True Confessions of a Faux-Adult

For a week and a half, I have been working from home.

I don’t mean my home in Boston. I mean the home in North Carolina where I spent the first eighteen years of my life. I happened to be in North Carolina for a concert last week (RIP). During my visit, the country woke up to the very real threats of the coronavirus outbreak. I was told I’d be working remotely for the foreseeable future. Air travel was deemed risky (and after the great Christmas journey of 2018 chronicled in my second and third blog posts, I will never drive between North Carolina and Massachusetts again). The last time I took a trip to the grocery store, eggnog and Reece’s Christmas trees were still on the shelves, so I knew I didn’t have the supplies I’d need to self-isolate in Boston. It just made sense to stay put in North Carolina.

So, for a week and a half, I have been working from home. Like, home home. Don’t get me wrong, my home is great. There is no place I love more than my hometown. Hear me say (watch me type?) that I am a massive fan.

But trying to do my job at home signifies the collision of the two most contrasting parts of my life. Since day one at my job, I have bent over backwards to give the appearance that I am at least a semi-functioning adult. I tuck in my collared shirts. I keep from laughing when people on the phone call me Mr. Hart. I’m even ready to pull a few lines like “Oh boy, how about that stock market,” or “So when I was making a gourmet vegan pasta dish the other night,” out of my pocket at a moment’s notice.

At my Carolina home, however, there is absolutely no pretending. We all know that I am not an adult. Instead of learning to iron clothing by watching Martha Stewart do it YouTube, I can simply show my parents how wrinkled my clothing is and let them take pity on me. Instead of reading cooking instructions on the back of a store-bought package (that I’ve fished out of the recycling bin because I will never not forget that the directions are on the wrapping), I can simply say “What do I do now?” when I get lost and someone will swoop in to save the day. I fall asleep in the same twin bed I slept in after leaving the crib, and my childhood teddy bear peeps at me through the cracked door of my closet. 

In short, trying to pass for an adult in this environment was off the syllabus.

At first, I managed to make it work. When someone on a video call would ask me, “Sully why are you wearing your winter coat inside,” I could simply respond by telling them we were saving money by lowering the heat during the day. They didn’t need to know that my unexpectedly long trip had forced me to make use of my “nostalgia clothes” (the shirts that weren’t deemed worthy enough to take to Boston but that hold too much sentimental value to Marie Condo). It was none of their business that two minutes before the call I realized I was wearing the cast T-shirt from my high school production of Les Miserables and knew I only had time to throw on another layer.

After a while, however, I think my coworkers started to notice something was up. “Is that your diploma?” asked one of my colleagues, pointing over my shoulder at my “Outstanding Woodwind” award that was given to me by my high school band director and that’s been in the same place in my room since I was seventeen. “Um, yes, it’s from my undergrad,” I said as I shifted my computer slightly and made a mental note to take all future video calls in the dining room in front of some very mature paintings of fruit.

Even my morning routine produces different results now. When in Boston, I set three alarms on my phone, shave, shower, and undergo a 45-minute commute, during which I read or check my email on my phone. When I arrive at my workplace (I hate saying “the office” because it just sounds like something Ward Cleaver would say), I’m all set and ready to fake adulthood for eight hours. On the contrary, when I sit down at my home computer fifteen minutes after my mom has stuck her head into my bedroom and woken me up, the energy I emit is a little less “adult” and a little more “teenager who has no idea what he’s doing in life, much less in this job.”

I guess you could say this experience has made me question my roles. I feel less like the child of the family unit when I’m sitting in our house convincing people on the other end of a computer that I’m an adult. I feel less like a grown-up employee when I’m trying to remember where in this house we keep the 409 because the dog got excited, ate her treat too quickly, and threw it back up, all while I’m on the phone with my boss. Nothing feels concrete anymore and I’ve had to be flexible, adapting to whatever role I need to occupy in any particular moment.

I don’t think I’m walking this tightrope alone, though. We are struggling through a time in which many of us are questioning our various roles; our places in what is likely to become our new normal, at least for a while. The extroverts among us — the movers and shakers, those who crave attention and delight in the company of many others — are trying to reconcile the fact that the most helpful thing they can do is stay isolated. The introverts of the world — our quiet thinkers who observe and reflect — have suddenly been thrust into the position of having to teach their ways to everyone. And like me, some children are pulling on their big kid pants and finding their own inner courage while some adults struggle to allow themselves to look forward with the childlike, simplistic hope that everything will be alright.

Below are some links that I hope can help us all identify our roles in the global community as we band together to combat this global pandemic.

Now if you’ll excuse me, this faux-adult is being asked to transform his home office back into a dining room table.

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html

Cooler than this?

In the days just before I turned eighteen, many people were wondering if my birthday would mark the end of humanity as we know it, and I don’t mean because of an epic birthday rager thrown by me.

You see, I turned eighteen on December 21st, 2012. This was the day the folks in ancient Maya marked on their Long Count calendar as the end of…well…something. As you can imagine, a lot gets lost in translation over a few millennia, so there was a lot of speculation surrounding what would actually end on that day. Naturally, the human race decided to get melodramatic somewhere down the line and assume it was civilization.

It will be no surprise to you as you sit reading this blog post that when December 21st, 2012 rolled around it was business as usual. I remember it being a pretty low-key birthday. I might have gone to IHOP? That sounds like something teenage me would have done with his friends. Wild times, I know. Other than that, I really can’t remember what happened that day.

What I do remember, however, is that I was a little disappointed that the catastrophe promised by our Mayan friends didn’t happen. I can already see some of you scratching your heads and saying, “But Sully, why would you be disappointed that you didn’t live to see some sort of apocalyptic event?” I think the answer is pretty obvious: it would have been EPIC.

Think about it. The catastrophic, earth-shattering event in any story is always one of the coolest parts. We didn’t want to see Harry Potter and Voldemort calmly discuss their differences and reach a compromise. We wanted to see everything go crazy with spells and explosions before the backdrop of a burning castle. When the Battle of Hogwarts came after seven books of build-up, we were so ready. People don’t go see movies like Independence Day because they’re feel-good flicks. They go because they want to fear for humanity while extra-terrestrial horrors run amok and wreak havoc. Say what you want about the last season of Game of Thrones, but don’t tell me that the Battle of Winterfell (complete with a literal zombie apocalypse) didn’t have you on your toes.

“Look, sister. Isn’t this cool. There is no way this plan will go badly.”

With these epic cinematic scenarios running through my head, I was certain that my eighteenth birthday would be a spectacle the likes of which none of us had ever seen. Cracks would open up in the ground and swallow cars (empty ones because my imagination isn’t a monster). Skyscrapers would teeter and fall, scattering debris like confetti. Fires would rage through town, burning the buildings none of us would miss such as the DMV, the J.C. Penny outlet store, and the K-Mart that had been closed for three years.

