23/Male/Heartbroken

We were the couple that would playfully argue about who loved each other more. “I loved you first, therefore I love you more”, she used to say. It was never with any intention of winning. It was just a cute way for us to pass the time; a playful game to see who would give up first. I can tell you that, eventually, I did win.

She gave up first.

We had a history. We met way back in high school through mutual friends. We talked a decent amount, and we hung out here and there but it didn’t lead to anything serious at the time. I was older, and preparing to go to college, while she was younger and still had years left of high school to see out. I didn’t think it would work at the time, but she did. I would ghost on her frequently, often times not returning texts or canceling plans. I’ll be the first to admit I could have handled that situation better, and I was not particularly understanding or as nice as I could have been to her. She could have given up on me. She probably should have. She didn’t.

Knowing what I know now it’s time I wish I could have back.

It wasn’t until years later, about halfway through my junior year of college, that we reconnected in a substantial way. After making plans and abruptly canceling them (again) we finally started spending time together. I was like any other 21-year-old guy; just happy to have a consistent lay. Even though I could feel something more significant blooming between us I couldn’t really see what was happening; what was very clearly staring me in the face. I figured it was just sexual desire or something like that as I was still very much that asshole that strung her along for years.

Finally, about a month after we reconnected, I realized what was happening; I like this girl. I might even love her. We started dating, and I wouldn’t reveal that to her for another five months.

I regret not telling her every single day, because I don’t get to say it anymore.

We separated in May. We were together for two years. The break-up wasn’t some aggressive, rage-induced screaming match over a scandalous night of infidelity, or any other reason that people would typically associate with a break-up. I think I would have preferred that because that would have given credence to a clear, identifiable reason. Don’t get me wrong – there was still plenty of sobbing from both of us. We just had a conversation in which she calmly explained to me that she had lost faith in us. She didn’t have confidence in our relationship, and it wasn’t something she could handle anymore. I can certainly accept and acknowledge those feelings. That does not mean I understand them. It felt like the, “I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed”, of breakups. It left me confused, and made me feel pain I never thought was possible. I always thought of myself as a tough and resolute person. I could tough out anything and anyone. With a couple of sentences and a good-bye hug this girl had brought me to my knees, beaten and broken, and left me there.

It would be unfair of me to solely blame her for us not being together anymore. I’m sure there are a myriad of reasons for that, and I don’t doubt my own culpability. God knows I could have been a better partner, and I have my regrets. There are things that I said and did that I wish I never had, and vise-versa.  But what I am having the hardest time with is the fact that she wasn’t willing to keep going. As stated I don’t fully understand why we split, but before it happened I did feel a shift in our relationship. Something didn’t feel right, and I believe it was this shift that caused her to pull the plug. It felt like a big, ominous shadow looming over us. However, it wasn’t always like that, and I truly believed that it wouldn’t persist. I expressed that to her more than once. You have your up’s and your down’s in a relationship, and if you love someone you work through them as best you can. I was ready to fight for her and our relationship because I loved her more than anything in the world. I still do. Walking away was just something I wasn’t willing to do. I think I’m more afraid of what that says about me than it does her.

I am still very much in love with her, which is unfortunate to say the least. It’s a feeling I haven’t been able to shake, and I’m not sure it will ever really go away. I genuinely thought I was going to marry this girl. It was even something her and I discussed a few times. Our naivety, in hindsight, is not lost on me. It is this continued love that has been my biggest obstacle. When you love someone more than you love yourself it’s a difficult feeling to shake. I often wonder if she still feels the same way.

We talked and saw each other sporadically for about two months after we broke up, and I expressed the way I felt a few times. She did not, and that is okay. She told me that we needed space from each other, and it’s been over a month since we have spoken. Given the time and lack of communication it’s hard not to wonder what she’s doing – or who she’s doing it with.

I would imagine this period of disconnect speaks for itself in one way or another.

When I originally approached the wonderful creators of this blog about this guest post it was with the intention of helping others. This has been my second “big” break-up, and while this one has hit particularly hard I thought that I might be able to provide some insight and advice to those who might be going through similar situations. “I’m fine. I am doing much better. I should write about it”, I told myself. I thought that I could share what I was doing to in my efforts to recover with the wonderful people who visit this blog. Your early 20’s is undoubtedly a difficult time, and failed relationships can muddle the already confusing brew of emotional (and physical, in some cases) stress one may be sipping on.

