Home Is — Where The Heart Is?

Since I graduated from high school in 2006, I have lived in 12 different dwellings, seven different cities, and two different states. My life, during my late teens and early twenties, felt like I was in a constant state of motion. I felt like my things spent most of their time in boxes while I lived in what I planned to be semi-permanent home. Throughout the course of the time I lived there, I was constantly looking for a place where things belonged. For almost eight years, I felt like I was sitting on the edge of my chair, not willing to lean back and get comfortable. I knew once I did, I would just have to get up again.

But then, last month, my fiance and I bought a house.

When we first began discussing the possibility of buying instead of finding another rental that would be big enough for the both of us after our wedding, I thought it was almost too good to be true. Buying would mean no more moving, at least for a while. And that kind of comfort, to me, was invaluable.

Don’t get me wrong. I have loved every second of exploring new cities and trying my hand at decorating new spaces. But while I love adventure and spontaneity, I like to go out and find it, then return home. Being unwillingly thrust into a constant state of adventure has always been unsettling for me.

Every time I moved and had to go through the process of changing my address, finding nearby grocery stores, learning how to work the new shower (this can be strangely difficult).

I would feel a familiar rush of a mix both excitement and frustration. While it was invigorating to have this fresh start, it was hard for me to remain excited knowing that sooner or later, I would be packing up and shipping out just to go through the same motions in a new place.

I assumed that when we bought a home, all these unsettled feelings would just pack up and ship out themselves. I imagined myself signing those closing papers and feeling this weight of uncertainty and wandering float up off my shoulders.

But that didn’t happen.

I comforted myself with thoughts that maybe I just needed to be in the house knowing it was mine.

But when we pulled in the driveway and walked through the door, the feeling remained. It still didn’t feel like I had a real home.

For the next few weeks I kept waiting for it to hit me. I am a homeowner and I am going to live here for a very long time. I waited through move-in day and the unpacking of boxes. I waited through our first dinner in the dining room and through filling the empty cupboards with our favorite foods. I waited through hanging our art on the walls and filling the shelves with photographs of the faces of our family and friends.

I waited and waited but the feeling never came. The weight never lifted.

Then the other night, in the midst a family emergency and preparing for the blizzard we were about to get, I began to cry. Nick* who was busy preparing dinner put down everything to come over to pull me into his arms. He sat there quietly letting me weep while silently assuring me everything would be OK.

And then it finally, finally hit me.

With him, I had been settled all along. And I don’t mean settled, like “she’s done dating all those losers and is ready to settle down” settled. I mean I realized it’s him, and all the people I love, that create my home. And I already had a place where I belonged when the wandering got to be too much.

I know it’s cliche, proclaiming that home is where the heart is, but it took me a really long time to believe it, apparently.

Throughout these years I believed that if there was one building that I knew I was going stay in for a long time, I would finally feel at home. I was counting on these bricks and walls to make me feel like I had my own place in the world, but they never had that power.

A house a huge part of that white picket fence dream. It’s one of those pieces of the puzzle when we are trying to complete the picture of “having it all.” And while I am so proud of Nick and I for working so hard to get to the point where we are able to financially take this step, I am more proud that we have reached the point in which we are becoming the family who will live in this home. And to me, that feels more like having it all.

So armed with this knowledge, I am going to keep trying to create a home (even though I mostly feel like a little girl dressed up in her mom’s high heels, pretending to be old enough to do this). I am going to continue to print photos and find pieces to make each room our own. I will keep shoveling the driveway and eventually plant flowers so that the outside will look nice from the street. I will clean and fold and prep and nest to make this house as comfy and cozy as I can manage.

But through it all I will remember that, at the end of the day, it is just a house.

And I will reach for my people when I need to feel home.

5 Reasons It’s Annoying to Stay At Your Parents’ House

The following post was written by Lane. For more from White Picket Fence, you can follow us on Twitter.

While about 36 percent of Millennials currently aged 18 to 31 live at home with their parents, I can barely handle a few days in their household.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents. But I love hanging out with them, not living under their reign.

Three days into my 10-day stint at my parents’ house for the holidays, I was already reminded of why I enjoy my away-from-home lifestyle.

I had a dentist appointment. I accidentally slept in that morning — mostly because my parents’ new three-month-old puppies start yipping at 5 a.m. every morning without fail. I woke up at my regular 7:30 a.m. only to drift off until 10:30.

I sluggishly sauntered into my kitchen to eat some Cheerio’s with almond milk, guzzle coffee, and check my email and social media accounts. This process takes a while, because I can’t function whatsoever without a few cups of coffee.

Eventually, I make my way back upstairs to do some quick crunches and pushups before showering. Since I hadn’t washed my hair for three days, I had the displeasure of drying and straightening my hair (this adds like 30 minutes or more to the after-shower process).

After doing my hair and makeup and getting dressed, I was seriously cutting it close.

knock, knock, knock

“Lanie! You’re going to be late!” my mom chimed in.

I was running around trying to find my wallet with my insurance card, which conveniently poofed into thin air. Someone pushing me while I’m trying to be on time certainly didn’t help deplete any stress of being late — and I hate being late.

So in honor of my 10 days at home, I’ve assembled 5 things that suck about staying in your parents’ house…or at least my parents’ house.

1. Having your plans be policed

Same as with being notified that I am late for an appointment that I was aware I was being late to — my parents also sometimes pester me about where I’m going.

Not that it’s a big deal, it’s just weird to be asked where you’re going, what you’re doing, and who you will be with when you’re used to nobody giving a damn.

2. Being required to eat at certain time

OK, so not everybody has a ton of family meals. But in my family, we almost always have family meals.

While family meals tend to reduce behavioral and emotional problems in teens, I’m not a teen. And when I come back into town, I usually have a lot of meals with friends I never get to see.

And I’m not used to telling someone what all of my plans are — so my mom gets like really offended when I’ve made other plans and there was apparently a family dinner in the works.