Of course it was no coincidence that all this exciting tumult would happen on the anniversary of my birth. In my fantasy, the alignment of my birthday with the Mayans’ doomsday meant beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was the chosen one destined to save the world from certain annihilation. I never actually imagined how I would do that, but rest assured it would happen.

My boring, natural disaster-free eighteenth birthday taught me two things:

  1. Because of the movies, we expect our disasters to go big or go home. The showier it looks, the more legit it is.
  2. Just like the characters on the big screen, we look for heroes; the chosen ones who prevent the most formidable disasters.

Our society’s cinematic way of viewing life means we look so hard for showy natural disasters that we don’t recognize a real earth-shattering catastrophe right under our noses. *longish dramatic pause* I’m talking, of course, about climate change.

It’s easy for people to ignore humanity’s current catastrophe because they don’t see explosions, carnage, or giant lizards stomping down city streets. A subtle natural disaster was off the syllabus.

Many of those who preach the very real effects of climate change, however, are scientists. And y’all, I kind of think we should listen to them if for no other reason than that they have science degrees. It’s right in their ballpark. If the future of life on this planet hinged on interior decor and dinner parties, I hope we’d be listening to Martha Stewart’s take on the subject. If humanity’s long term well-being involved singing high notes and being charming and warm, I’m sure we’d all rush to Julie Andrews’s house to see what needed to be done. As it so happens, the future of the world rests on our knowledge of environmental science, so my money is on the scientists.

I joke, but wouldn’t it be wonderful? “Follow me, good people of earth. As I’ve always said, a spoonful of sugar helps the apocalypse go down.”

And you guys, I get it. We’ve seen enough movies to know that the end of the earth as we know it should be cooler than this, right?

Epic movie disasters are cool. There’s no getting around it. But you know what else is cool? Venice. Venice is awesome. I have been there, fed the pigeons, and run from them when they wanted more food. It was a great time and I am a huge fan of Venice. Unfortunately, Venice recently experienced its worst flood since 1966, and experts are saying it was a result of climate change. I like gelato, pigeons (the non-scary kind), and happy-go-lucky gondoliers enough that the thought of Venice sinking into the sea never to be seen again makes me a little sad.

I don’t know who you are, public domain pigeon girl, but I applaud your courage.

You know what’s almost as cool as Venice? Fishermen. Don’t tell me you don’t see it. For one thing, their sweaters are awesome. One of my favorite articles of clothing is an enormous wool fisherman’s sweater given to me by a dear friend upon his return from a study abroad in Ireland. It’s like wearing a Brillo Pad, but it is the warmest and most comforting garment I own. Sadly though, it’s not looking too good for fishermen at the moment.

The village of Tombwa, Angola, for instance, is coming to terms with the disappearance of multiple species of fish from its waters, including anchovies. Anchovies, you guys! The best pizza topping (if you are one of those people who puts pineapple on your pizza, kindly stop reading here and leave this page. I cannot deal with that kind of toxicity)! The temperatures of Tombwa’s waters have risen more than three degrees Farenheit in the last forty years. That’s a lot, my friends. The little fishies couldn’t help but move camp. The worst part of this whole story is that the country of Angola is only responsible for .1 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions every year. Come on, y’all! Angola is doing a lot of the work on this project, but because of the rest of us, they’re going to get an F.

Here’s the deal. I am not Venetian. Nor am I a fisherman. I’m not a penguin or a polar bear or a seal (though I sometimes waddle and I have my fair share of blubber). But I do have a home that I love and a job that provides income for food, shelter, and healthcare. I can’t imagine the grief I’d feel if I were faced with the possibility that my hometown was sinking into the ocean. I don’t want to think about how I’d make ends meet without the security of knowing that I could do my job.

There’s no getting around the fact that, in a society where so much of our worldview is dictated by movies and television, disaster is a least a little bit cool. It’s epic and cinematic and spectacular.

But heroes are cooler.

Here and now is our chance to be heroic. We are the chosen ones. Our adversary is formidable to say the least. We are the underdogs in this movie and it’s going to take a lot for us to stand even a small chance of coming out on top. But this earth is my home. And yours. And the Venetians’ and the Angolans’ and the Mayans’. And it’s worth a shot.

If you aren’t sure where to start in the fight against climate change, I hope these links will get you going in the right direction:

https://abcnews.go.com/US/prevent-climate-change-experts/story?id=65721423

https://www.nrdc.org/stories/how-you-can-stop-global-warming

Works cited (because if any of my teachers read this blog, I want them to be proud of me. And yes, I know this is not MLA or Chicago):

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/world/climate-environment/angola-climate-change/

https://www.npr.org/2019/11/13/778812333/venice-is-on-its-knees-mayor-blames-worst-tides-in-50-years-on-climate-change

https://www.history.com/topics/religion/december-21-2012

Blaze(r) of Glory

Shopping malls are their own special kind of hell. They aren’t mentioned in Inferno because they weren’t around then, but you can bet that if they had been, my man Dante would have given them a big shout-out.

Nothing bores me more than looking through hundreds of items I have no intention of buying. I have a hard enough time with commitment that deciding whether or not to purchase something is agonizing. My feet get way more sore walking around a department store than they do climbing a mountain, and I firmly believe there’s something magical about shopping centers that makes a two-person line for the cash register seem longer than a twenty-person line at the DMV. At this point, my family knows better than to suggest a lengthy shopping trip when I’m around. On the rare occasion they do, I often end up sitting on a bench in the store sulking with the other kids whose families dragged them along. The only difference is that they are half my age and I’m an adult who should have kissed his sulking days goodbye when he stopped being a teenager.

A huge part of my disdain for shopping comes from my inability to do it well. I have no idea what size actually looks best on me, so if left to my own devices, I will unwittingly come home with a circus tent trying to pass as a shirt or pants that ride several inches above my ankles. I know a functioning adult should know the rules about wearing navy and black, which buttons to leave undone on a vest, and which fabrics will make you a sweaty mess in any month other than January, but I don’t. Hey, I’m the guy who bought a steamer last year so he would never have to learn to iron. Lower your expectations a little.

I realize that I’m not like everyone. Some people love nothing more than a nice, drawn-out shopping trip. The mall may be hellish for me, but for others it’s heaven on earth. I guess that’s to be expected. My idea of paradise — a camping trip where my closest friends and I eat pizza with anchovies, discuss British literature, reenact all three Lord of the Rings movies, and sing our favorite showtunes — probably isn’t for everyone. In short, some people love shopping and are really good at it. I am not one of those people.