However, while I wrote this article I realized that I am not doing better. It’s been almost three months and I have made absolutely no progress in moving on. Every second of every single day is dominated by thoughts of her. Not all of them are sad, but even the happy thoughts sting a little. I spend a lot of time in my bed. I watch Netflix until 2 A.M. every night because I don’t sleep anymore, and when I do sleep my dreams are dominated by nightmares. I listen to a lot of the same songs her and I used to enjoy on my 40-minute commute to work every morning. Sometimes I cry, but I try not to. I avoid my mother because every conversation we have seems to lead back to my ex, which makes living at home more difficult than it should be.

My 3-year-old sister loved spending time with my her. I thought that by now she would have forgotten about her. A few nights ago, while at the dinner table, my sister gleefully asked me where she was. I replied with a half-smile and a simple, “I don’t know”. I went to my room and didn’t talk to anyone for the rest of the night.

It’s easy to think you are doing better. You want to believe that you can simply pick up the pieces, and mosey right along whistling Dixie. Your true feelings always show, and it’s important to recognize when you’re just not okay. I also think that it is okay to not be okay. Everyone moves at their own pace. Sometimes you even need a little help. That is why I recently decided to go and see a therapist. I’ve never put much faith in therapy or it’s benefits, but at this point I think that any healing I’ve attempted to do on my own has failed. It couldn’t possibly hurt to try, and perhaps it could be helpful.

I realize that his guest post may seem a bit sad and depressing. Some of you may even think I’m just a whiner, and that I need to get over it and move on already. You’re probably not wrong. After thinking about it, though, the thing that I want people to take away from this post the most is that at our age it is important to appreciate the things that are in front of you now. The hustle and bustle of your 20’s can cause you to lose sight over things that are truly important, even those that you love, and before you know it those things are gone. That can be anything from relationships to friends or even your parents, god forbidding.

Appreciate who and what you have whenever the opportunity presents itself. Tell her how thankful you are when she wakes up early to drive you to work because your car is in the shop. Answer her calls even if you’re busy, or at least text her back and let her know you’ll call as soon as possible. Offer to drive over to her place for once. Ask her how her family is doing. Tell her how beautiful she is with or without makeup. Ask her to play your video games or watch sports with you. Hold her as tight as you possibly can when you lay down together. Brush her hair when she asks you to. Give her a kiss and tell her you love her just because you can. Listen to her when she is feeling down and hug. Being appreciative isn’t always about expressly stating so. Often, it’s just about putting that little extra bit of effort and showing you care.

I still go out and see my friends. I drink socially. I play soccer every weekend. I go to the gym a few times a week. I do try to spend some time with my family. I think it’s important after experiencing heartbreak, even if you’re feeling utterly defeated and hopeless, that you try to continue to be yourself even if you feel like half of you is missing. Don’t let it paralyze you. Some people, like myself, just need a little help is all. It is my hope that in a few months’ time I can follow up this post and share how I’ve gotten to that place because then I might be able to help someone.

Until then it is my sincere belief that eventually – hopefully – the dust will begin settle and I will be okay.

 

Making New Friends

By: Patrick Mintzer

Making friends is something that comes very easily to some people, yet can be very difficult for others. There is no exact science to making new friends. Even the idea of friendship is strange; meeting someone you’re going to spend all your free time with in a totally platonic way. Growing up there are three stages where  making new friends comes very organically: grade school, high school, college. When grade school starts your parents pick your friends for you by setting up playdates. In high school your friends are usually in your classes or in the same extracurricular activities. In college your friends are typically the ones that live in the same dorm building as you. Basically friendships start out of convenience. I am not trying to downplay the importance of a friendship because I have told my friends things that my family has no idea about. Friends are the ones you talk to when you start a new relationship so that way you don’t do anything stupid in front of this new girl/boy you are trying to impress. Friends are the ones that make you happy one minute and furious the next. It doesn’t matter though because come Friday night they are your first phone call when you are looking to have a few drinks and  drown out the mundane rat race we have fallen into.  As we get older some friends move away, some friends we grow out of, and some friends get involved in serious relationships so you don’t see them as much;  it sucks.

In my particular situation, I was the one who moved away. I was gifted with a great career opportunity that required me to move 6 hrs away from all of my friends and family. I’m what some call “an overly optimistic” person, so I saw this opportunity as nothing besides a glass half full moment in my life. The thought of moving to a place with no friends and family was intimidating at first. As mentioned in the beginning of this article, I am one who is able to make friends easily so I wasn’t concern, but I should have been. Making brand new friends at 24 is hard and terrifying at the same time. Having work friends is one thing, but it’s nice to separate work and fun so this is where we get down the nitty gritty. How does one make friends at 24? I tried all the tricks; I joined adult sporting leagues, went out to the bars, and even tried some dating apps.