3. Not my type of food

I’m also lactose intolerant. And while not paying for food is awesome, I’ve never lived in my parents’ household with this digestive problem. Therefore, most of the food in the house was not dairy-free. I had to go buy a bunch of Asian food and fresh fruits and veggies so I could have snacks and lunch.

4. Having a room full of piles of crap

What’s the point of hanging up all of your clothes and putting the rest away in drawers?

I always take the things in my suitcase that will probably look horrible when wrinkled and hang those up. Otherwise, the rest of my crap lies in piles on my desk chair, in my suitcase, and on the floor.

I have my own bathroom too — and there’s definitely makeup and hair products sprawled out all over the place.

5. No car

Usually when I go back to Michigan from Philadelphia, I fly because, well, it’s an 11-hour drive.

My parents’ house sits on three acres and you can barely see any of the neighbors’ houses. The nearest grocery store is about five miles away. Nearest bar? Yeah. Those would be like 10 miles away. One of my friends lives 2 miles away, but most of my hometown buddies dwell in a more populated part of town at least 10 miles away.

Therefore, I spend most of my time begging my mom for her car so that I can go see a friend, pick up some food, or go to the gym.


An Unprofessional Encounter With An Older professional

For more random tweets from White Picket Fence, you can follow our Twitter @WhitePcktFence. For more of Lane’s tweets, you can follow her at @LaneBlackmer.

Five o’clock. My phone rings while I marathon test sit on my new beige sofa, mainly because my work hours had been cut and I was bored. It’s my 33-year-old friend Chris. He’s a bank manager and we’ve been friends for two and a half years. Although he’s in a cheery mood, I go straight to bitch mode and complain about how I can’t stand not having much work lately, how I’ve been looking for new jobs, and how I’m not getting hired for any new jobs. Probably not the pleasant after work call he was expecting.

“Well, you could go to this networking event I’m going to in Center City tomorrow night,” he said, deflecting the negativity.

I turn my mood around when he says this — because I’ve been thinking about networking more. Plus, it’s something that will undoubtedly make me feel productive — and that’s my own personal crack.

I gleefully accept his invitation.

“Good, I’ll email you the invite and we can meet there tomorrow,” he said just before we hung up.

The networking event was in this swanky night club I’d been to once before — not-so-coincidentally with Chris, who loves to party and try to meet hot girls — called Rumor. The place was a former bank vault and had these heavy wheel doors separating rooms, adding some feel of exclusivity. And the private rooms were adorned with stripper poles.

He would want to go to a networking event there of all places, I thought while simultaneously rolling my eyes.

Nonetheless, I liked the idea that the event was for folks of all professions. I usually just attend public relations and communications networking events.

The next day, I paid my $15 to go and chose my outfit — black Calvin Klein pumps and a tight fitted, v-neck black and navy dress that conservatively goes down to my knees. It was an unseasonably warm 60 degrees (this was November) and I knew Rumor was in a basement that tended to get hot, so I wanted to ensure I wouldn’t be sweating all over the place.

I arrive and talk to a couple of people until I finally come across Chris. We chat for a while and he introduces me to a friend of his who is in real estate.

After a few minutes of chatting up Chris’s buddy, I notice Chris talking to a good-looking, middle-aged blonde.

“Finally,” I thought. “Chris is flirting with a girl his age.” Normally, he goes for girls my age who seem to be pretty comfortable with his 30-something, more established bank account and nice condo. He doesn’t seem to mind though, as long as there’s good sex.

After a while, Chris’s girl — we’ll call her *Stacy — sits down with another man near me at the bar. Chris introduces us and walks away to greet another friend of his.

“So what do you do?” I smile at the woman.

“I’m in communications,” she quickly spits out.

“Oh, me too! Well, I’m actually in the process of—“ she cuts me off with a closed mouth smile, says excuse me, and walks off. Stacy makes her way to Chris, then out the door.

Chris immediately walks toward me.

“I see she’s more your age. I think that’ll be good for you. I approve!” I say.

“Well actually, she’s 42,” Chris says.

“She certainly doesn’t look it!” I answer.

“Yeah…” Chris answered. “You know, when we were standing on the other side of the room, I told her you were my friend and I was here with you. She goes ‘well how old is she?’”

He told her I was 24 and there was no other discussion about it. But she still seemed to have it on her mind by the time she sat by me at the bar.

“Anyway,” he continued, “her and her colleague are going to XIX and invited us all to go if we’d like.”

XIX was a very fancy bar on the 19th floor of a very fancy building. It had great views of the city skyline.

So even though I was supposed to meet a guy for drinks in about 20 minutes, I went with Chris and his friend to XIX.

We arrived and I was the first to walk into Stacy’s sight. She over enthusiastically signaled to me from a bar stool with a glass of red wine swinging from her other hand.

“Hi! I’m so glad you all came!” she said in a tone polar opposite of the one she used at Rumor. Then she looked at me: “do you want a drink?”

“No, thanks.” Since I was meeting up with a guy on a sort of date soon, I didn’t want to show up drunk.

“Well…don’t you want water? Or something?” she pestered.

“No thanks,” I smiled and plopped down my jacket.

“I love your bag!” Stacy said.

“Thanks,” I said with a smile. I didn’t want to talk about my expensive plain leather Ralph Lauren bag because I’m not that fashion forward, I don’t care about expensive things (I literally buy all of my things in the sale sections at stores or at outlets) nor do I like discussing money, and I bought it to blend in with working professionals.

So I just stood there. Stacy looked at me as if this was supposed to be a conversation starter and I should have accepted the bait for rich dialogue.

It was kind of awkward.

Nonetheless, everyone began mingling and chatting. I didn’t make myself comfortable since I was going to leave soon anyway. As I stood and cheerily looked on Stacy peered at me.

“Oh, honey, don’t you want to sit down?” she said. “Here. Sit right next to me.”

Turns out, when I accepted Stacy’s offer to sit beside her, she promptly turned her back toward me and chatted with the others, cutting me off from any hopes of conversation.

“Lane, what are you doing over there? Come over here,” Chris said, directing me toward where the action was.