My brother is one of those people. He can find clothing that looks good in any situation and he’s so good at looking for deals that stores practically pay him to take whatever he wants. Sometimes even I benefit from this special skill of his. I recently had a professional engagement in Texas where I needed to conform to a detailed dress code that aimed for a smart casual aesthetic. As it turns out, smart casual doesn’t mean showing up in sweatpants and reciting the quadratic formula. It requires a little more effort than that.

When I mentioned the dress code to my brother in a “help me because I don’t know what I’m doing and I have a feeling if this goes wrong I’ll be a laughing stock” sort of way, he took me to his closet and started handing me clothes.

The last thing he handed me was this grey blazer. Even I, with no sartorial expertise, could tell this blazer was beautiful. It was soft (Are you kidding? Of course I don’t know what material it was) and was one of those articles of clothing that seems to go with everything. It was at once form-fitting and able to hide love handles. Even though it was a jacket, it would cause me no problems in the Texas heat. Simply put, anyone caught wearing this jacket was a stylish man about town. When my brother handed me the jacket, the only thing he said was “Please make sure I get this back.” 

I’m sure you can see where this is going.

There are several things I can say about myself with pride. If you tell me the juiciest secret in the world, I will take it to the grave without telling a soul. I have the kind of knack for conversation that serves people well in job interviews or introductions to the parents of significant others. I have an almost annoying talent for looking on the bright side of things. These are all strengths of mine. Responsibility is not.

If you know me and this surprises you, it’s because I’m really good at faking responsibility. I always turned assignments in on time at school, but that was more out of my desperate need to please others than my own responsibility. I am on time for everything due to my fear of missing out if I’m late. I am pretty decent in leadership roles, but that’s because I am a younger sibling and relish the opportunity to tell other people I’m in charge.

But I am not inherently responsible.

Back to my story: I have never felt more like a boss than when I was wearing that grey blazer. Several people on the trip asked me where I got it. They commented on the fabric, the color, and the fit. It was perfect.

This picture will give you a pretty good idea of what I looked like in that jacket.

Until it wasn’t.

I had worn and loved this jacket off and on for an entire week. Tragedy struck, however, when I arrived at my airport gate to board my plane back to Boston. I was being super adult-y. I had gotten there very early. I was holding a grande Chai latte (with skim milk as if I didn’t have enough street cred already) and was answering emails on my work computer. Because Texas in September can be toasty, I’d hung the jacket over the back of my chair.

Hindsight is 20/20. In this scenario, foresight probably should have been 20/20.

Sure enough, an hour later I was sitting on the plane watching the Dallas airport shrink and wondering if I had the courage to confess to my brother that I had done the one thing he asked me not to do. Honestly, running away seemed like a pretty good option.

And then I found my courage. I knew this wasn’t the end of the world. I knew my brother would be forgiving. I knew what I had to do when I got off that plane. I just needed to hop over to the store where my brother had bought the jacket in the first place, find the same jacket (two years after he’d bought it), figure out the size I needed (a real adult would have remembered), buy it, and give it to my brother without him ever knowing any difference. It was quite simple, really.

Except that it wasn’t.

For one thing, the blazer was meant for summer. It was September. But I convinced myself that summer was still very much in full swing and that this jacket was sooooo stylish the store would keep it in stock for years to come. So it was with a hopeful heart that I entered the store.

Despite the September heat, the store had fully embraced the coming of autumn. I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised to see the Sanderson sisters pop out of the clothing racks to offer pumpkin spice lattes and bouquets of sharpened pencils to the customers. It became very clear that I would not find the summer blazer in here. “It’s fine,” I thought. “This is why God made online shopping.”

Mentally insert some clothes into this picture and that’s what the store looked like.

If there is one thing I do worse than shopping, however, it’s online shopping. After thirty minutes on Google, I was ready to throw my phone in a pond and move into a cave where I would spend the rest of my days renouncing technology and commercialism. This was off the syllabus.

I was left with four options:

  1. Take classes in the dead of night to become a seamster until I was skilled enough to make a blazer that would pass as the original.
  2. Fake my death and move to the coast of Scotland where I would run a bed and breakfast out of an abandoned lighthouse with my herd of friendly sheep.
  3. Fabricate a story about an armed heist at the airport during which I bravely saved several tourists from the robbers but failed to save the blazer.
  4. Tell my brother the truth.

I didn’t go with the first option because I already have so much student debt and because I don’t function without eight hours of sleep each night. I couldn’t go with choice number two because I can barely be trusted to care for myself, much less other people (or sheep). My brother knows me well enough to know that I would totally mess things up if I tried to help during an armed heist, so the only other option was honesty. Can you believe it?

“Can you please call me? I have to tell you something”

That’s the text I sent my brother. I figured if he saw that he would immediately assume I was terminally ill or that one of our parents had been taken hostage. That way, he’d be pleasantly surprised when he found out I had just lost the jacket.

Sure enough, he called me in .2 seconds and was clearly stealing himself for some really life-altering news. I took a deep breath and told him everything. After a long pause, he said “I think you’re more upset about this than I am, but I’m really busy so we can talk about this later.”

That was it. I braved the store for that. I went shopping. I went online shopping. And all for that.

I learned two lessons from all this. Firstly, life sometimes forces us to do things we don’t want to do for the good of others. Do you think I would have spent thirty minutes wandering around a clothing store if I wanted to disappoint my brother? Secondly, honesty is the best policy. And sometimes that means the right answer when someone asks you “Now you won’t lose this will you?” is “Yes.”

Back in my day…last month

A lot of growing up happens during transitional periods in life.

When children go to kindergarten, they don’t just learn their ABC’s. They also learn how to interact with others, function outside the home, and steer clear of jerks on the playground because they’re toxic and no one needs a toxic jerk in their life. Many college freshmen learn about the “freshman 15” (in my case I think I rounded up to an even 20) and that part of living away from Mom and Dad is learning to take good care of your body. Also extra-long sheets are a thing. Who knew? Graduations, moves, and new jobs all teach important lessons; help you grow. 

Sometimes, however, “growing up” is an understatement. This is the story of how a transitional period took me from a fresh, green lad in his early twenties to a senior citizen in about two months.

It all started three months ago when I graduated with my master’s degree. For many reasons, I opted to stay in Boston for a while before applying for doctoral programs. And because food, housing, utilities, student loans, and general existence in this day and age are expensive, my first priority was to find a job.

Turns out that can take a while.

Let’s just say unemployment doesn’t suit me. After eighteen years of school during which my time was filled with class, practice, rehearsal, and social events (you’re talking to a 2013 Homecoming King nominee – still not sure how that happened), a sudden period of nothingness hit me hard. After a few days of sleeping in and binge-watching every period drama the combined forces of Netflix, Hulu, and HBO could provide (I want to take this moment to thank publicly those folks who unwittingly logged into their accounts on my computer), I was at my wit’s end.