The dating apps were  my first attempt. Living at home I never thought I would try dating apps, but being alone and using them for the right reasons, I was hoping it could be successful. It was not. I went on a few dates through tinder and bumble and found that the girl was either just looking for a free dinner, looking for a quick hookup, or was just someone I didn’t vibe with. I know there has been success stories with these apps but I found that these are more the exception than the rule.

Next I figured I would just go out to the bars by myself and see what happens. I’m a nice and fun guy, I should be able to make friends. Once again I was wrong. There’s three types of groups at bars; groups of girls, groups of guys, and mixed groups. Mixed groups are so into themselves they aren’t really talking to anyone but themselves, stonewalling any attempt I made to make friends. The group of guys are there to do 2 things, get as drunk as possible or trying and hookup with girls. The last thing these dudes want is some random guy coming up to them trying to start a spontaneous conversation. The group of girls is definitely the easiest to approach but it is important to approach with caution. Every girl’s first thought is going to be that me, a straight male, is just there to try and have sex with one of them which is not a good way to make friends. Another thing that happened to me was this group of girls used a trusting guy like me to buy them drinks all night. I walk out with a $200 bar tab and no new friends. So once again, going to the bar by myself, not the best way to make new friends.

Lastly I joined adult athletic leagues, softball and basketball. These are two sports I’ve always enjoyed playing and knew I’d at least have fun playing. Both leagues I joined were coed because I wanted to focus on the fun and less of the competition. This is where I found my friends. I went somewhere to have fun with like minded individuals and then I realized, it was never supposed to be so hard. It really just came down to finding people with similar interests and for me that was sports. Since then I’ve been living the good life.

For anyone that finds themselves in any type of similar situation that I found myself in my advice to you is just find something that you know you are going to have fun doing, whether that be sports,or volunteering, or anything you have a passion for,  the rest will come naturally.  

Why It’s Okay To Have An Unpaid Internship After College 

By: Shannon from You, Me & DC

You did it! You’re a college graduate. You finished your illustrious degree and you’re about to enter the real world. The only problem? The one place that wanted to hire you couldn’t bring you on as an employee and you’re stuck with an unpaid internship.

I get it. I’ve been there. I graduated with honors, was overly involved in college, had great work experience and yet nobody wanted me. I spent months applying and interviewing for jobs but would never hear back about full time paid work, instead I was offered an unpaid internship before I even finished the interview. I was flattered but that feeling didn’t last long. I felt snubbed, frustrated and frankly…really offended. I would struggle to fall asleep at night because I would constantly ask myself ‘What did someone else have that I didn’t?’ or ‘How could everyone else I know get a job, but I couldn’t?’ The world was against me but I had no other options. And maybe you don’t either. But that isn’t a bad thing.

An unpaid internship might put a bad taste in your mouth but grab a glass of water, rinse and spit because I am going to change your mind. An unpaid internship could be one of the best things you do with your post-graduate freedom.

A paying job that excites you and challenges you would be the goal but when that seems just out of reach, pivot and find what will help you get there the fastest. I’ve held salaried positions that left me bored and unsatisfied. Out of college, I took a job as an executive assistant at my dream organization thinking it would help me get my foot in the door. Instead, I was filing paperwork and running errands for higher ups while I watched unpaid interns doing real, substantial work. When I started graduate school, quit my full time job and entered the ~intern~ world once more, I found myself working on interesting projects almost immediately. It must be some unwritten rule but if you’re unpaid, the work you are assigned will likely be more meaningful.

Save for the internships that have you grabbing coffee exclusively (don’t do these), you will also be around the movers and shakers. You don’t need to be a salaried employee to become friendly with your coworkers. Unpaid internships are the best place to network. You are well placed to grab coffee with your director, chat up the technical advisors and pick the brains of the people who are in the job you day dream about. An unpaid internship is no one’s first choice but most people will understand if you’re using it as a stepping stone. You might not leave that internship with any money in your bank account, but you will be rich in connections. Connections can lead to job opportunities in the future and those opportunities come with a full salary and benefits.

