I’m gonna need an F150

I’ve had this blog post’s headline stuck in my head for a couple of days. I didn’t know exactly where it was going but I had some idea of what I wanted to say about how my next car could potentially be a Ford F150 pick up truck.

Since December 2016, I’ve acquired some furniture that needed to be moved into the basement of my parent’s beach house. Of course, the first piece of furniture would not fit in our family Subaru Outback.

It was dead of winter in Cape May, and a beautiful dresser was on the side of the street – up for grabs.  Not an uncommon sight in town. I saw it and instantly knew I wanted it. We were on the way to my birthday brunch and if it was still there afterward, we were coming to take it home.

I came I saw I salvaged

It was still there, so we took out the drawers and my dad and I drove them back to the house and unloaded them. While we were gone, my mom flagged down a guy with a truck who happened to be on the street at the right moment, and he drove the bureau over to our house. He even helped us put the dresser into the basement and wouldn’t accept a tip. End scene.

A few months later in March, I was driving down the street when I spotted a little blue cabinet, again on the side of the road. Chance of it fitting in my Subaru Forester, pretty likely – if I could get it in myself.

Turns out the guy who left it at the curb popped his head out of the front door and told me it was free to take and he would even help me get it into my car. And just like that, I became the owner of another piece of salvaged furniture.

And then a few weeks later in March I picked up a nightstand when I was on the way back from the beach. The shelf is a little crooked, but it doesn’t mean it’s not usable.

And then that brings me to May of this year, when I was struggling about what kind of desk I wanted in my room of the house I’m renting. I had been planning on moving the desk I already had, but it wasn’t really the right size for writing. And by luck, I found a desk for sale at an amazing price, on a local swap group in Cape May.

The people who sold me the desk helped me get it in my car – I was lucky that the legs screw in/out of the desk, which made transporting it easy. They were even kind enough to make sure I had help getting it into my room. It is an absolutely gorgeous desk and it worked perfectly in my room.

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In June I was driving with my parents when I spotted what I thought was a blue stool on the side of the road. I asked my dad to pull over so I could see its condition. Turns out it was a broken chair.

My dad says to me, “Why do I think your next car is going to be an F150?”

I say, “I don’t know, why?”

“Because you keep picking up furniture off the side of the road!” He said.

Yeah, he’s probably right. My Forester can handle a lot, but there are certain sizes that even exceed my cargo capability.

And I even thought to myself this weekend that I might need to find someone with a truck if I was buying a new wicker rocking chair for our front porch. Turns out we ended up ordering a set online…but somehow I sincerely think a bigger car could be in my future.

I have always joked I wanted a Fiat, so I could say “what the fiat,” but now I realize that size is super impractical. I never thought I would drive a truck, I’m just your typical millennial girl… But the more I live in a small town…the more changes are happening.

 

 

A millennial’s ode to complaining

If you know me well you know that I am a relentless complainer, especially when it’s hot outside. My dad is the first to remind me that air conditioning is a luxury, not a privilege. I know, I know – I’m lucky to have grown up not knowing air conditioning. The Victorian Era of Cape May must’ve been a hot and sweaty one.

Of course, there were the two weeks of summer when we rented a beach house without air conditioning. I said to my mom the other day, I don’t remember how I survived that when it was hot. Her reply? “Rachel, you complained. A lot!” I guess it must’ve been so hot I blocked it out of my memory.  Basically, anytime that I would get overheated, I would have a panic attack (as one does) and fret until I cooled down. Yeah, sounds like me.

Yeah, sounds like me. Coming from the girl who would crank the AC in her high school classes, without the teachers noticing. Granted all that did was run cold water through the vents…they found another way to make high school more miserable. I also spent four years of college complaining to anyone who would listen, that the classrooms were always set as if my grandma was in control of the thermostat – set to a minimum of a balmy 75 degrees.

Millennials complain about trivial, “first world problem” issues. But doesn’t everyone? We complain and get labeled as entitled.

I’m a millennial and I complain frequently. It’s kind of our thing…but people complain about millennials too.  Here’s a list of 6 complaints which we are “supposedly” sick of hearing. In my opinion…speak for yourself. Oh, and while I’m on my soapbox, I’d like to say that I’m not killing the napkin industry and I’m not buying so much avocado toast I won’t be able to afford a house…I just won’t be able to afford one anyway because of the economy.