More out of boredom than anything else, I started going to bed obscenely early. And when you’re all caught up on sleep, going to bed early means waking up early. My days of lounging in bed on my phone for an hour after waking up were gone with the honeymoon phase of my unemployment, so I started incorporating morning walks around the pond near my house into my routine. You see an interesting crowd when you leave your house between 6:45 and 7:30; mostly parents with their babies who don’t sleep through the night, senior citizens, and ducks. And now me.

“Hey, looks like we got a new guy. What’s his story?”
“Hmmm. I’d say either a maddening period of unemployment or restless leg syndrome. The jury’s still out.”

When your morning walk is finished by 8:00, you’ve still got a solid 13 hours of day to fill (9:00pm is a socially acceptable time to go to bed). But that’s great, right? I’d spent the last eighteen years wishing I had more free time. Now that I finally had it, I decided to start doing all the things you say you’ll do when you have time but that you never actually do.

To start, I hit the gym.

Since I no longer had to limit my time at the gym to an hour between classes, I decided to expand my workout routine (if you want an idea of how this went, see my last blog post). Now I had time to run, climb the stairs, and try my hand at every single weight machine. I went hard during this workout, and it honestly felt pretty great.

Until the next day.

Everything. Hurt. My knees hurt from running, climbing the stairs, and walking two miles to and from the gym (because why take the train when you’ve got all the time in the world and none of the money?). Muscles I didn’t even know I had were screaming in pain.

Needless to say, I didn’t go back to the gym the next day. Instead I decided to get some work done around the house. This was going to be the day I did it all: laundry, dishes, dusting, and vacuuming (I’m not going to lie, I consulted spellcheck, Google, Siri, and Merriam-Webster to make sure I was spelling that right – what word has two u’s in a row?). There was no stopping me.

Until it was time to move the couch.

If all went according to plan, I was going to move the couch and find my missing sunglasses, two pairs of headphones, the rogue popcorn of six movie nights, and at least enough change to pay off my student loans. My reflection gleamed in a squeaky-clean floor as I squatted down and slipped my hands under one side of the sofa, ready to show off my Herculean strength to any neighbor that might be looking through the open window.

This was supposed to be me moving the couch.

Turns out couches are heavy. Some are heavier than others. The couch in my living room is the heavyweight champion of household furniture. The next day, my aches and pains from the gym were accompanied by the sort of low back pain that only poor weightlifting technique can bring. After my early morning walk, I flopped onto the couch with the kind of moan one might associate with wounded soldiers on a battlefield.

A quick digression: I’m a singer. Much of my success relies on dutiful upkeep of my voice. One obstacle that’s always stood between me and pristine vocal health is allergies. Vacuuming, dusting, and taking morning walks (or really doing anything outside) in Boston during the summer are all activities that cause my allergies to flare up. Luckily, I have my methods for keeping them in check.

One anti-allergy solution is hot tea. I don’t actually know if it does anything at all to clear the allergens from your system, but it feels like it does and the placebo effect is absolutely real. Besides, who doesn’t feel classy while sipping on a mug of Earl Grey, English Breakfast, or chamomile.

I know what you’re thinking: ” Hot tea in the summer? With no air conditioning?”
Well, I’ve got one thing to say. Just because it’s hot doesn’t mean we can’t be civilized.

I also take an allergy pill once a day. I’ve been doing it for years. It’s become a regular part of my routine: Wake up, shower, brush teeth, breakfast, allergy pill, school, etc. My routine, however, ended with graduation. Now I might wait until after breakfast to shower. I might brush my teeth before or after my morning walk. And I might take my allergy pill at any point throughout the day.

My problem on this particular day was that I couldn’t remember whether or not I had already taken my pill.

By now, you can probably put together the pieces of the “Sully turns into a senior citizen” puzzle: I had taken my 6:45am walk, I was settled on the couch lamenting my body’s various aches (including back pain), I was sipping a hot cup of decaf tea in the middle of the summer, and I was trying to remember whether or not I had taken my medicine.

Going to college, graduating, moving to Boston, and completing grad school are only some of the transitional periods that have helped define me as an individual. These phases have enabled me determine what I value, how I find comfort, what I can’t live without, and how I overcome obstacles. Each of these experiences has represented a certain coming of age.

It’s just that enough age came during this particular experience that I was tempted to search for some senior discounts and start collecting my social security.

Cool(?) Runnings

So I’m realizing it takes a lot of work to be a functional adult in society. Like, a lot. 

And I don’t just mean the work you do at work. That’s important, but so is somehow knowing what every warning light in your car means. Yes, I know there’s a manual, but you obviously can’t read and drive at the same time, so I guess you just have to trust it isn’t urgent (even though it sometimes is; see previous blog posts Road Trippin’ Part I and Road Trippin’ Part II). All of a sudden you’re supposed to know how to cook even though you lived off dining hall food, take-out, and PB&J sandwiches all through college/grad school. And I’m still waiting for the point when I can make phone calls to the bank, landlord, gas company, or car place without getting nervous. In all honesty, when was the last time you made a call like that without pacing at least a little bit.

I mean it. Tell me.

And on top of all this, you’re supposed to be physically active too, right? It’s hard to feel like you’re living your best life when you show up at work having woken up with just enough time to tend to your body’s basic hygienic needs before starting your commute and see your coworkers who were awake and at the gym while you were still in deep REM sleep.

AND THEY AREN’T EVEN SWEATING. Seriously, how is it that I’m sweating more after a three minute walk from the train than these people are after an hour-long workout?? And don’t give me the whole “they showered at the gym” routine. When’s the last time you worked out, immediately took a shower, and didn’t start sweating instantly when you got out?

But healthy humans make a healthy community so I do my best to work out too. 

Now, before I go on, I think it’s worth mentioning that I made it through middle and high school without ever taking a PE class. If you don’t believe me, I will happily send you my transcripts (I’m really proud of my GPA). I did spend many nights crushing it on the high school and college football fields, but that was in a marching band uniform behind a saxophone.

That being said, the gym is not where I feel most at home. It was months before I would even go near the weight machines. Look me in the eye and tell me they don’t look like torture devices. And how do they even work? Half my energy in the gym goes into looking like I know what I’m doing, so I certainly can’t ask someone for help. This was definitely off the syllabus. Well, it probably wasn’t if we’re being honest, but see my previous paragraph about my experience in PE. 