If you’re trying to decide if an unpaid internship is worth it, ask yourself these two questions: Do I want to work here in the future? Does this organization align with my interests and values? If you answered yes to either of these questions, do it. When you take an internship at a company or organization that you identify with, you set yourself up for success. Maybe they are the foremost researcher in their field or you really connect with the company’s mission and values. These things matter and they are the things that will get you through the days when you’re working on something incredibly dull. It will also really help you keep a smile on your face when you have to head into Starbucks to work a second job to pay the bills.

The most important thing to remember is that it is temporary. If you hate it and it was a waste of time (been there), you can write it off as a learning experience and move on. If you loved it, maybe you find a way to stay until something paid opens up. In my experience, most organizations have more work than they have people. If you’re offering to stay as an unpaid intern, you’re not only going to earn brownie points, but also a strong network that will advocate for you when a salaried job opens up.

I am one of the most impatient people I know and when something isn’t working in my favor, I get frustrated. You probably do too. But put a smile on your face, volunteer for projects and keep looking forward because before you know it, you’ll have landed a really amazing job.

 

 

 

A Backward Glance Before Moving On

Chapter One: Overtures 

 By: Damiano Consilvio

Maybe these words will be like a great finale, like the great rumble of exploding gunpowder that you feel in your ear drums just before the firework show is over. These words fall onto the page as the black caps all fly into the air at commencement. It happens during the best of times, but also the worst of times, in an age of innocence as well of reason, of ambition as well as fear. Graduation, a great victory, is followed by great fear. I am afraid as I reach the conclusion of my Master’s degree. In choosing to study English language and literature, I chose to pursue what I loved, but what if there is not a market for it? Teachers are a dime a dozen, right? What if I don’t get accepted to a PhD program? What if my articles don’t get published? Will this all be for naught? People of the baby boomer generation fail to appreciate the uncertainty and fear that students face post-graduation. It is not a sure-in of success. You can have a college degree, and still struggle.

In trying to cope with my own post-grad life anxiety, I’ve taken to reflecting upon myself. While in no way a “Song of Myself,” I am using this space to take a backward glance before moving forward towards the last step of my educational journey: the PhD. Hopefully it will help me understand the person that lectures on college composition, and give me more confidence in his ability to succeed. I’ll need it. Many programs accept a mere two to three applicants a year. Applications are expensive. I plan to apply to fifteen schools. I need to look back to find out, what sets me apart from all the rest?

I have always been skeptical to the memoir form, just because of how reserved I am with my emotions. By trade I am an academic, and a literary critic, so I dispense my emotions into my research writing in an indirect way. Often the topic of my research will reflect the currents of how I am feeling. For example, I’ve studied the Anglo-Saxon Elegy poem during the year of my life’s most painful break up. I consider getting a tattoo some day of the Old English phrase “Wyrd bið ful aræd.” It translates loosely to “fate is fully fixed.”

But despite this deep emotional connection to my work, I don’t—and haven’t—ever used my writing to speak directly of my-self. I never wrote a memoir about how I felt during those times. Instead, I would study Poe, or Byron, and the rest of the Dark Romanticists, to empathize with their melancholy. Now however, I feel the occasion is upon me to commemorate the past six years of my intellectual life through the lens of my creative side. These past four years have been memorable, perhaps the most memorable of my life so far. And how better to show my appreciation than to capture those fleeting years in writing?

But where to begin? I write that question redundantly, because I know exactly where I want to begin this backward glance: at the end, where I am now.

On a Wednesday morning during the Spring of 2017 my eyes open at six forty-five am. My room is dimly lit blue as the sun cuts through the suburban New Jersey tree-line and into the blinds of my bedroom window. My alarm is set for seven, but I always wake up just before it.

I get up and put my black corduroy suit on my bed, then a grey V-neck sweater, underwear, socks. Then I get a shower. By seven fifteen I am dressed and having coffee, checking e-mails on my phone. Sometimes there a few, but today there are none, because nobody is likely even up yet. Most people make it to school by ten. The people who I am expecting to hear from today will not check their emails until at least ten.

By the time my brother has dropped me off at school it’s eight o’clock and I am at my most alert. I teach at ten, but I get an hour of reading and an hour of writing in before I walk over to my seminar room. I work on two papers in my office, one on the moral conflicts of men and women in The Canterbury Tales, and another one comparing the psychical models of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Then I read a few peer review articles for my thesis project, to compose a scholarly edition of Edith Wharton’s novel Ethan Frome.