 

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Oh look, I’m using napkins. Surprised?

Millennials complain about real issues too. Like low pay and difficulty finding a job in your field of study.

I think the reason millennials are pictured as “complaining” all the time has to do with the high expectations we have these days. My parents have two houses, so I expected I would have two houses. My Amazon Prime says my package will be here in two days, I expect it to be here in two days. But the expectations I grew up with have changed –especially because of the economy (I know, how many times am I going to repeat that phrase). The guy who said millennials buy too much avocado toast also says some people won’t even own a house in their lifetime. And maybe that will be my case. I just don’t know.

But I think that fact of potentially never owning a home is the exact right that I, as a millennial, has to complain. I want to be a homeowner (whether it is a house or a townhouse) and get the experience that my parents had. Get married, have a nice car, never have to worry about finances (well…).

Low pay is a serious issue, one that every generation has faced. Not all millennials work in high paying jobs. We also aren’t the ones who fucked up the economy (not the point, but just saying). Our families were (and still continue to be) impacted by the 2000s recession.

According to an article from Elite Daily, “Millennials face particularly high rates of unemployment and aren’t making as much money as their parents. That helps explain why roughly 32 percent of millennials are also living with their parents.”

It seems like the odds are stacked against us millennials. Finding a job in your field after college graduation can be tricky. Some people have student loans to pay off, so good luck with buying a house. And if you get a job, you’re lucky to make over minimum wage.

For those of us millennials who choose to work in our field knowing it’s a tough industry (hello journalism, I’m looking at you), we know making ends meet might require more than one steady job.

Yes I’m a millennial and I complain a lot, but I’d like to think I’m not entitled. I want to work and I enjoy the payoff of my hard work. And you know, not be a renter forever. I’m not above complaining and sometimes only focusing on my issues, but overall I want to succeed and be happy. Is that too much to ask?

Got Skin Cancer?

I live at the beach and probably one assumption many people have about me is that I spend a lot of time on the beach. And you would be so very wrong!

I probably can count on one hand the number of times I have sat on the beach in the last few months – most of the times have been fairly recent.

It has less to do with the fact I work full time; it’s a combination of being unwilling to sit on the beach when it is hot and the heat is intense, as much as knowing that I have to slather a thick layer of sunscreen on before I meander the few blocks down the street to the beach. It’s a lazy millennial thing, but it is a habit I try to be steadfast about changing for the better.

I’m a pasty white girl and skin cancer runs in my family. Finding out a family member has skin cancer was the wake-up call that I needed to be better about constantly wearing sunscreen when I’m going to be outside. I always wear sunscreen on my face and I have even started using hair products with sun-shielding ingredients. The last thing you want is a sunburn on your scalp.

The three reasons I think that millennials avoid wearing sunscreen include (but is definitely not limited to): sunscreen is expensive, we forget it in the car and putting on sunscreen is time-consuming and sticky.

Not all sunscreens are expensive. Stores like Target and CVS have both brand name and store brand sunscreens. And 9 times out of 10, the store brand is cheaper and has the same ingredients. Of course, there are expensive brands and “designer sunscreen,” but really you don’t have to shell out $30 when you can spend $10 on a bottle. The price isn’t increasing the amount of sun coverage you’re going to get.  So skip the expensive Sephora designer brands and stick to your budget.

Chances are if you forget something in the car after you’ve dragged your beach bag and chair down to the water, you’re probably not going back to get whatever you forgot. But if you left your sunscreen in the car, going back for it has two benefits. First, you should not only apply sunscreen before or when you get to the beach, but you should also liberally reapply every few hours. However, the real reason you don’t want to leave it in the car is that the heat changes the composition and efficacy. Leaving your sunscreen in the car is going to make the sunscreen weak and not protect you properly. Don’t waste your money and leave it in the hot car (and don’t leave your kid or dog in there either, for what it’s worth).