I’ve done enough covert Google searches to know how most of the machines work at this point, but my go-to gym activity is running on the treadmill. Humanity has yet to invent a comfortable bike seat, ellipticals are prejudiced against short people, and stair machines are their own form of torture, so the treadmill is where it’s at. 

I know people talk of runner’s highs where you love running and could do it for days, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

I’m honestly curious to know how it came to pass that humans just started running long distances for the sake of running long distances. Imagine what it was like for our ancestors, who were probably just sitting around the cave minding their own business, to catch sight of someone running outside:

“Look how fast he’s running! Surely he’s about to catch a great meal for us to enjoy this evening. But wait. He has no spear. He must be running from something! Could it be a mammoth? No, they became extinct when we killed the last one for the harvest feast. Oh. My. Gosh. It’s got to be an enemy tribe! He’s leading them away so we have more time to escape! EVERYBODY MOVE! TAKE ONLY WHAT YOU NEED! SHUT UP, CHILD #2! IT’S JUST A CAVE DRAWING! YOU CAN MAKE MORE WHEN WE FIND A NEW PLACE! LET’S GO! YOUR SACRIFICE WILL NOT BE FORGOTTEN RUNNING MAN!”

And then they rush out of the cave and see no mammoth, no saber-toothed tiger, and no invading tribe. It’s just this man running by himself like a lunatic. How do I know it’s a man, you ask? Because history, that’s how. Any woman who defied logic and/or social convention this much would have been:

a.) Burned at the stake

b.) Stoned to death

c.) Imprisoned in the village stocks to face public humiliation and exposure to the elements

d.) Ridiculed on Twitter

e.) All of the above

So it was totes a man. And it’s this man I always think about (and secretly resent) as I’m slogging through mile 2 on the treadmill. 

I guess there’s a potentially good message in this man’s story. Do what makes you happy. Find something you love regardless of social conventions, and maybe in the years to follow other people will love it too. Maybe they’ll do it in groups with their friends. Maybe they’ll start their day with it. Maybe they’ll even pay money to do it with thousands of others. And maybe, generations down the road, people will realize you were onto something and that your unconventional activity – that thing you love doing so much you’d risk throwing your tribe community into chaos – directly contributes to the betterment of society.

And maybe one day some person will resent you for the trend you’ve created but will go along with it because he’s desperately trying to be an adult and because he wants to feel less guilty about the ice cream he consumed the night before.

Farm Daze

I’m a grad student (recent grad student, actually. You may now call me Master Sully), and I will do anything to make some extra money. Well, not anything – get your mind out of the gutter. One summer I worked as a waiter. A singing waiter, actually. It was pretty fun, but it’s a significant stretch to say my singing outweighed my awful table service skills. There were a few months last year when I made phone calls for a telethon at my school asking alumni to donate to the institution’s annual fund. I did a lot of finger-crossing during that period, hoping no one would pick up on the other end of my calls. I’ve done custodial work (pick up after yourselves, y’all, people work hard to keep your facilities clean), helped people move from their apartments (third floor apartments, to be precise), and babysat cats (ask me about my severe cat allergy sometime). Basically, if there is a job that needs doing, I’m your man…and if I don’t know how to do it I will pretend I do because of my deep-seeded need to please and then frantically ask Siri for help the moment your back is turned.

My greatest challenge, however, came when my brother and I tended to his boss’s farm while he was on a week-long vacation in Europe. Just to give some context, hearing my brother say “Next week we’re going to tend to N’s farm while he is away” was kind of like hearing him say “Next week you’re signing with the New England Patriots” or “Whoa George Lucas really hit the mark with Star Wars Episode II.”  The extent of my farm knowledge at this point was simply that there was once an elderly man named MacDonald who had one (E-I-E-I-O). But I like animals and I read Charlotte’s Webin the third grade, so I felt I was up for the challenge. 

N, the owner of the farm, went above and beyond to make sure that two incredibly inexperienced farmers would not kill any of his animals. He left a ten page instruction manual that I read more carefully than I’ve ever read anything else. He also gave us a list of emergency contacts; everyone from the town veterinarian to N’s mom two states away. He made sure the animals would be in good hands. Even if my own hands were bitten off by a goose.

Despite my reservations, my first farm-sitting experience went off pretty smoothly. I learned that geese are terrifying and stay that way, but they won’t attack you if you’re the one they rely on for food. Or if you throw spinach the other way when they start to come near you. I found that saying “You’re a chicken and I’m a human and I’m bigger than you and you can’t fly” makes picking up a chicken less intimidating when you’re collecting eggs. I discovered that goats are basically big dogs, but there is a huge difference when an animal with paws jumps up to hug you than when an animal with hooves does. All in all, the week was a success. My brother and I didn’t kill any of the animals, and they didn’t kill us.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “But Sully? I came here ready to hear a fun story about how everything went to pieces when you tried to run a farm for a week. I wanted to laugh at you as you chased rogue animals (or while they chased you). I’m a nice person and I didn’t want anything to go wrong, but I certainly didn’t expect everything to go according to plan.”

Just you wait, my friend.

My brother and I must have done a decent job looking after the farm, because N asked us to do it again. Having successfully located my inner farmer, I’d have said this time would be no different from the last. But it was. So, so different.

For one thing, it was February. In Massachusetts. So when my brother and I opened the front door of the farmhouse on our first morning, we looked out on (I’m not kidding you) two feet of snow. We couldn’t see the path from the house to the barn or from the barn to the farmyard. I’m no Dr. Doolittle, but when I looked into the eyes of N’s sweet old bulldog Lucy, her message was clear: “If you think I’m going out in that snow to do my business you have another thing coming. I should also add that I have not trusted you for a second since you first entered this house and I have no problem going to the bathroom in some obscure corner of the house for my owner to find when he returns so he thinks you are lazy and neglectful.”

Actual footage of the farm in February. Ok, maybe not actual footage, but it’s the same idea.

By the time I had shoveled a patch for Queen Lucy the Skeptical, the rest of the farm animals were up. Nothing says “DIG FASTER!” like twenty-two chickens, five geese, four ducks, and five goats screaming at you across the yard because it’s breakfast time and you can’t walk in the snow, much less carry six food dishes, an egg basket, and a five-gallon jug of water.

This is a great time to mention that my brother had to leave that day for an out of town work obligation, so after he helped make a path through the snow to the farm yard, he was out. I was alone. I was alone in the snow with a bunch of hangry animals. Basically, I was Leonardo DiCaprio from The Revenant. Where is my Oscar?