Working like this before teaching has my intellect invigorated along with the peak in my bodily and cognitive energy. By ten I am ready to go in and review the students’ papers with them. They have submitted drafts to me, and I noted several stylistic errors, like when novice writers sometimes announce themselves in their writing  (like saying “For this first section I will take a look at students respond to online learning), or their use of colloquial expressions where a more sophisticated one would serve better (as in a student saying “Paid maternity leave is a hot topic among women workers because they need to take care of themselves and their families”—I would suggest that they say “A pertinent issue in the female workforce is the allocation of paid maternity leave, as women must balance between care for themselves, their careers, and their families, all within a delicate time in their lives).

This is typically how my class is run. I think of Composition as a workshop in academic style. I spend much of the class talking to the students about their work and their craft, but I do not talk at them. I do not tell them what to write. They tell me what they want to write, and I guide them. My design is to be a fellow artist helping to groom other artists, not an arbitrator enforcing rules.

How I’ve come to believe in things this way is a story written along the path the lies behind me. I don’t think about that enough, because right now I’m looking forward to the next lesson, to the next year, to my PhD applications, for instance. But I do feel something now as I glance at my reflection in the glass door to my classroom right before I walk in. I think that today I rose to complete a task, to serve a purpose to society. I am responsible for these students learning. They are depending on me to come and give them my service and knowledge for their own betterment. It is a responsibility that I honor, and that I love, but also one that I am thankful for.

In being important to them, I myself become important. I know that without my students, without people that want and need my knowledge, I am useless, I have no contribution to give to the world in return for my existence. But the fact that I can give my time and effort and mental energy to serve them makes me valuable. I realize that the importance I gain through my ability to educate, is what makes me a member of society, of the world. I realize that it is what makes me a man

But how? What got me here? Why am I so special? So lucky? I am on the verge of completing my Master’s degree in English at the humble age of twenty-two. I am the first in my blood to get a college degree, and I aspire this year to apply to doctoral programs and become a professor in the humanities. It is my life’s wish to earn a doctorate in English literature and become a professor, and write books about the literature that fascinates me. In my mind, to be a scholar would be the ultimate contribution of love and appreciation to my passion for art. But in order to achieve this, I must excavate those recesses of my mind that tell the story of how I got here, before I approach my last stop at the doctoral programs. I must look at that man that adjusts his tie one last time before walking into the classroom, and ask him of his origin. To be the person that I want to be when I reach for these great aspirations, I must look back, I must look back upon myself and understand the child, the child the father of the man.

To be continued

 

Finding Your Identity

One thing that I think about often, is people who struggle with transition out of college and finding out who they really are. Let’s be honest, the four, sometimes more, years you spend in college do not shape you as an individual. They basically equip you with time management and social skills, if you’re lucky. So it can be eye opening to join the real world and not have any idea the type of person you want to be. Do you want to make as much money as possible? Do you want to help as many people as possible? Do you want to develop certain relationships with some more than others? Who do you want to be and what legacy do you want to leave?

Let’s slow down a little.

Just know that you don’t have to have the answers to any of these questions and most of us won’t know for quite some time. I still struggle with having sociopathic tendencies on a weekly basis. A lot of my free time is still spent wondering why I was such a dick in certain situations and why I have little to no filter. BUT I work at it every single day and compared to college where I was a full blown sociopath who didn’t care about anyone but me, I’ve come a long way. And that’s what it’s all about post-grad. Developing yourself little by little consistently every day until you look back, and after a year you’re able to think “Wow look how far I’ve come when I thought I was making no progress at all.”

It’s also important to understand that a lot of people will always see you as the person you were in college and their image of you may never change. It’s something that you have to accept and dismiss. If you live everyday with the drive to be better off today than you were yesterday, then there is nothing that can stop you because the only person you’re competing with is yourself. Don’t compare your jobs, don’t look down at others jobs and don’t put yourself down about your own job. Most people hate their first job right out of school and the “real world” is not like it’s made out to be where it all happens at once right after graduation. Some people will hit their stride out of the gates and others won’t hit it for a while. So live on the grind, compete against yourself and give positive enforcement to your friends. Some people will shit on your dream, or your job, or your decision to take a year off or whatever it is, but that’s because your vision isn’t theirs. You’re seeing everything through a different lens than everyone around you.

Just because you’re trying to find yourself and get control of the reigns doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Go out on the weekends- you can still even drink on Sundays, you’ll be surprised at how many people do. Go on trips- you have a steady income now and are able to do what you love. I love to write, so this is how I’m spending my Thirsty Thursday writing and watching the Yankees. Just have fun with it, whatever it is you do.

“Most people overestimate what they can accomplish in 1 year and underestimate what they can accomplish in 3.”