“Actually, I’ve got to go,” I said, looking at my cell phone and seeing a text message from the guy I was meeting up with.

I headed out for my sort-of-date and felt confused about my interaction with Stacy.

Chris would later tell me that as soon as I’d left, Stacy talked about how jealous she thought I was of her. He assured her I wasn’t.

Perhaps her comment to my friend was more to assure herself that she’s the superior one.

But who knows — and who cares. I have plenty of older friends — Chris among them — who are over 30. One of my closest female friends is 35. Her and many of my 30-plus buds serve as my mentors and my friends. And I can tell you one thing: none of my older friends have made offhand comments about my age to my face or behind my back to my other friends. In fact, they engaged in meaningful, intelligent conversation when they first met me — and that’s why we’re friends.

I hope that some day, when I’m over 30 or 40 or even 50, I can be a positive female role model, friend, and mentor to my 20-something counterparts. God knows they need it.

Allison’s 20s Mistakes

Every week, White Picket Fence picks a topic. This week’s topic: mistakes made in your early 20s. The following is Allison’s response. For more updates from WPF, follow us on Twitter: @WhitePcktFence.

I am going to cheat a little bit this week and piggy back off Lane’s piece. I am definitely agree with her that, as Millennials, we can do a lot more if we learn from each other’s mistakes — rather than blame our parents, our peers, or ourselves — for not achieving our dreams yet. And with that, here are three things I wish I could tell 19-year-old me.

Seriously, you don’t know everything.

Most people joke about how six year olds can work an iPhone while grandma can’t even turn on her desktop PC. It’s cute and often comes from truth, but I think people often take it too seriously when they enter the workforce.

I most definitely made this mistake. And I have watched many of my peers make it too. We come in to the work place knowing technology. We understand social media, we can edit photos and video, we know at least some basic coding. Technology is our language.

We impress our boss once by showing them how we made something, flashier, prettier, more efficient and BAM, we think we can run the place.

And while knowing how to use these tools is a very useful skill set to have, it can’t make up for the years of experience the people above you have under their belts. Sometimes, as Millennials (or probably just as young people), I think it is hard for us to accept that no matter how much technology we have, we are going to have to wait to have that seasoned sense of business.

At my first job, I had a boss who praised my use of technology often. It made me cocky and when she would ask me to do things I didn’t want to do, I wouldn’t refuse, but I sure would grumble to myself that she didn’t know what she was talking about and that I could do this better and faster, some other way. This lead to less-than-stellar work on projects I didn’t deem “worthy” of my time. Luckily, I didn’t get in trouble because she was awesome at reigning me back in, but I certainly could have been easily reprimanded by someone with less patience.

I remember the exact moment when I finally understood this lesson. I was at a social media conference at the headquarters of the non-profit I worked for at the time. I was speaking with someone very high up in administration at the organization when he asked me something along the lines of, “well how do we use social media to communicate?”

I remember telling him, for our generation, social media and the Internet are like the phone. It’s just something you use. It’s not something that we consciously plan to communicate with. We just know it’s there and pick it up (so to speak).

In that moment, social media clicked for him. And something else clicked for me. I was totally right. Social media, the Internet, technology they are just tools. It’s how you use them that’s important.

Sure, he and I can both pick up a phone and dial numbers. But this man could pick up a phone and talk a donor into a million dollar donation, he could pick up the phone and organize a fundraiser, he could pick up the phone and really help the cause.

So learn from me. Knowing technology is awesome and not something you should skip in your education. But remember that you are really just learning to use the phone. Don’t be so proud of this that you forget to learn from those with experience. The strategies and lessons they can teach you are beyond priceless.

Just because your boss doesn’t understand “the Twitter” doesn’t mean he or she can’t give you some great insight once you explain the concept (and what a hashtag does).

Don’t make decisions for your life, based on anyone else’s measuring stick.

Hey kids, bad news. Peer pressure does not stop after high school.

Social media has become the ultimate form of peer pressure. And man, does it lead to some poor decisions.

When I graduated from college, I knew I just had to move to Chicago. It’s all I could really think about. Was there a company I wanted to work for there? Nope, not in particular. But man oh man, did I know I had to get there.

If you had asked me why, at that point, I would have told you it was because I grew up less than two hours from the city and loved it and also because my sister and one of my best friends lived there.

If I was truly honest with you though, it was because I thought it was the only way to live the dream. Visions of posts on Facebook of photos with the city lights behind me and check-ins to great bars danced through my head. There I was, posting away with an air of “it ain’t no thang,” because I lived there, and it was my everyday life. Because I was cool.

As you will remember however, city life wasn’t all I envisioned it to be. And on top of this particular pressure I felt about needing to live in the most posh of metropolises, I was also feeling – due to Facebook – that I should be nearing my happily-ever-after romantically.

When Nick and I hit a few, what I considered, standstills, we would call it quits for the time-being. During these times I would make decisions that I would look back on with regret. I kissed a few boys I didn’t really want to kiss. I flirted with boys who I found extremely dull. I stayed out later than I wanted and drank more than I should. Because damnit, if I wasn’t on my way toward the aisle, then I would certainly be living The Best Single-Girl Life Ever. Pictures and all.

As you know, I couldn’t hack it in the city. It wasn’t for me. But Nick was. And after working through our conflicts I am on my way toward my “happily-ever-after” (with quotation marks on purpose… you know the theme of this blog, right?).

The more comfortable I become living by my own standards and thinking less about how I can live up to everyone else on the Internet, the happier I become. It’s still not perfect, but I am getting there.

And whenever I see a post like, “Everyone is having babies except me?” or “When will I have true love,” (both of which I have seen in the last week), my heart breaks for the poster because I know the feeling of inadequacy. But it’s easier when you try to remember that those things are on someone else’s timeline right now. It will probably be on yours someday, but don’t measure your life next to someone else.

Take care of your body now

This is a mistake I still struggle with. So hopefully, I can take my own advice. But it’s simple: don’t forget you are not invincible.