While tending the farm during the summer with my brother had been a quaint, Instagramable holiday, caring for it by myself in two feet of snow was not quaint. And definitely not Instagramable. Any rapport I had developed with the geese, for instance, vanished when the door to their house froze shut overnight. When I broke the ice and wrenched the door open, they made it perfectly clear they were super mad at me as if I had personally covered their door with ice just to mess with them. Or there was the time I was giving everyone their dinner and slipped on the ice in the barnyard. To give some context, I’m writing this blog post three and a half months after the fact and my knee still hurts. I’m 100% sure the animals had a secret farmyard meeting that night to decide what to do about the crazy substitute farmer who spent five minutes lying on his back in the snow yelling four-letter words at the sky.

And then there was Lincoln. Lincoln and his twin sister Ruby were the two youngest goats. They were sweet and little when I first took care of them over the summer. Now, however, Lincoln was going through his rebellious phase. I guess he is a Game of Thrones fan, because there were several times when he was feeling amorous and I had to stop him from pulling a Jaime Lannister and getting frisky with his sister. 

Lincoln is a free spirit and he longs to roam the outside world. He didn’t tell me this himself, but I surmised it by his constant attempted escapes. Every time I entered the farmyard, I locked the gate with a carabiner so none of the animals got any ideas. During the summer, this was a great system. During the winter, however, the carabiner froze, making it difficult to use. One morning, I entered the farmyard carrying the usual assortment of baskets, dishes, and pitchers. The carabiner was frozen and I thought, “If I close the gate and go through the motions of locking it with the carabiner, none of the animals will know the difference.” So I went about my business and fed everyone. Everything seemed to be in order.

Then I saw him.

Picture those old movies in the Wild West where the two cowboy rivals stand at either end of mainstreet staring at each other before they battle it out. Now replace the saloon with a chicken coop, the tumbleweed with snow drifts, and the townspeople with farm animals and you’ve got this scene. Oh yeah, the two cowboys are me and Lincoln. I was having a standoff with a goat. 

He looked into my eyes and I looked into his, and I knew what was going to happen a second before it did. Lincoln gave me a sassier look than I have ever received from a person, turned around, and ran toward the unlocked gate. 

I’ll let you picture the next five minutes. 

Goats aren’t the fastest runners, but neither am I. Especially when I’m leaping through snow deeper than my knees. I wasn’t sure what to say, but I guess I didn’t think silence was an option because I made myself hoarse shouting, “COME BACK HERE, GOAT! I AM NOT PLAYING AROUND!” Everything about this situation was off the syllabus.

Finally, Lincoln decided the life of a wanderer was not for him and he calmly returned to the farmyard. While the other goats rejoiced in the return of their prodigal son, I locked the gate and wondered if my boss at work would believe me when I told him the reason I was late was because I was chasing down a runaway goat. 

Now that my first solo farm-sitting adventure has come and gone, Massachusetts temperatures are consistently in the sixties, and I haven’t seen a goose in months, I can look back and let hindsight show me the things I learned from this experience. Bulldogs can be divas when it’s potty time. Adolescent goats can be as obnoxious as adolescent humans. Whoever manufactures those Christmas puzzles with pictures of peaceful, snow-covered farmhouses has never been on a farm a day in his life. 

And often, when you step out of your ken, beyond the safe boundaries of your comfort zone, you discover strength, patience, and skills (does goat herding sound weird on a resume?) you didn’t know you had. All you need is a little push…or a farmer who left you in charge of one dog, one cat, two rabbits, twenty-two chickens, five geese, four ducks, and five goats and who wants to return to one dog, one cat, two rabbits, twenty-two chickens, five geese, four ducks, and five goats.

Road Trippin’ Part 2

Previously on Off the Syllabus:

  • Sully embarks on a solo road trip. It’s his birthday, and things are going great.
  • Until they aren’t.
  • Car troubles ensue and Sully misses out on his birthday milkshake.
  • Really you should just scroll down to the previous post and read it if you haven’t already. It’ll take three-ish minutes tops. I’ll wait.

Hello again and thanks for coming back! We left off at the point in the road trip saga when the nice (but also scary because I felt some hardcore judgment based on the state of my car) man told me things were not looking good. Now I’m going to do that thing TV shows do where you return from a commercial break and they replay the last few seconds of the scene you were watching before an ad came up with Jaime Lee Curtis telling you how good Activia is for your bowels. Here we go:

“It’s looking bleak,” he said…well…bleakly. “There are a lot of problems and there isn’t much I can do here. I definitely wouldn’t suggest trying to continue on your trip. There’s a dealership in town that will be able to do more for you.”

“How far away is it?” I asked, knowing that if the answer was anything other than “right next door” it would be a stretch.

“It’s about two miles,” he said. “You won’t have to get back on the interstate so you should be fine.”

I did not feel fine. Not at all. But I figured this man knew what he was talking about and if he said I could make it, I probably could. So once I texted my family, told them I loved them, and left instructions on what to do with my four-leaf clover collection in the event of my untimely demise, I got back in my car and left the station.

The car was shaking as if I was driving on a gravel road. During an earthquake. With no hands or feet. Drunk.*

*That is comedic (hopefully) hyperbole. I have never driven drunk and I don’t intend to. You shouldn’t either.

About one mile into the trip my speed maxed out at a brisk fifteen miles per hour. I’m no car expert, but I’d seen enough movies to say with 95% certainty that the car was going to explode at any minute. In this movie, I really wanted to be one of the characters walking away from said explosion in slow motion looking sexy, not one of the characters who never reappears and is forgotten by the time the credits role.

Ideally, I’m James Bond in this scenario.

During the next fifteen minutes, I single-handedly became the most hated person in Winchester, Virginia. Turns out people don’t think it’s cute to drive thirty miles below the speed limit. When I finally saw the sign for the dealership, it was kind of like the moment when a sailor sees a lighthouse during a hurricane. Or when a moviegoer finally sees the credits begin to roll at the end of a Sharknado film.

There was one empty parking space in the lot. If we’re being totally honest, it was more like 90% of a parking space. The car in the next space over had channeled his inner toddler-with-a-coloring-book and decided staying in the lines was overrated. My ideal parking situation on a good day involves three empty spaces in a row, so bumping my way into this quasi-space was iffy to say the least. All this was happening in front of the glass double doors into the dealership, so I had the smiling receptionist behind the front desk as my audience. As I pulled in, I gave the steering wheel one final turn. It didn’t spring back to its neutral position because at that moment the power steering died, along with my hopes, dreams, and spirit.

The receptionist was still smiling and staring at me through the glass front doors when I exited my car, so I didn’t kiss the ground or angrily kick the car for putting me through this.  When I walked into the building, she asked, “Are you Sully?” (My dad is Superman and was seven steps ahead of me this whole time, calling all the appropriate people while I lamented the loss of a birthday milkshake.)

