? Who cared! It was part of the college experience, and you invited them over when you got that midnight craving that only a bowl of popcorn and She's the Man could satisfy.

My next door neighbor drinks and listens to loud music on his front porch?? I'll grab a beer and go join him.

When I run out of chocolate chips, before I run down to Krogetto I'll knock on doors and see who has any to spare in hopes we can share the treat and a conversation. If I make too many cookies, I'll deliver them to whoever is home.

Instead of ignoring the baggy-pantsed boy with the cell phone glued to his ear who walks past the house at least five times a week, I'm going to get to know his name, and take him up on that offer to play disc golf.

I'm going to find the broken and hurting people in my neighborhood and give them the love I've been given so freely.

2. Life is about making every second count.

When presented with the options of sleep or adventure, I'm going to choose adventure. Midnight meteor showers? Heck yes. 2 a.m. Waffle House runs? Skinny dipping? 24-hour frisbee tournament? I'm down.

Forget the senior bucket list, I'm working on a Dayton bucket list. Who knows how long I'll be here? When I leave I wanna say I got my time's worth.

3. Life is about pursuing your passions.

Although my butt still has to warm a desk chair for the better part of my daily 9 to 5, I'm going to find something here that I'm passionate about, and plug the quarters into my idea-machine-brain, pouring all my spare time and energy into leaving this place better than I found it.

4. Life is about influencing others.

There may not be any underclassmen asking where's the bathroom, who are the easy A teachers, what's your advice for senior year, or is it true there's a haunted castle on campus? But there are definitely people who can learn from me and will follow me, if I'll stand up and lead. So I'll tutor, and I'll invest in every relationship, and I'll find the hidden treasures the native Daytonians don't even know about.

I've heard the phrase "freshman at life" in jest before, but I'm in earnest. I want to approach life in Dayton with the same energy and excitement of a college freshman, and everything that comes along with that. Who's with me? Cuz I'm just getting started.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Captain D's?

Moving to Dayton has made me realize two things about myself:
  • I’m like a shark. I can’t breathe unless I’m moving forward.
  • I can’t stand being alone. If I spend an evening without being around people in some form, I go to bed depressed from being starved of human interaction.

This second point has led me to develop an evening habit of sitting out on my porch. My Ethernet cable and power cord for my laptop both reach out there, so I like to set up and watch the cars and people go by. I hope someday to be able to greet everyone who passes by name, but for now I just try to wave. People probably think I’m crazy, or spend the next five minutes trying to figure out where they know me from.
Tonight as I was getting ready to Skype a friend, my neighbor across the street stuck her head out the front door.
“Olivia, do you want your plate back?” she hollered.
-“Oh sure!” I said, and jogged across the street to retrieve the plate I’d delivered the blueberry muffins on weeks ago.
Lois filled me on her last week and invited me in, but I was waiting on a call and had left all my electronics exposed on the porch, so I stayed in the doorway.
“And oh those – what were they? Cookies?”
“Were delicious! I had my neighbor try them first cuz I didn’t know what they was, but then she told me, and  I had one, and oh, mm mm.”
“I’m so glad you liked them, Lois!” I said.
Lois asked if I might be able to give her a ride to church Saturday afternoon, and I told her to check with me on Saturday because I might be out of town.
“Well sometime, if you’re not out of town, maybe would you want to go to Cap’n D or something?” she asked.
“Oh sure! That would be fun!” I said. I haven’t been to a Captain D’s since I was about 12, and all I really remember is grease and making redneck lemonade with lemons and sugar packets.
Lois looked so taken aback that I wanted to hang out with her I had to say it again for..
“That would be great, really,” I said. Then I also invited her over for s’mores on Sunday nights. I hope she comes!


I also have some exciting adventures coming up. I'm playing in a 24-hour Ultimate tournament raising money for Boys and Girls Clubs. It's at Ohio State, so I'm excited to see the campus and a little bit of Columbus for the first time, and just to get out of Dayton. I'm also carpooling with a very nice *39-year-old* (for the record I have a new most embarrassing story), and I'm signed up to play two shifts in the wee hours with a volunteer shift in between. I love Ultimate, I love doing crazy things and staying up all night, I love meeting new people and I love awesome fundraisers. So I'm sure I'll have some stories about that one. 

This weekend I'm putting my flannel on and going to a square dance put on by the city. This could be interesting. 

Tuesday morning at work I got an awesome surprise while scrolling through my email. I won two tickets to the Downtown Dayton Revival -- a music festival featuring Train, John Legend, Mat Kearney, Andy Grammer, Rusted Root and a whole bunch of people I never heard of. I really wanted to go, but hadn't gotten around to buying tickets, so now I'm really excited.  

And finally, Sept. 13, I will be taking a brief break from work on a Thursday afternoon to do something that exceeds even my definition of crazy. I'm rappelling down all 26 stories of the Key Bank tower to raise money and awareness for Big Brothers Big Sisters. I've never rappelled before. Now I get that cold-sweat-back-hairs-tingling-stomach-dropping-feeling every time I pass the tower on my way to work and crane my neck around to *try* to see the top of the building. Yikes! 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Dayton and the professional life

Dayton has lots of fun things to do.