Don’t skip exercise. Get enough sleep. Eat healthy foods. Drink in moderation. Go to the doctor for preventative care, not just when you get sick.

Because you can (and will) get sick. Not just physically but mentally.

A lot of times, I am so busy trying to make my dreams come true, that I neglect my health. In these times I get run-down and anxious. I get irritable and less efficient. And I spend more time at the doctor than I really would like to admit

I tend to give my excuses like, “I’ll sleep when I’m older and my friends don’t go out every night,” “My metabolism is still fast,” “I’m too young to get X.”

But none of these things are necessarily true. And if they are then I am still doing damage to my body now. And not helping myself achieve anything really.

So I wish I could go back and tell my younger self that it’s okay to skip a night out and that putting down that last beer really will do you a world of good tomorrow. But for now, I just have to keep remembering it going forward.

My 20s Mistakes That You Could Learn From

Every week, White Picket fence picks a topic. This week’s topic: mistakes you made in your early 20s. The following is Lane’s response to the topic. For more updates from WPF, follow us on Twitter: @WhitePcktFence.

By now, Millennials are used to the never-ending waves of critics flooding all platforms of media and demolishing any halfway decent wall of self-esteem 20-somthings have built up in order to weather the storm.

I guess what’s also coming in waves, which prompts older generations to criticize mine, is the continuous falling short of Millennials — by living with their parents longer than usual, working in a coffee shop instead of a corporation like their college education trained them, and delaying growing up.

Despite my best efforts, things haven’t turned out as planned. I’ve joined the countless ranks of young adults trying to take refuge from inadequate feelings because I’ve fallen infinitely shorter than I should have.

I always wonder where I went wrong, given that I was doing what adults were pushing me to do (and patting me on the back for, when I was in college).

It’s easy to forget that tsunamis are caused by something unsettling the water — an earthquake, volcanic eruptions, nuclear war.

Regardless of what caused the Millennial shitstorm of inadequacies and occasional panic attacks about things not being as they should, one thing has become increasingly clear to me: people are too focused on pointing fingers at Millennials when they screw up instead of trying to help them learn from their mistakes.

Failures, while they’re sometimes costly, give way to the biggest growth spurts — especially in adult life.

And some of my early 20s mistakes were literally costly.

Always keep track of your spending and earnings — AND MAKE A BUDGET

When I was in my late teens and (very) early 20s, I thought money grew on trees. I never had a job in high school, besides being a summer nanny and cleaning my grandparents’ houses, but I did have one the first summer after college.

I was a hostess. I probably made $7 an hour.

My junior year, I thought it would feel gratifying to use my heaps of money earned at that job to pay my own bills and buy my own books in college. Prior to then, I always told my parents how much all of those things cost so they could help out.

No longer! It was awesome…until when my dad checked my bank account at the end of one measly semester and told me I was $1,000 in debt with my bank for overdrawing my account.

“Don’t you check your account online?” he said.

“I didn’t even know you could do that,” I replied, dumbfounded.

My grandpa would give my brother and I a heap of Christmas money. That year, mine was used to pay back overdraft fees and excessive spending.

I started looking at my bank account often online. I then knew when I had to transfer money from my savings to my checking, I knew how much I was earning (and how fast it went), and I could see how much I was spending.

The beauty of checking all of this is that you know where you can cut excessive spending out. That sparked me to start budgeting.

But I’m still not perfect. I’ve had a few other mishaps here and there. For example, I had to close my Michigan Bank of America account and re-open it in Pennsylvania. I, embarrassingly, wrote a large rent check — not realizing it was from the old, closed account. That was the day I bounced my first check and almost lost an awesome apartment.

But now I know — when you close a bank account, it’s time for a game of search and destroy with checkbooks.

Build credit while you’re really young and it’s still easy

Speaking of finances, I still don’t have a credit card. I never got one when I was younger because all I heard was adults saying “credit cards, BAD!” This was likely because so many youngsters get themselves into debt because they think using the card is like using Monopoly money.

Adults really should have been saying “credit cards, for gas and groceries only. Then pay that off every month.”

I’ve been rejected from apartments because I have no credit. My parents usually have to cosign with me. And the worst part is that I can’t even get approved for a credit card because I have no credit.

Stop spending too much time dating guys who don’t matter

Dating guys who I know it won’t work out with or who I don’t even necessarily like is a perpetually bad habit of mine.

When I was younger — a teen and a tiny stretch of my early 20s — I didn’t know any better. I started dating guys who I’d look back on and not understand why I started dating them.

By 21, BAM! I was blessed with the foresight to know a relationship was going to fail, wasn’t worth my time, or that I wanted to like someone more than I actually did.

Inner monologue in this situation goes like this: “but he’s so nice! He’s a great guy! Exactly the kind I should want to be with! Maybe if I ride it out, his shortcomings will be OK or he’ll start to do better.”

Spoiler alert: the shortcomings never went away in any relationship I’ve had (and I’ve had a lot).

I don’t really know if I’ll ever find someone who I can stand for the long haul, but I know after giving up a great guy who I didn’t actually love was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I wouldn’t have been happy married to someone who is nice and wonderful, but who had shortcomings I couldn’t accept.

It’s not worth being a fixer or not being able to give up because you hate failure. When it comes down to dating in this circumstance, you’ll always lose — and you’ll be more hurt when you let things go too long, get attached, and breaking up isn’t your choice.

Don’t be too afraid to try

I worked my butt off in my early 20s just out of college doing journalism — which I ended up hating. I was a freelancer, but I didn’t apply to enough fulltime jobs because I wasn’t qualified for the ones I wanted.

Now that I know I’d like to do PR, communications, digital media management, or marketing (I guess I’m still deciding), I’ve taken a few approaches I wish I would have earlier.

Not only have I networked more for jobs (going to industry-related happy hours and conferences), I’ve actively tried to further my education by attending webinars and conferences. And I did something that, for me, used to be unheard of: I requested an informational interview at a place I’d like to work.
I never really thought about informational interviews before, but regardless of the outcome, it’s a good way to get yourself out there in the industry and learn more about the industry and the company.

