Advice I Wish I’d Received 4 Years Ago

It’s graduation time for undergrads the world over (or at least the US over. I don’t know how other countries operate). In fact, Penn’s commencement was yesterday (which made me mostly uninterested in getting anywhere near campus.) And as my social media outlets are crammed with Instagrams of grad caps and heartfelt Facebook statuses bidding institutions of learning fond farewells (or less-than-fond ‘f*** you’s, for the jaded grads), I can’t help but harken back to 2009, my own college graduation year. Chapel Hill does grad weekend right, and the sun was shining as the Carolina blue reminded all of us that Mother Nature is probably a Tar Heel.

The Gang's all here!

The Gang’s all here!

The weeks leading up to graduation were some of the most socially packed, emotionally wrecked weeks of my life. It wasn’t until I’d received a formal hiring letter that I finally let myself breathe. My partner at the time didn’t understand why I was getting so worked up (he, a year younger, was still a ways off from the panic I was experiencing, and wasn’t one for panicking regardless.) And after a weekend of pomp AND circumstance, a jaunt back north for a mini “summer” (during which I broke my left foot, not part of the ideal “summer break”), I went back to Carolina, ready to begin my grown up life.

Like a butterfly, ready to flap her wings out of the cocoon!!

Like a butterfly, ready to flap her wings out of the cocoon!!

Only, I’ll be totally honest, the first 9 months after my graduation were some of the most miserable of my life.

Isn’t that awful? I recognize that this was largely my own doing, but that doesn’t make it any more enjoyable to remember… Four years removed, I’ll say I picked up a little perspective. And there are heaps of advice I’d give myself… But I’ll stick with the stuff that might actually be valuable for sharing with the general population, not those pieces that would only be relevant to me (i.e. stop watching your friends play frisbee if you have a broken foot, it will only make you depressed.)

1. Don’t live beyond your means, but try to at least live a little. I had this confused world view which led me to believe that until I had heaps of money saved, I should live like a hermit. I didn’t use the AC or the heat during the wild seasonal extremes that Carolina loves so much. Shivering under blankets in my own home in the middle of the winter was not only unpleasant, but just dumb. Turn the heat up. Bask in the fact that you’re making SOME money. Take the Slanket off for ten minutes.

Don't let the smile fool you. This is stupid.

Don’t let the smile fool you. This is stupid.

2. Figure out your body chemistry. I mean this specifically regarding alcohol. And I’ll follow up by saying I’m STILL working on this. I wish someone had slapped me upside the head at graduation and been like “HEY! Just a heads up, you can no longer handle the following: shots (including, but not limited to, shots from glasses, bottle shots, body shots), beer bongs, drinking games where the only goal is not skill but speed-consumption, mixing alcohol types of any kind, and probably a number of options you haven’t even thought of yet.”

Chances are, though, someone WILL slap you upside the head with that information at some point in your life, and you’ll still take a few years for it to sink in. So thanks to that person who slapped me with it, and sorry that I’m not faster at taking it to heart. I’m a work in progress.

3. Learn to feed yourself right. Now, this one kind of went with the Living within my means/hermit lifestyle, but my steady diet of rice, black beans, cheese, and chicken if I felt like “treating myself” did not a healthy woman make.



The occasional entire massive turkey leg or frozen pepperoni pizza probably didn’t help either.

Learn the deals at your grocery store, figure out what you like that ALSO is healthy, and enjoy those “treat yourself” treats occasionally. Not nightly.

4. Get a gym membership. And don’t get the cheapest one. Because if it’s super cheap, I bet you won’t go. Just saying. Financial commitment SOMETIMES means ACTUAL commitment. Not always, but enough.

5. For the LOVE OF GOD meet some grown-up, totally new friends.

Whew, y'all are lifesavers.

Whew, y’all are lifesavers.

