I recently was discussing with a friend all the things we wish we knew in our 20s. We compiled a brief list and I am going to be blogging about our hard won nuggets of wisdom.
In grade school we see everyone as a potential friend. A classroom is perfect for learning to socialize, which is the secondary purpose of schooling. All the little boys and girls are same age also looking for friends. It is a happy land of fun. We are grouped with others until the age of 22 when we leave college. Then we have to go out into the mythological real world and try to be an adult.
One of the most important things you will need to know before stepping foot into your cubicle is others do not automatically like you. That whole strangers are just friends you haven’t met is no longer true. You are a young thing being released into the wild, office predators see you as easy prey. At first you might view your new co-workers as potential happy hour companions and dating possibilities. Nope-no way-no how. Strike that down.
Happy Hour is Not always So Happy
This is what happens at happy hour-you talk smack about the people who aren’t there. Somewhat like the high school cafeteria. Those friendly cocktail drinkers do this so you will pledge loyalty to the group. After all, no one wants to be gossiped about. You will be a topic of conversation at one point or another, so don’t worry about it. The people who do the most social investing in happy hours usually do not want to go home to their cats or nagging spouse. A few times it might be fun, but do not talk about anyone at work. The group gossiper-there will always be one-will not relay the context of your remark, just what you said. You will come across badly and the gossiper can insert themselves into the bad blood to bask in the juicy details. Gossipers love the back and forth because they have no excitement in their lives.
You think life after college is all cocktail parties and lovely older men. It can be, but for those not experiencing this they want someone to pay a price for their growing bitterness. If a co-worker makes a comment about you, do not engage. Step away; it will look badly on you. Be friendly however. Eat cake at office parties and laugh at jokes. Do you best to keep the banter inside the office walls.
Ben from IT May Have a Big Mouth
There is an expression which says do not dip your pen in the company ink. This means do not date a coworker. Sure, it may be like shooting a fish in a barrel at your current place. This should not be a dating option for a number of reasons. The first is being the lack of privacy. You will never get a break from your datemate. There needs to be a distinction from work and home to avoid burnout.
You will love the initial flirting and the secret bond you share, but the second it starts going South everyone will know. Even the people you thought only stared at the clock will know. Grown adults at work are bored and quietly watching each other. Then you have to endure the gossiper asking questions and the knowing looks. If you break up, the tongues will be wagging. No one wants to see their ex-boyfriend, let alone in a stressful environment on a daily basis. He/she might retaliate and say nasty things that will stay in your coworkers subconscious until you leave. If you still pine for your ex-, you will have a constant reminder and will definitely hear about their new partner. There is only one way to avoid the drama, don’t start any.
How to Make Non-work Friends
If your world revolves around work then you need to get some outlets. Find local groups or buy a dog to walk around with and use the creature as conversation starter. All you need is two outside of work friends to hang out with and be normal around.
One thing we are not taught in school is how to have boundaries at work. In school the teacher maintains the discipline and seats you away from where you will talk. People get fired for a number of things, talking more than working is one of them. The jokey emails and flirts can be used against you when they want to get rid of you. Sobering truth time: hr makes a paper trail on you the moment you start working so they can have enough evidence to fire you later on if needed. Company email is not private and the higher ups can say you were wasting company time. You were wasting company time. Be productive, be friendly, but keep your distance.
Yes, some people meet their soul mate or best friend at work. There are more people who meet the gossiper, had bad relationships that everyone found out about or was put on probation for wasting company time. You have co-workers, not potential friends.
I was having dinner tonight with A, my friend. Our busboy settled into a conversation with us about how hard it is being in your 20s without family or supportive friends. White knuckled is how I spent my twenties. Many lessons were learned and I passed on my wisdom to the kid. He found comfort in two women listening to him with empathy.
On the way home A and I launched in a discussion into the tribulations of being 20 something girls. We had different experiences, yet we had enough of common. I wondered what other people wished they knew when the adult world is both terrifying and delightful.
What do you wish you knew?
What was your biggest mistake?
I wrote this last night before the DP came out. Funny how the universe works. I have an appointment to turn my dog into Courtney Love for the 4th of July fireworks, so I will answer when I get back. Please let me know your experience and I will share mine.
I always thought sculpture was not truly art. It was the dentist/chiropractor of the art world. Met the qualifications, but no one took it seriously. Two summers ago, I went with my London family for two weeks to Paris. My sister-in-law rented a flat in the 16th district. She is type A so we marched around Paris until I thought my feet were bleeding. We came to the Rodin museum and for the first time I became enraptured by sculpture as perhaps the purest form of art. I walked around the house mesmerized by his sketches and pieces. Rodin was a genius and his house is like a portal to another realm. In the garden, my s-i-l and I had lunch. It had been fairly normal, except for a bee that was out to get me, when we had a very honest conversation about life. It was the first time we exchanged private information.