From age 22 a little bit into 24, I was too afraid to make a big move and get my ass into gear because I kept telling myself that I was educated in journalism, therefore I’m not qualified for public relations. Little did I know that it’s not about big moves, it’s about tiny steps of progress.

Consider your parents’ opinions, then do what you want

When I was 21 and halfway through an internship that felt very much like an actual job, I faced a dilemma. There was some unprofessional behavior directed toward me by more than one of my bosses. They set me up for failure by doing things like not emailing me with my list of assignments until Tuesday afternoons (when, in my opinion, this should have been done Monday mornings at the latest), rejecting several news stories by saying they were uninteresting, when the person who claimed it was uninteresting was the one who assigned it to me (also, in my opinion there should have, instead, been revisions sent), and refusing to answer any of my emails, calls, or texts.

My parents just said to “take it” because making your boss unhappy isn’t a good idea.

I was let go early and interviewed by corporate to see what was wrong. When I told the corporate HR employee what had happened she said “why didn’t you tell me about this earlier? I just would have reassigned you to a different group.”

This wouldn’t be the last time my parents gave me what I considered bad career advice. I’ve learned that, yes, my parents are 58 and have had plenty of experience. However, some things have changed since their day, I’m in a completely different line of work, I live an urban life on the East Coast as opposed to their suburban Midwest lives, and I’m an individual — what’s right for me may not be right for them.

It was hard to write off my parents at times. Sometimes they’re offended by it. Sometimes I am scared of what’ll happen if I don’t listen. But by now, I should be trusting in my own expertise on adult life. And if I fail, it’ll only make me more experienced in growing up.

Did you make any of these mistakes in your 20s? If not, what were some mistakes you made?

WPF Guest Post: She Passed Central

Every Friday, White Picket Fence posts a piece from a guest blogger. Friday pieces can follow the week’s topic or be any form of expression relating to our blog’s theme. The following is from guest blogger Kevin. To get more updates from WPF, you can follow us on Twitter here: @WhitePcktFence.

She passed Central. Central? When did she pass Central? There went 17th Street. Maybe a minute ago. Good. The freeway was faster, but she always took Baseline. It was a straight shot. Less stress.

She turned on the A/C. Had she fed Dog? He was too fat anyway. So was she. When had she first noticed the seat belt feeling uncomfortable across her fat belly? At least men didn’t cat call anymore. She missed that. It had been terrible, but she missed it.

Wasn’t there a sales report due today? An icy moment. No. It’s Monday. What happened to her this weekend? Don’t think about it. What her wallet could afford, her body could handle. Not really. She needed to stop drinking again. Longer this time.

The car ahead was passing too slowly, she was trapped between a median and a sidewalk. A tunnel of incompetence and lackadase. A Sentra and some shitty truck. Fucking nobodies with nothing to do but get in the way. 51st. Perfect! She was late now.

How was she hungry again? She’d eaten. When? She would grab something in the lobby. The double chocolate muffin. Nothing could beat double chocolate before noon. She would eat it before she got to the elevator. Everyone always stares.

Even Leticia. Her body was perfect, and she’s over forty. She doesn’t judge, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to ask her where she works out. If Leticia was her work out partner, she would never let her gym membership die of loneliness. Why does Leticia date that idiot? What’s his name? It doesn’t matter. He’s a moron, and he obviously has no idea what to do with her. Too bad. Leticia. God, she’s incredible.

Three years ago, maybe it was four, they had ended up in her office, on that elegant red couch she’d bought. No one but Leticia cared enough to go out of pocket for personal taste at the office. They had been drinking eggnog, sitting close and giggling. She would have said they’d had too many, except that there was a moment, the beautiful, bloated pause. A rare moment when it had seemed possible. Her lips had parted, she leaned toward Leticia, and stopped.

She needed to start going back to the gym. Not this week. Too busy.

Brakes, tires screeching. When had everyone stopped? She hadn’t noticed the red light. Usually, when she was hitting the greens she could get all the way to work without stopping once. Tap, tap, tap, tap. How long had she been drumming the wheel? Her pits were wet. Uncomfortable. Lumpy. Revolting.

A boy in the car beside her was staring. She nodded slightly, he didn’t blink. What a little piece of shit. She checked herself in the mirror. Some hair was out of place. Fuck it.

Suspended in the rearview was a plastic grocery bag.

It moved with grace through the air, in and out of view.

Floating, then falling. A dip and a slide to the side.

Out of view, she turned.

It moved for the joy of its dance. Up, in a spiral, back down. Side to side, dip, slide, spiral.

The angry horn brought her head around fast. Green light for go, and she slowly accelerated. Watching the bag reminded her of a period she had meditated. It had been so good. Things had started to go right during those few months. She would start again. Not this week.

She passed Central. Central?

Thankful for Flint

Every week, White Picket Fence picks a topic. This week’s topic: what are you thankful for? The following is Allison’s response. For more updates from WPF, follow us on Twitter: @WhitePcktFence.

Every year around this time we start hearing about what everyone is thankful for: Friends, family, food, etc. But I am going to take a page out Katrina’s – the writer of ‘Sota is Sexy’ – book and tell you about something not so typical I am thankful for. Don’t get me wrong, I am utterly blessed to be surrounded by a loving group of people, have a smokin’ hot fiancé, and the opportunity to chow down on more than one Thanksgiving feast this weekend, but there is something else that I am grateful for every day.

I get to work in Murdertown, USA.

Record scratch?

Yeah, you read that right. I work in Flint, Michigan, dubbed Murdertown, USA by the New York Times in 2011. And I love it.

Whenever I tell someone – especially people hailing from other parts of Michigan – that I work in Flint, I immediately watch an expression of shock spread across their face.

“Um, wow, what’s that like?” is a common follow up.

And I don’t blame them. The way the media portrays the city is not pretty. And often, the reality isn’t pretty either.