I explained everything and she called one of the employees from the back, who told me they could look at the car in the new year. I told them that — while my time in Winchester had been nothing but fun and delight — I needed to get on home. They expected as much and told me one of their employees was going to drive me across town to a rental car agency so I could continue on my merry way.

Now, I’m sure you know as well as I do that you should never get in a car with a stranger. Unless you contacted them via app. (What can I say? Stranger danger is different from when I was a kid.) But desperate times call for desperate measures and the guy who walked out from the back looked friendly enough. Or at least like he wouldn’t murder me the second I got into his car.

The trip was relatively uneventful, unless you count the driver-guy telling me (without provocation, might I add) why his political opinions were the only valid ones, asking me to navigate before refusing to follow Siri’s instructions, and showing me his old high school while explaining to me that he had broken up with his teenage girlfriend, not the other way around. Suffice it to say there were no heartfelt goodbyes apart from “Thank you very much for the ride and I hope your old sweetheart doesn’t send back her Christmas present this year,” when he dropped me off at the rental car agency.

You may be thinking, “But Sully, if this was your twenty-fourth birthday, what good was going to the rental car agency? Don’t you have to be twenty-five to rent a car?” Turns out you can rent a car at the age of twenty-four. You just have to pay a zillion dollars. And promise seven years of manual labor. And your first-born child. But I’ve already given up all those things for my education anyway, so it was a price I was willing to pay.

Thirty minutes later I was driving out of the town of Winchester, Virginia in a vehicle that wasn’t trying to fulfill its dream of being the bucking bull at a rodeo. The situation wasn’t peachy. As I left town, fat snowflakes began to fall thick and fast. This North Carolina native has about as much experience driving in the snow as he does diagnosing shaky cars, so I was more than a little anxious. About 100 yards from the rental agency, the car’s check engine light came on. But I was several hours behind schedule and still determined to get home by the end of the day, so I decided I’d go with the “ignore it and it won’t be an issue” method (which I recognize is probably what got me into this mess in the first place). The car also had no CD player, so my audiobooks were of no more use to me. Likewise, if you don’t like country music (no comment) the radio stations in northern Virginia aren’t for you.

Driving down the road with no calm British voice reading me a book and no birthday milkshake in the cupholder, I was left alone with my thoughts. We’ve all heard some version of the saying, “It isn’t the destination that’s important, but rather the journey.” It’s a nice sentiment, I guess. But it’s kind of like the saying, “Money doesn’t buy happiness.” In a perfect world, sure, but tell that to my landlord next month and then find a park bench for me to call home. I learned something on this disaster-filled road trip that was never on any of those inspirational posters at doctors’ offices and was certainly off the syllabus. Yes, sometimes the journey is more important because that is where you grow. But sometimes the destination has to be more important. If it isn’t, every pitfall and obstacle the journey throws at you will be enough to make you throw your hands in the air and give up. When the going gets tough, the destination is the lighthouse you need to remind you that there is a positive end goal.

I know you’ve been on the edge of your seat, dying to find out if I did in fact make it home safe and sound. The answer is yes. I did. Did I make it home that day? No. Did I get my birthday milkshake? No. Did I finish my audiobook? No. But did I die in a car that shook gradually more and more until it met its end in a Hollywood-style explosion? No.

About the Photos:

Picture featuring Pierce Brosnan in a scene from Roger Donaldson’s The November Man. Taken from Kaori Shoji’s “The November Man: ‘Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond sheen is fading'” in the Japan Times: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwiltdaFrI7hAhXNmOAKHZVOAMMQjRx6BAgBEAU&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.japantimes.co.jp%2Fculture%2F2015%2F01%2F14%2Ffilms%2Ffilm-reviews%2Fnovember-man-pierce-brosnans-james-bond-sheen-fading%2F&psig=AOvVaw0YZhC9ugNycv_2zTM7U_2v&ust=1553089589303278

Road Trippin’ Part 1

Nothing says “I’m an adult, thank you very much” like taking a solo road trip.

So it was fitting that on my twenty-fourth birthday (see my previous post for thoughts on that “exciting” landmark) I left my house in Boston to drive to my home in North Carolina for the holidays. I was going to ring in this new year of adulthood in style with a million of my closest friends on I-84. My audiobook selections were on point and between searching in the cupholders and feeling around in the seat cushions, I had been able to find enough change to cover any tolls (you wanna talk about literal highway robbery??).

Road trips are great. You’re the captain of your own ship, but your ship has air conditioning and a CD player. You’re free to go wherever the winds, Siri, and the flow of traffic may lead. Embarking on this journey, I felt kind of like one of the brave heroes in The Lord of the Rings, except for me the stakes were super low and the only rings I planned to destroy were onion rings at whatever deliciously unhealthy fast food joint I would stop at for lunch.

This trip started off well enough. I woke up early and was on the road before most Boston commuters had even finished their morning Facebook scroll and gotten out of bed. The weather was great and traffic was mild. Every song on my Spotify playlist proved my suspicions that I could have made a name for myself as a professional DJ (when in doubt, add another Taylor Swift song). I was even going to make it home by dinner.

And then everything went wrong. Like, all of it.

This is the only logical explanation I can think of for the unfortunate circumstances that follow: My parents must have somehow offended an evil witch around the time I was born, and to get even she cursed their precious baby boy.

I was feeling great as I crossed the Virginia state line. I was halfway home and I had successfully made it through that stretch of Pennsylvania where apparently people don’t need to put gas in their cars or use the restroom. Then the car started to shake. It was kind of like sitting in one of those cool massage chairs, except instead of relaxation I was experiencing a bone-chilling fear for my life. On top of that, the gas pedal didn’t seem to be working, so I was gradually losing speed. At no point in my education had I learned what to do in this situation. Classical vocal music, library science, and British literature are great things to know about, but they’re not exactly helpful in this particular scenario. This was off the syllabus. But I’m proud to say I remained calm and did what any true adult would.

“Dad,” I said when he finally answered the phone. “I have a little bit of a problem.”

While I explained the situation to my incredibly patient and level-headed dad, I pulled off at the next exit. The old “turn-it-off-and-turn-it-back-on-again” trick usually works with phones and computers. Are cars really that different? I just needed to find a parking lot. My dad told me he’d do some searching on his computer to find a service station near me and would call me back. In the meantime, I rattled down a nice little country road that — if it had been dark — I’d have sworn had a resident axe murderer lurking on the side somewhere.

Finally I saw a store and pulled into the parking lot. I turned the car off, relieved at the idea that there might be people inside who could give me a jump if I needed help starting the car back up. As I turned the key, the door of the store opened and two bearded men in straw hats walked out carrying a sofa. They passed the store’s sign, which I hadn’t seen until now: “Amish Furniture Sold Here”.