And last but not least, yuck, sunscreen is sticky and messy! Well, I can’t exactly disparage that from the truth. I hate putting on sunscreen and then sticking to the seat of my car – which is why I sometimes skip going to the beach in general. But there are sunscreens on the market that are now being advertised as non-sticky or non-greasy or no mess! I can’t say if that is true, but I also have had pleasant results with all the Hawaiian Tropic brand sunscreens. It is my go-to sunscreen to use all summer.

I also like to use make up products that have sunscreen built into them – even though it’s usually a low SPF between 15-20 (30 if you’re lucky). And as I mentioned, don’t forget your scalp…also think about your lips and hands! For your hands, I found a great hand lotion from SuperGoop called Forever Young Hand Cream with Sea Buckthorn. It’s great for dry hands and it is so lightweight.

And last but not least, you have to watch your moles. It sounds gross and frankly, I think it kind of is…but checking your moles and regular check-ups at the dermatologist are what saved the lives of my family members. Even I have had full body checks (yes it is cringey but the docs are there to save you not judge you) and have had to get moles removed. It’s one of my least favorite topics to discuss, but it is important.

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Every year since 2006, Glamour Magazine publishes a mole chart that has saved the lives of nearly 90 readers who identified their skin cancer from the pictures. The ABCDE’s might just alert you to a mole that has changed and needs attention.

If you take away anything from this post, it is that I hope you’ll remember to wear sunscreen and go to your dermatologist at least once a year. If you can prevent skin cancer, why not? A little sunscreen goes a long way to self-care.

Farmville 2.0

It’s crazy to think sometimes that from the age of 2 you start pre-school and you often don’t stop going to school until you graduate from college, at age 22. Twenty years of schooling in the making, to put you out in the world to find a job (and probably not one in your degree field, but that’s a blog post for another day).

 

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When you ask your mom for a pre-school pic and this is the best she can do. Cute though.

 

I was supposed to go away to college. Specifically, Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. I know, I know, it’s the same name as that once addictive Facebook game, but trust me – the town was not as fun as the game.

I knew I wasn’t ready to leave home, but I was vehemently against going to community college. I wanted to go to George Mason University, which was two miles away from my house. I only got into two colleges, Longwood and Virginia Wesleyan University (it was private and even my scholarship didn’t help). Reality was, I was only left with Longwood as my choice and I dreaded move in day.

Fast forward to August 2012, when I left for Longwood. I was miserable, a mess and arguably the most resistant to change I have ever been. I’ll say that the resistance against me leaving was futile and that is why I ended up coming home. It was a miserable Tuedsay-Saturday for my whole family. I knew move in day wasn’t going to be a happy day, but I didn’t realize it was going to be a nightmare.

 

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Record for fastest assembled & unassembled dorm room? Span of 5 days.

 

I came home and had to reevaluate what I wanted to do about school. I was lucky and was able to reach a deal that would get me into GMU. I went to community college for a semester and then transferred to GMU  for the remainder of my time in college.

Yes, all of that was necessary background information to know before you understand why I feel like I’m living Farmville 2.0 right now.

I recently moved into a house with roommates, so I am finally getting the away from home experience as well as also having roommates experience that I didn’t have when I lived at home while in college. Living in Cape May is easy because I love the beach and the town’s familiarity is comforting. Plus with friends and family close by, it’s not as isolating.

I wasn’t resistant to having a roommate in college, I actually would have had a wonderful roommate in my friend Abbey, who blogs at Idle Ginger Manuscript (yes we are still friends). I was resistant (at first) to having roommates in Cape May, because it would mean living with strangers.

But when I found a place that needed a third roommate, it was a beggars can’t be choosers situation. And I’m glad I went along with it because Chelsea and Max are awesome people. The place I’m living in is a farm style house, complete with 1.5 acres of land, two goats and two chickens. The house however, does not have air conditioning.

 

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My room in the new house. It’s been fun to get new furniture to decorate.

 

Another part to Farmville 2.0 is living without air conditioning. When I was supposed to go to Longwood, I specifically requested the only dorm on campus with air conditioning. Virginia heat can get ugly and I don’t know how the dorm would have felt had I stayed into the heat. But now I’m living in a house without air conditioning – but I do have a window unit in my room.

I’ve never been one to handle heat well and when my room was 85 degrees the other night, I wasn’t happy. But The AC unit did it’s best and by the time I fell asleep it had cooled down to mid-seventies. But I fell asleep and that’s all that matters. It’s an adjustment for sure, but it is worth it to get to stay and work in Cape May fulltime.