For instance, last Sunday, Abbie and I came home from church after getting an early lunch at Panera to find our neighborhood flooded with unfamiliar cars.

"What's that truck think he's doing parking in front of our house like that?" Abbie asked.
It was pretty soon apparent that truck, along with the 50 or so other cars lining our street, were attending a rare community event just up the street: an estate auction, a.k.a. the Olympics of people-watching.

Sidenote because I'm watching time-delay Olympics: It has occurred to me that if Usain Bolt were a Frisbee player, he could catch his own endzone passes from the opposite side of the field. I'll have him on my team, thanks very much. "I show de world I am best." That's right buddy, you sure did.

"You want to go?" Abbie asked, grinning.
"Duh!" I said as we both hopped out of the car.

The auction began at 11, so we were more than an hour late, and they were just getting to the good stuff. A hot dog truck was parked in front of the house.

"Aw man, we should have just gone here for lunch!" I said, checking out the prices and getting hungry again by the smell.

We followed the sound of sweet deals around to the back of the house where a tent was set up in front of the garage. At least 50 people were crowded under the tent in a semi-circle around the auctioneer's table. Behind him, auction minions mined treasures untold in the garage.

As we walked up, a barbie classic Chevy was up for bids.

"Who will start the bidding for this priceless-Barbie-car-a-True-piece-of-automobile-memorabilia-Don't-wanna-pass-this-up can I get a TEN-ten-dolla-ten-ten howbouta FIVE-five-gimme-five-here's-a-FIVE! Five-here-gimme-seven-and-a-half seven-and-a-half?-we-gotta-five-here and SEVEN! 10-now-gimme-10-ten-TEN? Sold seven dollars to number 146!"

And just like that, the late-thirties-something man sporting long scruffy sideburns and a bright orange NASCAR shirt with holes in the armpits standing to my right became the proud owner of Barbie's first car.

"More stuff I don't want," he mumbled under his breath, adding the car to a stack of loot including a child's bike, a baby doll stroller, a vintage coffee grinder, and a car-battery-powered tire pump.

As the minions showed off a vast collection of antique board games on the auction table, I caught a look around the group. Attending estate auctions seems to be a multi-generational family affair in Dayton. A grandmother sat in a plastic patio chair (no doubt acquired earlier in the sale) with her granddaughter retrieving her purchases. A father stood with his arms resting comfortably on his middle-school aged son's shoulders, he and his three sons all dressed in heavy boots. Leaning against the garage and so inconspicuous I didn't notice him until he'd bought up a small fortune's worth of aged household items. Dressed in black cargo pants, a utility belt and a thin black frocket tee with a face that looked like he'd never heard of sunscreen ... or shaving cream, he looked exactly how I'd expect an antiques dealer not to.

In addition to providing wild entertainment in the range of characters present, the auction made me introspective as each item brought up for sale expanded my picture of the person it once belonged to, assuming their former owner has passed on. A collector's edition, but unassembled model steam engine, a nearly unused food processor, an industrial-strength french-fry press, a child's toy cash register. Grandkids? Crafty? Foodie? Modestly wealthy, but too busy to appreciate it? What would people wonder about my life if all my stuff were lined up on tables and presented to the world as items of great worth to be obtained for a steal?

Thunder rumbled lightly in the distance and sprinkles started to tickle our shoulders, so we decided to tear ourselves away from the spectacle and walk home.

Another fun thing to do in Dayton, but that I haven't yet tried, is to eat lunch on courthouse square during your work week. Or at least, that's how it's pitched in the weekly downtown e-newsletter. I'm hoping to take advantage of this when the weather turns a little cooler, as I don't want to miss the opportunity to perhaps rendez-vous with a few friends who work downtown and maybe enjoy a really terrible Pearljam cover band or something.

If you're free Wednesday nights, you can wander down to Yellow Springs for a night of "Brains are Sexy" trivia conceived by Ultimate-Frisbee-master-and-admitted-hippie-but-the-nicest-guy-you'll-ever-meet Todd to compete with regulars such as the rowdy "Go Home and Hug Your Little League Trophy," complete with little league trophy, or the less-disruptive "Drunk People At the Bar," who tend to make out surprisingly well considering their self-professed state of mind.

For business lunches, the Dayton Racquet Club offers the best in ambiance of the whole dang town. Situated on the 29th and highest floor of the Kettering Tower -- Dayton's largest and most prestigious skyscraper -- the view and the sweet potato fries beg me to return often.