While I was doing some quick mental math to figure out how long it would take me to get home via horse and buggy, my dad called me back. He told me there was a service station eight miles from where I was and asked me if I could make it. “Yeah, I can totally make it,” I assured him as I turned the car back on and shook my way out of the parking lot.

Longest. Eight. Miles. Of. My. Life.

When I was eventually going forty miles per hour in a seventy zone, leaning forward (because that would make the car speed up, right?), and thinking of all the things I had never said to those I love, I saw the exit I was looking for. The only reason I didn’t kiss the ground when I inched up the ramp and pulled into the station was because I was on a tight schedule. I told the mechanic about the car — in very technical terminology, I’m sure — and he said he’d see what the problem was.

While he pulled my car into the garage, I noticed a Five Guys next door. At this point I was not in the happiest mood and I knew what I really needed was a birthday milkshake. I could already taste the creamy goodness as walked in and ordered. As the cashier rang me up I reached back to grab my wallet. It wasn’t there.

After I had a little heart attack, I realized it was in the passenger seat of the car, which was now up on the jacks in the garage next door. “I know,” I thought, “I’ll just tell them it’s my birthday.” The words were almost out of my mouth when I realized that the only way of verifying my birth date was in my wallet. In the car. In the garage. Not with me.

After telling the cashier that Psych! I wasn’t actually getting a milkshake, I walked back over to the service station. I forced myself to keep it together because grown men don’t cry over spilled milkshake. Finally, the mechanic called me over to the garage door.

“It’s looking bleak,” he said, well, bleakly. “There are a lot of problems and there isn’t much I can do here. I definitely wouldn’t suggest trying to continue on your trip. There’s a dealership in town that will be able to do more for you.”

This story is not finished. Not by a long shot. But this blog post is turning out to be a little longer than I expected and I don’t want to bore you. I am therefore going to divide this post into two parts to keep you on the edge of your seat, like they did with The Godfather or the film adaptations of every final book in a series ever.

Will Sully make it home for the holidays? Will the car? Does he ever get his birthday milkshake? Stay tuned for Road Trippin’ Part II.

New Year, New Me, New Blog?

I turned 24 this year. It’s exciting, right?

No. The answer is no. And if your answer was “yes,” you’re either too nice to be honest about it or you have never turned 24.

Before I go on, hear me say that I am not one of those people who “just doesn’t get that excited about birthdays.” I am the friend who will try to slip a casual line about my birthday into a conversation several weeks out to build the hype. I usually try to stretch the festivities out as far as I can on either side of the actual anniversary of my birth (if your birthday is on a Friday, the ice cream you buy on Monday is a birthday treat and you don’t have to enter it into your MyFitnessPal app). I get all sentimental over every Facebook post, text, or phone call containing a birthday greeting, and I even feel a lump in my throat when the ATM at the bank tells me it hopes I have a wonderful day. Birthdays are great.

So I was surprised when birthday number 24 rolled around and was just meh. I still ate the ice cream. I still bathed in an outpouring of love and attention. But how is 24 really different than 23? I can already buy drinks, lottery tickets, and those ShamWow! towels and Snuggies from late night commercials that wake you up when you fall asleep on the couch. Signing contracts and jury duty are old news. It’ll be another year before I can even consider renting a car or running for a spot in the House of Representatives.  Really, 24 just isn’t that exciting.

I hope you’re sitting down, because this may come as a shock: Google didn’t have any pictures (at least in the public domain) of a twenty-fourth birthday party. Here is a birthday puppy instead.

But no worries. I could just add my own excitement. January 1 was just around the corner. “New year, new me,” am I right? This could be the most exciting year yet.

I feel I should mention that I always come up with approximately 27 New Year’s resolutions. Maybe three of them make it to February, and if I feel super driven I can ride one until about June on a good year. But this year would be different. All of my resolutions would last. I would jog and eat healthy food that still tasted as good as if it was deep-fried. I would have a thriving social life while still cultivating daily private meditation practices. I would attend protests and sign petitions and support all the social justice movements I could find. I would floss! Maybe even enough that my gums would get used to it and stop bleeding. And all the while I would be thoroughly excited about everything.

And I would blog. That was another resolution.

In my idealistic and optimistic stupor, I knew exactly what I would blog about. Since I was shocked when no one told me a person’s 24th birthday isn’t all that fun, I would protect others from the same terrible fate. I would share all the lessons I was learning as an adult (I’m being very generous with myself in using that term); things I didn’t learn in school. Meat thermometers are a thing, y’all. All this would be filtered through a layer of wit and charm the likes of which the internet has never seen. Millennials and Generation Z’s in years to come would regard me as their champion; the everyman whose pen was mightier than the sword of “adulting.” And I would call this blog…um…

So here’s another lesson adulthood has taught me: naming things is hard. Like, really hard. It took me longer to name this blog than it takes most people to name their children, which is saying something because children are a huge responsibility and I can abandon this blog when the going gets tough without any moral qualms or legal consequences. Some potential names and why they didn’t work:

  • Sullivan’s Travels: It’s brief, it includes my name, and it references some great works in literature and film. Fun fact: It’s also the name of one of the American Film Institute’s top 100 movies. On the off chance someone who doesn’t share my DNA and/or last name wants to Google my blog, I don’t want to be competing with an infinitely more successful and influential movie with the same name.
  • “Adulting” incognito: Now that is a chic blog name if I’ve ever heard one. At least that’s what I thought to myself before one of my more honest friends said, “Don’t use the word adulting.” Oops.
  • With a name like Sully Hart, any first initial/last name combination is out of the question.
  • Tales from the Hart: Excuse me while I go vomit.

“Why is this so hard?” I finally thought after I’d nixed every catchy, punny, clever option I could think of. “I almost have a master’s degree, so I should definitely be able to do this.”

And then this snide little voice popped into my head, mocking me: “But, Sully, even with all that work and money and studying at school, this wasn’t something you learned. Naming a blog was never on the syllabus. This is one of those lessons you’re wanting to write about.”

Ok dumb back-of-my-head voice. Thanks for the name. Now go away and don’t come back, jerkface. Well, you can come back if you have other good suggestions. But I don’t love your tone.

So here we go. This blog might go the same way as my other resolutions for the new year. I did think about flossing this morning, but I didn’t wake up at 5:00 to run, eat a low-fat smoothie, and meditate, so it looks like we’re right on schedule. But maybe this resolution will be different. For one thing, I’ve told you all what my goal is so it’ll be pretty embarrassing for me if I don’t keep it up. For two things (what is it you’re supposed to say after you say “For one thing blah blah blah?”), the lessons I’m learning outside the classroom are giving me a lot to write about. I’m sure there is a wealth of material I can cover that was off the syllabus.