When I think of the Musee Rodin I think of the beauty of sculpture and the communication that allows others into our private world.
I wish, more sometimes than being immortal, I could fly using peacock wings. White wings are for angels and brown wings are for a sparrow. I am eccentric and I am not ashamed about it. My feathers would be rich blue and shocking green. Over the traffic in Miami that gives me anxiety and the ocean separating me from my London family, I would glide on the wind. This fantasy feeds my need to be independent and frugal.
My parents and guests are discussing the Omakis. Most Ticans will only discuss foreigners after a few drinks. Champagne emanates from the room. Father and The Diego discuss their business dealings with Omakis. I know we have to allow some outside business in, but these men and their families are a threat to our national security. If another waves of sickness falls on the island, The Diego, would be blamed on him for having allowed them in. During his weekly radio address, he asks the people to tolerate them as a way of creating prosperity. Our leader echoes this sentiment tonight, but the table still laughs at their sunburns, which never seem to go away. Mother says it is the charitable thing to do to teach them how to make sun cream, then she bursts into laughter. Noor implies after our coffers overflow, we will return them to their homelands, “Tica for the Ticans” they toast.
Mother and The Noor venture to the library making me run to catch them in the next room. They were both Art History majors at Graciella University a few years apart, so Mother is eager to show off our pieces for official approval. The kings of the family collection include a Dali, a Picasso and a Rodin.
“Oh darling, you have a sketch of Gala, how impressive,” Noor fawns.
“Not as impressive, I’m afraid, as a genuine wax vow from a Pope,” Mother replies as hints of envy-iron- tickle my nose.
Wax vows are a popular thing here. Followers of Saint Rocco make wax molds of the parts of their body that the saint has cured, parading them through the streets on his feast day. The first Omakis on the island ran with terror when the body parts waved in the air. One old Omaki woman died on the spot thinking we had turned savage. I think it is a beautiful custom, to have one from a pope must be very lucky.
“Thank you. That one is staying with me when we retire. I do wish people appreciated creativity here and did not think of it as another shade of stupid or lunacy,” Noor says.
“Oh I agree. I hear the mural of The Diegos is beginning. Your husband must be flattered.”
“Well, I am paying for it myself. We want to get the people more involved with art. I am making it my new effort.”
They continue talking about art and lament the lack of local talent. Most Tican artwork is kitschy with subject matters such as fishermen, goat herds and occasional mermaids.
“I am going to tell you something in confidence. It is a matter of national security. Also because your oldest brought up a touchy subject. We need to make sure there are no leaks.”
An annoyed look crosses mother’s face and my nose twitches.
“My husband will be the first Diego to write his political memoirs.”
“Oh, how exciting,” Mother exclaims.
Noor holds up one finger signaling her dominance. “We are bringing in the Icelandic writer your daughter mentioned. How did she know his name?”
“Well,” Mother smooths her hair, “Pluma reads and writes like a woman on fire. I sometimes have to lock the library to get her away.”
“I think that is wonderful. But that does not answer the question.”
I blush at her compliment.
“Pluma reads from all countries. My husband brings her a Omaki paper and there was a big article on Mr. Bondi. She asked for his collection during the holidays.”
“He has won many prizes and he was seeking immunity from his country. We brought him here to write and teach some classes. No one knows about this at the moment. He got into some trouble back home and we do not want any press.”
“What kind of trouble?”
“An accident. They drink like fish over there, I’m surprised they don’t all fall on the ice and crack their heads.”
The men call the women back for a nightcap; I leave my post for bed. I am eager to smell Noor Florianna on my hand. It had been hard not to touch her scent all evening. My sisters, with their petals strewn about, are sleeping in my bed. They must have snuck in after pretending to sleep for Neptuna. I push them over a bit and kneel at my bedside to thank Saint Rocco for a lovely night and to bless my writing. My fingers perch under my nose as I make the sign of the cross. She smells of beer. Breathing again with my thumbs up, I have the strongest flash of my knowing yet.
Beer is from the conditioning treatment she does every night. She is afraid of losing her hair’s luster, the pride of her youth. In my vision, I see her doing this in a deep black marble bathtub, pouring the amber liquid over her head while immersed in white suds. She is afraid of aging-lavender-and longs for her husband not to take another wife. The Diego strolls in, removing his tie, and sits on the ledge of the tub. She smiles for him and prays internally for an heir-sweet grass. They are completely devoted to each other, but they cannot produce an heir and she feels her status is in jeopardy. It always is.