College buddies are great, don’t get me wrong. So are those “Lifers” that you’ve known since elementary, middle, or high school. But after about a year and a half of longing for the days of bar-hopping on Franklin Street and feeling sorry for myself that I couldn’t just stumble out of my room and be surrounded by fraternity brothers and sisters, I took some action. And I decided I, to, could make friends OUTSIDE of school.

This has been the best decision of my “grown-up” life, thus far.

It’s not as hard or as scary as you might think. There are websites entirely dedicated to meeting new people. Get on Yelp, on Meetup, find something going on in your community, join an adult rec league for sports (that was my preferred method for my favorite post-college gang). Maybe you’re even lucky enough to work somewhere where you can find (GASP) work friends!

Whatever you do, though, find some buddies. It stops you from living in the past, and makes it all that sweeter when you DO go back to your college/high school/preschool buddies and show them how cool you still are, even after all these years.

Here’s the thing: there’s no “right way” to grow up, I guess. Hell, I haven’t even done it yet, hence the whole “college 2.0” idea of grad school. But I think those little bits and pieces of advice would’ve helped ease the transition.

I hope they help ease someone’s transition.

Theme Parties I Should Probably Host

Apparently, my little brothers’ fraternity is far more creative than the fraternities at UNC are (or were 4 years ago). Because, while UNC frats were throwing parties with REAL winning concepts such as:

  • Golf Pros and Tennis Hoes
  • GI Joes and Army Hoes
  • CEOs and Office Hoes
  • Dudes in a kinda themed shirt and street-walking prostitutes (ok, this wouldn’t fit on a flyer, but real talk, I think all of them were basically versions of this)

HIS fraternity is hosting parties with themes such as:

  • Mobsters and Lobsters
  • Mathletes and Athletes

I’ll admit, I’m a huge sucker for theme parties. Almost to a fault. And, in college, my frat did a few solid ones. Personal favorites:

  • Word on Your Arm Party – Real simple concept. Come in with a word on your arm. If you don’t have one, we’re ready with permanent markers and incredible vocabularies. Don’t blame me if you forgot your word and end up with Pudendum on your forearm for the next three days. 
  • Swank and Skank – You choose: Britney Spears-style skanking, strolling through gas stations barefoot and maybe pregnant or bald OR swanky as all get out (any reason to rock a tiara and long black gloves)
  • Paranormal Formal – I just wanted a chance to cover myself in blood a la Carrie. And if I was wearing a tiara…. so be it.

    They're ALL gonna laugh at you.

    They’re ALL gonna laugh at you.

  • Zombie Apocalypse in the 1920s – Ok, this one wasn’t my favorite, but I appreciate specificity. I dressed as a pirate, as I always will when I don’t agree with the theme.

But now, I’m worried that I missed a lot of opportunities for great rhyming themes (AND SLANT RHYMES! YEAH!!)  I’ve decided that if I don’t host at least ONE of these parties in the next year or so, I’ve failed as a human.  These are some ideas thus far. You know, just spit-balling over here….

  • Winos and Albinos – I expect to see some famous winos like the Real Housewives of Anywhere and maybe one or two people dressed as polar bears. Bonus points if someone shows up dressed like this fellow:

    Dress like me, get invited to all future parties.

    Dress like me, get invited to all future parties.

  • Jungle Cats and Spoiled Brats – Lions, Tigers, and Paris Hilton, OH MY!
  • Jeffs, Chefs, and Stephs – Where else might you see Stephanie Meyer, Jeff Probst, and Iron Chef Mario Batali having small talk over jello shots? I also imagine that I’d look great in a Steffi Graf costume. So there’s that.
  • Book Covers and Star Cross’d Lovers – I’m a huge fan of judging things by their covers. Mostly beers by their labels…. However, this party’s theme would be literal interpretations of book titles and pairs arriving as history’s greatest star cross’d lovebugs. Romeo and Juliet, Maria and Tony, Nick and Jessica (Simpson. Shame on you if that wasn’t the obvious first choice.)