I think the thing I’ve learned since I’ve moved to Cape May from Virginia and then from one place to another in Cape May, is that you can’t always be comfortable. Part of life is trying new things and being more open to that – and as cliche as that sounds, I’ve come to realize that not all change is bad if you put yourself in a positive mindset – which is something I lacked during Farmville 1.0.

*Bonus fact – for as small as I thought Farmville was at the time I moved there – the 2010 census said the population was 8,216 people. Versus Cape May in 2010 was 3,607 people. I think it’s all about perception.

College lite

Before I moved here, I came to visit in October for two weeks. One night while I was watching TV on the couch, I had a moment of panic. Did I really want to move here full time? Would I be lonely and isolated during the offseason? Would I miss my friends and family so much that I would spend too much time being homesick? The moment passed as quickly as it came, and I brushed it off as an unrelated, side effect of worrying about my impending wisdom tooth surgery

And as I biked to dinner a few nights ago to meet friends, I realized that in the few months I’ve been living here, that I have never once felt isolated or lonely. Don’t get me wrong, I miss my family, friends, and cats a ton, but I haven’t felt that homesick or panic again.

 

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Solo adventure outside of Cape May.

 

When you don’t go away to college and live at home, you miss out on an experience that is “supposedly” life-changing, according to some people. And sure, not having parents to supervise your every move and hover over you at all times might be nice, but I never had a problem with that.

But now I feel like I’m doing “college lite” without the actual schooling. I’m working full time as a front desk clerk at a motel and spending my off time reading, writing, binging on Netflix/TV and going to the beach. I have friends here, albeit not exactly in my age range (which is a fact, not an insult, because it doesn’t make a difference).

Is this where I saw myself after graduation? Yes, definitely. I was prepared from my summers here, what it would be like to be alone in a big house. And I like it and it has worked for me. Of course, just as I get used to it, I am moving out in the next few weeks – into a house with two really nice roommates. A must do, in order to stay through the rental season of summer and continue to live and work here.

 

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Backyard of the new place.

 

I’ve never claimed to be a typical millennial. I have often done things an unorthodox way.  And I’m about to make an even bigger change in my life than moving to New Jersey, bigger than starting a healthier lifestyle and bigger than leaving pretty much the life I’m used to living behind. I’m moving into a house with roommates, on 1.5 acres of land that is also home to two chickens, two goats, and a dog.

So needless to say, I have quite an interesting summer ahead of me and there will be a lot to write about.

I’m excited!

 

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Mom and her new goat friend aka my new roommate.

 

Lifestyle change

I hate exercise in all forms. I’m not a huge fan of being outside, especially if it is hot. So yeah, it’s a little ironic that I’m a beach person. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not an “I’ll sit on the beach no matter how hot it is, even 90 degrees” type; I know my heat limitations.

I always found that I became more active when I vacationed in Cape May. It’s such a walkable town and there isn’t really a need to drive a car most of the time. Especially in the summer when the parking situation is a hellish nightmare.

But ever since November when I bought my FitBit, I decided that I needed a total overhaul on my sedentary lifestyle. I wanted to be more active, eat healthier and not be going on WebMD to search symptoms that might be a heart attack (side note: apparently sitting in a desk with hunched over posture can cause upper back/neck pain – but that can also be a symptom of a heart attack. Shoutout to my mom for telling me to stop using WebMD and sit up straight).

Also another sidetrack, the point of this post wasn’t to go into the details that caused a lifestyle that is/was unhealthy but about the changes that I’m doing to make myself better. Anyways…

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Somedays and weeks I go over my goals.

The last few months that I’ve been living in Cape May, I’ve become much more active. It started out that I would go on daily 20-30 minute walks on the beach. They were not fast walks by any means, I usually took my time because I was also looking for beach glass. And sometimes I took walks through the neighborhood because I was not really up for putting on sneakers and getting sandy at the beach.

And then on my last trip home, I packed ultralight so I would be able to bring my bike back with me!  I’ve always wanted to ride my own bike in Cape May but was never here long enough to bring it, until now.

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I set my Fitbit to autorecognize 10 minutes or more of exercising.