I have no romantic notions about other times. Women used to be domestic slaves not that long ago. They had no say and their sole purpose was have children. In another era I would be a grandmother. Marriage could happen as young as twelve. Little girls had no say because they were property and most were uneducated. The female mind was considered childish and hysterical. Many women were sent away or even hung (Salem witch trials) for being independent and ballsy.
In defense of times passed, I will say I appreciate families sticking together and when a father asked suitors’ intentions right off the bat. There was none of this dating for twelves years without commitment nonsense. It would be nice to romanticize that fathers were great back in the day, but humans are never particularly great. At least in this day and age we have more entertainment to escape that fact.
I could not live in another time. No one else has a say in my life and I am going to keep it that way.
I have been working diligently on my blog and trying to become part of the community. Everyone here has been so helpful and amazing. You have commented or liked my postings and allowed me to feel welcomed in the blogosphere. It is truly an honor to be included with these ten nominated bloggers.
The rules for both are simple:
- Link back to the person who nominated you
- Display the logo
- Nominate 10 bloggers and let them know that they have been nominated.
These are technically separate awards, but I think you fit into both categories.
I answered a few questions first.
Favorite color – Purple
Favorite animal – Vietnamese potbelly pigs
Favorite number – Not a fan of numerology. If it relates to money, the higher the better, if it relates to anything unpleasant-zero.
Favorite non-alcoholic drink – Chocolate milk. I am that nerd that can’t drink caffeine.
Prefer FaceBook or Twitter – I am new to Twitter, so FB
My passion/s – writing and ruminating
Prefer getting or giving presents – I tend to be a giver, but when I get presents they just fill me with such joy that people who give me things say they love how happy it makes me.
Favorite pattern – I prefer solids, must be a Catholic-no excitement guilt thing.
Favorite days of the week – During the summer every day, during the school year-any day off.
Favorite flower – Any flower that I pick. All flowers are beautiful.
My WordPress family members/rays of sunshine:
The Jittery Goat
Thank you for your time and being wonderful to me. I look forward to commenting on your work.
“It would be so very.”-Heathers
The word very is one of the laziest words. It is an adverb that is overused as an adjective. As a teacher I discourage students from using it in essays. It bothered me so much, I would take five points off for its use much to their dismay. They would see is as an easy way to be descriptive. I wanted them to expand their vocabulary.
The room was very cold. Bad
The room was frigid/arctic/freezing/. Better
That house is very ugly. Bad
That house is gaudy/an eyesore/ hideous. Good
Using very is the same as using curse words to be descriptive. It does show a lack of vocabulary and lack of imagination. Frequent users should purchase some vocabulary cards to acquire some new words.
It is better to look after a thousand goats than one curious girl.-Tican Proverb
My name is Pluma de la Oso and I am almost seventeen years old. I was born under the sign of the mermaid on the coldest day ever recorded in Tica. Tonight is a big night in our family. We are hosting a dinner for El Diego, our leader and unofficial king, at our house. My maid, Neptuna, reminds me that I have less than a year before marriage as she washes my hair and rubs an herbal paste on my round face. Mother makes her do my two sisters and my hair before important functions so the photographers can capture us at our best. Ticans obsess over marriage, social standing and our dual religions; one from the Vatican and the other from the sea.
I want to go to college and leave the island. Imagining the scandal as Neptuna puts my indigo hair in rollers makes my eyes bulge at the delight of starting my life. Neptuna scolds me for making my eyes even bigger and I quickly resume my thoughts. Nothing too bohemian, I want to live for something else besides picking the next house I will be trapped in. My ancestral house is on two hundred and thirty-four acres with purple ivy that covers it all the way down from the fourth floor. Papo, my father, is president of the sugarcane association. Mother wants me to be a political wife, maybe even the future 86th Noor. Our leader can take two wives which we call Noor which means light. Neptuna scolds me to sit still as the rollers singe my scalp.
I am looking forward to smelling The Diego’s wife, Noor Florianna. What not even my family knows is that my nose can inhale emotions. Anger smells of iron, love is a rose, sickness a wet dog, and sadness has the most beautiful fragrance, like fresh grass mixed with honey. Mother suffers from tremendous allergies, so I am not questioned about my sniffs. Sometimes I wonder if Mother can smell as well I do. We both have green eyes with a heavy curtains of navy lashes that soften their larger size. We also share the same rounded faces, small red lips, and hourglass figures. Looking at her is like looking in the mirror. She has two inches of height on me, but I am thinner by three pounds. I know this because Mother has been with her seamstress all day lamenting her weight.