Flint used to be a booming automotive town. The metal arches stretching over the main street read “Flint Vehicle City.” But after the auto industry left the town in the 1980s, unemployment and poverty set in. And as we all know, both of those misfortunes often lead to elevated crime.

But there is so much more to this city than the crime rate.

To be honest, when I first accepted the job here, I was nervous. I had heard the news stories – I even had some friends who were kind enough to post “Most Dangerous City” rankings on my Facebook wall. However, I hadn’t ever felt unsafe during my day-long interview, the job was awesome, and I was finally going to be closer to Nick. I took a chance.

And I am so glad I did. Because now that I work here every day, I am able to spread the word that Flint is not the stuff nightmares are made of. It is a very cool place that, yes, has some issues, but is also growing and thriving.

When friends come to visit from other cities, I love showing off the downtown to them. There are quite a few really awesome restaurants including Hoffman’s Deco Deli (which doubles as a very cool antique shop), The Flint Crepe Company (um, yum) and my personal favorite, Table & Tap, which carries only Michigan craft beer on its 30 taps and has the most delicious barbeque made from local ingredients.

The campus that I work on is smack dab in the middle of the city. It has an urban feel that I really love, and it’s also quite beautiful. At recruiting fairs I’ve worked at, I often get the same question from young women (and a few men)… “Will I be safe on campus?”

And the answers is yes. Well, as safe as you are on any college campus. When I use common sense and take some basic precautions – don’t walk alone at night, know the numbers to Public Safety, etc. – then I feel just as safe as I did when I was a student at Michigan State University. Maybe even more so.

In fact, during the summer, I often venture off campus, and even out of the main parts of downtown to go running on my lunch hour. I always go with a couple of friends, for both safety and the fun factor, but when I increase my speed, it’s so I don’t slow my friends down – not out of fear.

On our runs, I have discovered a number of places I didn’t previously know existed in Flint such as the Flint Institute of Arts which not only houses a beautiful collection of art, but has art classes for both adults and children. Other finds include Atwood Stadium, a cool football field with a long history, the Flint Children’s Museum, and Kettering University.

And sure, there are things I see on our run that make me sad – homes with the front porch falling in, abandon businesses littered with broken glass and burned out signs, buildings overrun with weeds and graffiti – but that doesn’t make me love the city any less. It makes me realize that I need to keep working to improve the city as best I can.

How am I going to do that? Well it starts at my job. I want to help recruit as many quality students here as possible so they can learn and live in this community. Hopefully, as an added bonus they will stay and make cool things and implement awesome ideas.

Secondly, I am getting involved in the community. I am currently on a committee for a fundraiser that benefits the food bank, specifically a program that works to combat hunger for children who live in poverty. When children aren’t hungry they can learn better. And more education leads to more ideas for improving our community, more qualified leaders, and more entrepreneurs.

And lastly, I am going to keep spreading the word. Yes, Flint has its flaws – what city doesn’t? But like other cities, Flint also has its gems – they are just sometimes harder to see right away. Which is why it needs ambassadors like me to stop people from kicking it when it’s down. No, I don’t understand everything that needs to be improved, and yes, I cannot do it alone, but I have been placed in a position to stop the negative talk and help to steer the community in a positive direction.

And for that, I am thankful.


What unusual things are you thankful for?

My First DIY Thanksgiving: A Catastrophe

Every week, White Picket Fence picks a topic. This week’s topic: what are you thankful for? The following is Lane’s post on the topic. Follow WPF on Twitter here: @WhitePcktFence

This will be the first Thanksgiving I’ve ever spent without my family.

Even since I moved to Philadelphia — a whopping 700 miles from my hometown in Michigan — I’ve always boarded a plan for a four-or-five-day turkeyfest slash retreat.

Maybe it was the stress of last year that sparked an inquiry with my mom about whether she’d be that upset with me for skipping turkey day at the homestead — you know, given the fact that I spent 12 hours in PHL airport due to delays. Or maybe it was the fact that my brother, who is away at grad school, isn’t coming home either due to his studies.

But this year’s Thanksgiving has given me something new to be thankful for — and no, it’s not my family. It’s those times when shit hits the fan, otherwise known as “learning experiences.”

Even though Thanksgiving isn’t until Thursday, the proverbial shit already hit the fan for me this holiday season — or at least it felt like it.

After realizing I’d be in Philadelphia for Thanksgiving, I asked my engaged friends Melany* and Aiden* — who don’t have family in the area — if they’d like to celebrate with me.

“We’ll actually be in South America on a trip with some family, but we’d love to celebrate early! Aiden and I love Thanksgiving!” Melany beamed.

First of all, I thought, who doesn’t love turkey. And second of all, I thought this was beneficial for me because I was certain a plethora of friends would pity me, invite me to their family Thanksgiving, and I’d do double duty on the turkey.

Melany volunteered my house not only for a dinner, but for a party.

“And let’s do it on a Saturday. So we can get drunk,” said my 30-something friend. But she had a point. It sounded divine.

We set a date and I invited some friends via Facebook for the gathering. I specified that I would be providing beer, the turkey, a dairy- and gluten-free dessert, a salad, and bread and cheese.

After a good handful of my invitees messaged or replied “no” to the event, I invited more friends because…why the hell not?

Problem. Before I knew it, I had 15 people who RSVP’d yes to my shindig — some of which changed their minds after their original answer. Then the realization hit: I had to provide a cooked bird for 15 people.

Oh shit.

“Yeah, I don’t usually invite more than like five people to a dinner party,” my mom chimed in, a little too late.

I instantly began to panic. Not only was I concerned about having enough food and booze, I was concerned about the cost of throwing such an event as well as seating in my apartment — because my couches had not been delivered from Overstock, despite being ordered two weeks prior.

Instead of working on the Friday before my Saturday early Thanksgiving, I ended up frantically grocery shopping and researching the hell out of portions, how to use turkey brine, how to cook a turkey, how to get adequate seating for my 15 guests, and impromptu decorations.

I made sure to get to Whole Foods by 11 a.m. to get my turkey — in the city, grocery stores with lunch get busy at noon and there’s little parking any time of the day anyway.