When it turns cold, I hope to take advantage of the public ice skating rinks found everywhere there is water because OH YEAH I KEEP FORGETTING I live where the ponds freeze up. Except maybe not this one:

My final occasional pleasure in my semi-professional existence is as much as source of perplex-dom as joy.
Coffee meetings are a regular part of my work-week, and not being a coffee-drinker, I've spent some time evaluating coffee-shop menus to determine what drinks will be least offensive to my palate. For a while I played it safe with the iced chai latte, but recently I've branched out to the caramel frappacino, discovering that it about as closely resembles coffee as post-facial-reconstruction-and-skin-bleaching-Michael-Jackson resembled his teenage heartthrob self. But with this intrepid foray into the world of liquid dessert comes the age-old question:

"Would you like whipped cream with that?"
-"Excuse me? Is that even a question?" I respond. Do I look like the type to turn down the taste of frothy heaven that is coffee-house whipped cream?
But here's my frustration. When I answer yes, they seem to take that as permission to spoil the treat by putting it on top my drink. I then take the drink from the counter and turn to meet and greet whomever it is I'm meeting, but my mind is on one thing. How do I get the deliciousness into my mouth without wearing it as a supplement to my makeup? Where's my spoon? You can't inhale whipped cream through a straw, and while my mouth is large enough to swallow up the impressively swirled cream mountain in one pass, I'd like to preserve my inkling of credibility.
Would I like whipped cream with that? Why absolutely! But next time, can we skip the cup and deliver it straight to my mouth? You know, late-night-refrigerator-raid-style, unmediated, straight from the can?

... I'll never be an adult.

Here's another funny -- but completely unrelated -- story about me trying to pass for a professional: This Thursday I was on the phone interviewing a source whom I'd never met nor seen a picture of, nor she of me.
After twenty minutes of questions, followed by furious typing and mindless noncommittal murmurs of understanding to fill the awkward silence while I hammered the keys to keep up with the quotes, I asked my final question.
"And in what year did you found the company?
-"1985, which is before you were born, isn't it?"
I laughed. "Is it really that obvious?"
-"Oh yes. You're what, 21 years old?"
Blown away, I nearly dropped the phone. "How did you know?"
-"You say the phrase 'very cool' a lot."
Frrealz? Just that and she knew? I resolved to drop my voice two octaves for all future phone interviews, and perhaps substitute a computer-generated picture of me in 10 years for my company photo.

That's all for now!

Friday, August 3, 2012


I realized yesterday that I want to get an A in my job. I've been conditioned since I was 10 years old to work for a grade, and measure my effort by the grade. Since they were so motivating for me, I find myself missing graded evaluation at work. I'm kind of insecure about my job performance anyway (friends can attest to the fact I thought I was doing a mediocre job at my summer internship last year ... when it turned out my editors were very pleased). But the job is going really well, and I got good feedback on my first six weeks from my bosses, so I'm excited to keep improving in all areas. 

Here's a look at my last two weekends in pictures:

Pre-Road Trip Anticipation Face ... at 1 a.m.

Amish Country! In Goshen, IN

Mt. Baldy! Never thought Lake Michigan would remind me so much of the Outer Banks

atop of Mt Baldy, all covered in sand, I lost my poor meatball...

Balloon launch at the Elkhart County Fair

We enjoyed this beautiful sunset from the ferris wheel. 

Mom came up for a delightful weekend visit last weekend.

One of the fanciest restaurants in town sent me this gift card for starting my new job. So Mom and I went there when she visited me. 

Say goodbye to productivity. 

Suspenders! Someone who shares my appreciation for them. 

Two cheese coneys from Skyline... not really my favorite actually. 

Really cute jewelry at 2nd Street Market. 

Delicious brunch from 2nd Street Market. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

It's only work if somebody makes you do it

Compliments from old people are my favorite.
You know they're not trying to get something out of it, and they're usually uninhibited enough to say exactly what they're thinking. Like the time a 63-year-old man told me I "exuded athleticism."
Or like yesterday, when I tried my hand at mowing the lawn for the first time ever.
Hey, I have four brothers. It would be a crime if I'd mowed the lawn with all those strapping boys around.
Thanks to what's apparently the worst drought this area has seen in like forever, our lawn was dead for the first month of living here. I was fine with that.
Then last week the skies opened and despite all we'd done to neglect our yard, it turned green and grew a foot.
So I called mom.
"How do you mow the lawn?" I asked.
Mom talked me through step by step as I rummaged around the garage for a gas tank, topped off the mower and revved the engine.
I may or may not have used the mower where a stump remover would have been more appropriate a couple times, but otherwise my first mowing experience was uneventful. No cleats required, although I struggled a few times against inertia on the slight hill next to our sidewalk. As I rounded out the last row, I realized I didn't know how to turn it off. My hands had been glued to the handle since I first yanked the cord. I let go and it magically puttered off, and I realized I had two bulging blisters on my right hand.
I looked at the tall grass next door.

I went to Judy's porch and rang the bell.
"Can I mow your lawn?"
-"Aw sure, how much do you want for it?"
"I don't mind to just mow it. I'm already out here and sweaty cuz I just finished mine."
-"Yeah I saw you out there. You looked real cute."


I guess my mowing brings all the boys to the yard.