So the last few nights, instead of my walks, I have been biking. Nothing long or intense, but just a quick 10-15 minute cruise around our neighborhood. I love that you get to see more of the areawhen you bike. The only downside is that it makes it harder to get my Fitbit step goal. But as my mom reminded me, the point is that I’m exercising.

 

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Locked my bike up and headed to sit on the beach.

 

And if you had told me a few months ago that on Wednesday this week that I was going to ride my bike to the beach (with my beach bag and backpack chair in tow), I probably would’ve laughed at you.

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Off topic: Suicide awareness

This week’s post is off topic from Cape May, but on topic for millennials. Today I needed to talk about a topic that has become far too close to home lately – suicide. Between the debate about Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why series “glamorizing suicide” to this week when my brother Michael lost a friend, who took his own life, the topic is being swept under a rug.

Growing up in Northern Virginia (NoVa), the school environment is extremely competitive and intense. You will be told that you needed to take all honors or AP classes to get into a good state college. When I attended Woodson High school, the guidance counselors only knew how to tell you what classes you should take, not how to deal with mental health issues. Some of the assistant principals are more concerned with your attendance than the reasons behind the absence.

There is a real issue when a school is ready to set up a student for homebound studies or place them in special classes because they don’t understand that the reason for absences was anxiety due to pressure. Yes, I’m talking about my personal first-hand experience.

When I went to Woodson, the school was not equipped to handle mental health issues. They chose to treat school related anxiety as an absence causing behavioral problems. Because why not punish a student for skipping school, without trying to evaluate why she felt like she couldn’t walk in the front door every morning.

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With my best friend Lindsay, after graduating from Woodson, 2012.

Outside of Woodson, I sought professional help. Years of therapy and personal persistence (which I credit to my love of writing and journalism), I overcame my mental health battle with anxiety to graduate from Woodson. But there are Woodson students who never had the chance to graduate, because of an environment that drove them to take their lives.

Six suicides in three years. SIX kids who will never get the chance to live their lives. For reasons such as the school’s zero tolerance policy on drugs, to intense school pressure being too much. And as of last week, a seventh student chose to take their life from the pressures of being a junior. A kid that Michael and our neighbor James knew.

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Woodson grads show support after the week where two students committed suicide in 2014.

Kids this young aren’t unaware of tragedy, but measuring the years in suicides is just wrong. My brother said to my mom, “it’s been three years since someone at Woodson committed suicide.” For so long, I blamed Woodson, knowing how poorly they helped me during my time there. But then recently I’ve realized it’s not just Woodson, it’s not just Fairfax County…it’s the entirety of NoVa and the ridiciulous pressure put on these kids to get over a 4.0 gpa. And get into a Virginia college, where even a well-rounded student with suboptimal grades is rejected.

I didn’t post last week to my blog, partly because I was traveling, but also because I was mentally drained after finding out about the latest suicide. For all the ones that happened at Woodson, I didn’t personally know any of the kids who died. But with the suicide, last week, my brother and our neighbor, were friendly with him. They even spoke to him earlier in the week and he projected that everything was fine. No one realized until it was too late.

And how do you survive with the guilt of knowing you talked to someone days before they ended their life? How could you not notice they were in pain? These thoughts ran through my mind while I thought about Michael and James, and what they were going through. I can’t imagine it, but I know that it is never easy. The best we as siblings, friends, parents, teachers can do, is be more vigilant. It’s not worth pressuring these kids to go above and beyond in school, if they aren’t even making it through high school.

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Hugging Principal Jeff Yost after graduation, someone who helped me in my time at WTW.

The amount of pressure and pushing of these young adults is not only having detrimental affects, but ultimately it is not worth it! The Washington Post covered the cluster suicides in 2014, and in 2016 a fellow Woodson alumnae and friend Robyn, cowrote a piece about the school’s attempts to make change.

Ever since I realized that talking personally about my anxiety could make a difference, then I would do so and not be embarassed by the stigma.  I’m here today on this platform of my choice, to shout from the top of the hill that IT DOES GET BETTER! There is always help offered, even if it doesn’t seem like it. Your life is precious and there is always hope even in the darkest places.

If you’re feeling helpless, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, open 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.