I soon discovered that buying a turkey isn’t as simple as pointing to one, grabbing it, and taking it home.

I panicked and called my mom.

“How do I know how big of a turkey to get? What do I cook it in…I can’t use my regular pans and stuff, right? How do I season it? How do I even cook it?”

Apparently, turkey selection works like this: you should allocate a half-pound to each person, you buy brine kits to season it (and a brine kit…or at least the kind I got…meant 24 hours of soaking the bird in juices), you buy a tin pan and bags for the bird to cook in, and a breast (which I bought instead of a whole turkey) is cooked for around four hours.

All I can say is that I’m glad I have a mom and FaceTime. I purchased a 10-pounder,  a brine kit, a throwaway pan, and some foil to put over the top of the pan.

Then came the issue of seating. I sought out cheap floor pillows at a few select locations to no avail. Luckily, Melany owns poufs and a few extra chairs, allowing me to successfully make a decent seating situation at my furniture-less place.

Horray! My seating worked out!

Horray! My seating worked out!

The day of — and before — the event, I was pacing even when I wasn’t doing something productive for my party.

I don’t even know how to carve a turkey! What if someone brings another person and I end up with EVEN MORE people!?

When all my friends arrived — and only 10 showed up instead of the RSVP’d 15 — they were very eager to help. It made me thankful for them.

At one point, as I was attempting to carve the turkey with a regular knife, I said to my friends Taylor* and Delia*: “I don’t want to be a mom anymore.”

They both laughed and told me this is normally a dad job.

Looking back, this wasn’t really the catastrophe it seemed at the time. But I was having a panic attack during the experience. Now, I know better. And not only do I understand how to do this for myself and my own family, when the day comes, but I know a tiny bit about what my mom has been going through while planning this massive event.

At the end of the day last Saturday, not only was I thankful for my friends — some of which even stayed after to help with dishes — but I was thankful I got to see what my mom goes through every Thanksgiving. I was thankful I got to learn how to do something new and how to throw a dinner party. I also learned that a 10-pound turkey isn’t enough for 10 people if you want more than a few scraps of leftover turkey (which I did).

Relationship Status: Engaged

Every week, White Picket Fence picks a topic. This week’s topic: what has happened the past four months during WPF’s hiatus? The following is Allison’s response.

Biggest change since the hiatus began?

Remember this post where I showed off my unadorned left ring finger?

Well, it has some new hardware.

Allison's Engagement Ring

Yep, Nick* and are engaged. Have been for almost three months now. It’s been an exciting, busy and… weird three months.

But, besides all of the planning and money being spent, one of the hardest things for me to come to terms with is the social media dilemma. It seems that posting too much about your engagement on Facebook is a cardinal sin. And according to this post, there are five super offensive types.

Since I actually saw this post via a friend in my newsfeed, I started to get really self-conscious.

I posted my engagement announcement to Facebook. In fact, I posted a few short hours after he popped the question. Everything that evening was such a blur that after I called or texted everyone on the “find out from me” list, I didn’t really think too much of it when he asked if he could upload the picture he had snapped of the two of us showing off the ring. Since he decided to share it with the world, I figured I would too. After that, we left our phones at home to fill up with congratulatory messages while we had a quiet dinner out to celebrate.  Later, I even posted pictures of how he set up my apartment for the proposal. Am I the worst?

I certainly began to feel like I was as I became more aware of those complaining about the social media habits of the betrothed. Even though my reason for posting was to share with the people who love and care about me. Yes, I suppose I could have asked every single one of my friends and family members if they would like to see photos, but just calling my immediate family members and best friends had taken a couple of hours. I have aunts, cousins, friends from high school and college, and former coworkers who enjoy being updated on my life (and I, theirs) and the easiest way to do this is by posting to social media.

By posting I was not trying to make anyone feel bad or brag about my super awesome life. Trust me, I do not feel better than you.

It seems that many of us are very quick to sneer at the recently engaged (and also, pregnant from what I have seen). And I am not going to lie, I was not immune to an eye roll here or there when I would see a “76 Days Until I Marry My Best Friend!!!” post (but mostly because I hate excessive exclamation point use).

It seems to me we should spend more time being happy for one another. If you don’t want to look at it, that’s okay. I’ve been unfriended a time or two without too much emotional scarring. But when we have a chance to celebrate, I think we should take. Sounds a lot better to me that adding more negativity to the world.

And maybe, some people are spiteful out of jealousy. And if this is you, just… I don’t know… chill.

I know, I know, I got the ring. How could I possibly know what it’s like to want it so bad?

Well first of all, since the day he got down on one knee, the change in my day-to-day life has been almost negligible. Most significant changes include, more phone calls to my mother and looking at more sparkly things on the Internet. Yup, that’s about it.

And sure, being committed to by someone you really love is awesome. But his amount of awesomeness is pretty much the same as the day before he did it. To get to this point, we pretty much already had to be there. If that makes any sense.

And secondly, while I am stoked about this big event, there are many other people accomplishing many other things that I am seriously jealous of.

My recently single friend just got a promotion she worked really hard for, she attends extremely kick-ass concerts what seems like weekly, and she is jetting off to Europe in a few weeks. Just because. Am I jealous? Hell yes. Do I sneer? No. Because she is fulfilling her dreams and I am not about to put a negative spin on that.

Other friends post outrageously delicious meals they cook. Say what you will about food posts to Instagram, but I love them. I can’t cook worth a damn, so I like seeing other people’s mad skillz. Jealous? Yes. Sneering? Again no, because it’s awesome to me when someone can create something from nothing.

Still more friends post about their recent 4.0. Personally, I am no longer in school, so I am not jealous per se, but I am also not all “keep those posts off Facebook, no one cares about your GPA.” Because people do care. Family and friends really want to be able to celebrate these moments with everyone, especially on social media when they can’t physically be with said family member. Because that’s what it’s there for.