    Never saw that coming...

    Never saw that coming…

  • Silicon Valley and Diagon Alley – Computer geeks and Harry Potter freaks UNITE! Actual wizards and tech wizards, one and all. I am still unsure how I’d rock a tiara at this one, but I’m almost certain that someone would rock a badass Bellatrix. Maybe this person might even fall for the pocket-protected lad or lass standing by the punchbowl (note: I don’t have a punchbowl. Do I have to get one to throw these things?)
  • Holy Powers and Whiskey Sours – Dress up as any deity you wish, know that I will only be pouring whiskey sours. Ganesh, don’t give me that, I know you’ll love them if you just give them a chance. Look at Artemis over there, throwing them back!
  • Spice Girls and Zombie Merles – If you decide to dress as a male-identified character for this party, your options are pretty limited, and you’d better be all caught up on your Walking Dead. But how great would it be to see line dancing with Sporty, Scary, and like… 4 Zombie Merles.

    Are we taking shots?

    Are we taking shots?

Oh goodness. I gotta get started. Only a little less than 5 months until my birthday!!

Take your best shot at a solid AND creative theme party. OR give me the best one you’ve ever attended. What did you dress as?! 

Probably a lobster.

Free(food) Isn’t Free

At UNC, it was Pokey Sticks, pizza, hush puppies, and Bojangles.

I’m cool with that.

And, with age, comes maturity, right?

Like a really mature cheese.

A Swiss gruyere, perhaps?

Or a very mature… Whoopie Pie from Cupcake and Whoopie Cravings.

Red Velvet = sexual chocolate

Instead of the All-American/All-Southern foods, we get a diverse mix of international cuisines.

Veggie lo-mein, quinoa and wheatberry salad, HOLY MACKEREL what a spread!!

But, no matter whether you’re getting a greasy Pokey Stick in your dorm building’s meeting or gourmet salami picante and Margherita pizza at a Happy Hour for Public Health students, at the end of the day, free food is NOT free.


I know it’s been the case with me. I’ve been thinking to myself YEESH grad school is so expensive. I have nothing in the way of a steady income (though I am loving the Athleta job, it’s certainly not a 40-hour career gig that can support city living) and ANYTHING free is better then spending my own money, right?


Last week, with all sorts of events going on for school and a little bit of wobbling when it came to getting accustomed to my new working-girl schedule, I found myself rushing around campus going to any and all events that were free and sponsored by campus. Collecting cookies, soft pretzels, and hot dogs for the run. Thanking my lucky stars that I wasn’t shelling out my dollars on expensive salads and grilled chicken. And then it hit me.

With the effort that I was putting forth finding the times for these events, mapping out the destination and the route to get there, and considering time is money… I was spending quite a bit on these “free” meals.

Their nutritional value was rarely better than the slop you’d find at a fast food restaurant or a massive buffet. Hamburgers, pasta salad, hot dogs, snack-bar cookies, brownies. And the occasional fruit cup and quinoa salad didn’t really offset the unhealthy other junk.

The result of the week?

blub blub blub

I’m feeling like a pufferfish, head to toe.

So this weekend, I went out, nabbed some grapes, some chicken breasts, frozen veggies, and spinach at my local Superfresh. Instead of taking the bus there, I jogged. And I prepared food for the week.

For when I have to eat lunch/dinner at work, I picked up some sandwich thins, lunch meat, onion, and fruits for my lunch bag. No rushing over to McDonalds for convenience and cheap burgers.

Turns out that the cost of this free food was surprisingly steep. My self-esteem, my energy, my time, and my digestive system.  And that’s just not worth it, not at all.

They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and I think I might have with that disembodied wisdom.

Ever fall into the “Free Food” trap? 

Any advice for navigating it without ending up puffy and sad?

I’d say avoid the carbs, that’s going to be the very worst part of the meal most of the time. The hot dog buns, the noodles, the cookies… they ended up as the lowest of the low quality.