Neptuna instructs me to wash my face and I walk to the bathroom as my sisters begin their beautification. Noor Florianna is an interesting woman; she does not walk in the streets yet is in every newspaper and tabloid. We worship her as if she was a minor deity. I imagine her to smell like lavender candies or a mango custard. Mother after tonight she will have her pick of suitors for me. I don’t know how to tell her I would be happiest living in a little room and writing for the rest of my life. She would not even consider it and might even deadbolt the library. There are certain expectations of me. I don’t really want to do anything but leave, but now there does not seem a way out besides running away. Ernest Hemingway says to write one true sentence a day and the only rebellion I really have is the truth. So today my sentence is sometimes your life is not your own. I would still choose to attend the dinner tonight however. Mother requested that I meet in her closet for a private chat and to check my appearance. I enter and she lights a candle for the miniature Saint Rocco stature which lives next to her shoes. When I was a child, the statue frightened me. Its eyes seemed to follow my every move and it was taller than me for a few years. I used to think it grew as I did. Mother checks my appearance.
“You are to make polite small talk if our visitors address you, otherwise just smile. Do not touch your nose for any reason and make sure your sisters are behaving. I expect big things Pluma. This is a chance for us to move into the political circles.”
“Yes Mother,” I say.
Mother smiles critically at me and ties my dress bow a bit tighter than necessary. She is still upset about the three pounds.
Around the dinner hour, El Diego’s motorcade pulls inside our gate. Please let me be perfect for him I implore Saint Rocco, adjusting the flowers sown into my hair as I watch from the upstairs window. In a swift, fluid movement, his long legs emerge from the stretched car, then he stands to his full seven feet. His green eyes flash as the evening sun hits his face. His wife Florianna comes out next. I count ten pleats on her purple dress and marvel at the height of her bun. My nostrils flare in anticipation.
I fly down the stairs to take my place in the main entrance hall. Mother shoots me an annoyed glance for not setting the best examples for my sister. Papo opens the door and moves a strand of the ivy out-of-the-way, my two little sisters and I curtsy, then present Noor Florianna with orchids, the same as those in our hair; they match her dress as we’ve planned. My hand brushes hers just enough to pick up her essence, but not arouse suspicion.
El Diego shakes our hands and pulls a flower from behind Clarka’s ear much to her delight. The youngest, Ine, has a coin pulled from behind her curls. He pauses before me.
“Ah, yes, Pluma. How are you? Your father tells me you are quite the writer.”
“Yes, I do like to write and read. I’ve discovered an Icelandic writer…”
“Good, good,” he interrupts. “We need a real writer on the island. Too many critics here with nothing to do besides stare at the Omakis.”
Papo guides our guest to the formal dining room. I had his attention for less than a minute and could not detect a scent. I press my lips together and remind myself I have the Noor’s scent on my hand for later. Under calmer circumstances I can just smell the air to get information, but the excitement is throwing me off. Neptuna summons me to the kitchen where we eat a miniature version of the adult’s feast: braised goat in pickled bloodberry sauce and the traditional five side dishes. Ine and Clarka try to convince Neptuna that The Diego is magical. They hold up the torca and flower as proof that he can conjure objects out of thin air. I agree he is more magical than Papa Christmas. Once we have eaten more than Mother would usually allow us, Neptuna leaves me in the kitchen as she leaves to prepare my sisters for bed. I assume my favorite vantage point by the staircase, to see how the visit is going. In Tica, it is considered good luck to house a chinchilla under the main staircase of the home. Any noise can easily be dismissed as being made by the creature. I make sure to feed it plenty of sugar when no one is looking so that it likes me.
Strangers have sometimes been kinder to me than my own family. There have been so many times that a passing face has held a door for me, let me go before them or helped with directions. One stands out the most it came at a time when I felt like a wounded animal hiding from a rival pack. When I was in a neck brace, a woman in the grocery store tucked my tag inside my shirt. Sounds simple enough, but if you have ever in those contraptions it is impossible to move your head let alone get dressed properly. I made so many people uncomfortable at the time because my injury was inconvenient to my job and I had no help at home. This woman most likely does not remember doing that for me.
I have always been fortunate to have some kindness from male strangers-like buying a drink or bumming a smoke- but this was a woman around the same age as me. At the time I felt everyone was against me in my desperately injured state; it was like living a horror movie of violent subtext. I thanked her, a bit jarred because my injury was the result of a hug gone wrong and being touched terrified me. I paid for my groceries and left. I had wanted to give her another glance, but I was awkward enough leaving trying to push a cart even though it hurt.
My neck brace eventually came off and I did four months of physical therapy. She stuck in my head for nearly ten years. It was such a small act, but it meant the world to me at the time. I try to be kind to others in small ways as well. It may come when a timid person just needs a drop of kindness.