And yeah, becoming engaged is not a unique situation. Almost everyone will get engaged eventually… but some would say it is an accomplishment. And something they hopefully only do once. So, I mean, just let them be excited. Okay?

So basically what I’m asking is, lay off brides-to-be (and mommies-to-be). We’re excited. Let us be.

Because posts like this make me feel like a huge jerk for planning a party to celebrate something unbelievably special to me. And you know what, that just really sucks. All of us are trying to get through these quarter-life crisis years one day at a time. And whether we are single or married, employed or applying, succeeding or failing, we want to be able to share those experiences with the people in our lives.

So let’s just be nice to each other, deal? And I won’t hate on the 385th picture of your cat if you don’t roll your eyes at my wedding dress post.

P.S. To those who have been sweet and supportive these past couple of months, I cannot thank you enough. You are the reason I don’t swear off the Internet completely.

*Name has been changed

The Crisis Returns

Every week, White Picket Fence picks a topic. This week’s topic: what has happened the past four months during WPF’s hiatus? The following is Lane’s response.

November 2012.

I was a year and a half out of college, well almost. I had been living in Philadelphia — a place I’d never visited until I moved there. The very reason I arbitrarily packed my bags to live 700 miles away from home — to experience something new — was the same reason I felt alone and hopeless in battling the shock waves of a new culture clashing with mine. It was only a year ago that I had deserted the man I thought I’d marry. I began cultivating a small, but promising, start to a circle of real friends. Plenty of work flowing in, despite my being self-employed. The very little money I had was sufficient for paying rent and surviving going out to eat or get drinks a couple of nights a week.

Greetings, from not-so-on-top-of-the-world-Lane. And her dog, Sedona.

Greetings, from not-so-on-top-of-the-world-Lane. And her dog, Sedona.

My situation wasn’t perfect, but I had a good start. Somehow, though, it never seemed like it was enough. I felt like my life was horribly inadequate.

Heart pangs I had experienced accompanied with the anxiety of graduating college returned — though in a much smaller capacity. My mind constantly raced. I nearly always felt as though I was perched on start blocks just before the gun went off in the 200-meter dash. Tears would stream down my face at the drop of a hat. I had always been passionate and emotional, but composed.

Many of my friends in college described me as fierce.

I was no longer fierce.

I began dating someone who I let string me along — for about four months at this point. He gave me a lot of anxiety by not wanting to commit to a label, despite “girlfriend” being just a word to me. He seemed to be paranoid about avoiding the title even though we slept and ate together most nights. And whenever I expressed any genuine caring, he would stare and blink at me. But I let him have his way — despite having invested four months and hoping for mutual feelings of respect, wanting to be around each other, and for things to move forward.

This fueled the anxiety and inadequacy.

To make matters worse, I was finally planning to act on my urges to leave journalism — a pathway that had left me sorely disappointed. But acting was worse. Not only was I uncertain I was fit for anything else, but I was kissing 10 years of career preparation goodbye.

My life was chuggin’ away on the Hot Mess Express and I could do nothing but wave a white hanky and shed a single tear.

2013 was different.

Since I couldn’t live on like this forever, I started this blog with two other friends to vent the frustration all of my similarly-aged friends were conveying — even if their circumstances were vastly different from mine.

Then, I told the guy I was seeing that he either had to commit a little more or say sayonara…he chose to commit.

By April, I was able to altogether quit journalism and transition to a contracting public relations and event planning gig with an acquaintance who started up her own agency. I worked from home, which was a little less than desirable, but it wasn’t journalism. And I felt like it was the change in pace and challenge I needed.

Despite my breakup with the non-relationship relationship guy, I was still in a pretty good place.

When White Picket Fence began its (all too long) hiatus, I was on top of the world. I felt like I could advise my 20-something counterparts by saying things like: Don’t worry! It’s OK! You’ll find yourself as long as you give it time! You just need to realize that your path is individual and as long as you’re forward moving in your career and developing your dating skills, you should just enjoy the ride!

I even had a great moment in how I reacted to breaking up with a guy I dated briefly.

This guy told little white lies and said “so what? It’s not like it’s a lie if it’s about something that doesn’t matter.” I dumped the bum on the spot — at my birthday party, no less — and felt bad about it for maybe two hours.

I was feeling fierce again.

By the time July rolled around, though, things took a turn. Suddenly I felt that sense of dread, like I was standing still. I started taking inventory of my life — and that’s still where I’m at.

I’m 24 years old. I have a contracting job working from home and have issues paying my bills. I only work about 20 hours a week — a stark contrast from my 50-hour, seven-day journalism workweek. I’m not feeling like my desire for adventure or fun is being fulfilled. I don’t have the volume of friends I’d like. I’m dating a guy I find dull, unintellectual, ignorant, and too politically conservative for my tastes. Despite me not even being into it, I can’t break up with him because I have this overwhelming sense of insecurity about what I’m doing with my life. I have this insatiable need for comfort — and he’s a nice guy.

Not so fierce. In fact, pathetic.

Before I knew it, it all came back. I was panicking again. And I still am.

I’m worried about standing still in my career — not doing things that will be good for my resume.

Worse, I’m bored.

Most nights I sit at home and watch Netflix, obsessively Facebook, clean, read, or cook. But what I really like to do is discuss books, work out, play board games with friends, go places I’ve never been before, take my dog on outdoor adventures, meet new people, do craft projects, and — most importantly — write.

By being afraid of standing still and being bored, I’ve only become what I’m afraid of. I am boring and standing still.

Luckily, I still have time to pick up the pieces. I’m planning on doing things during the week like yoga classes, free outdoor running groups, cheap dance classes, and maybe I’ll even join a book club. After I get my new apartment set up — I moved due to a highly unpleasant roommate situation — I’ll host the kinds of parties that I’ve been yearning for, such as game nights and tea parties. I’m actually throwing a Thanksgiving dinner party next weekend — so I have a start.

I don’t know when I’ll stop feeling this sense of panic and insecurity and start being myself. But I do know that my lapse into unhappiness has been a good lesson on how not to deal with my fear.