Falling with style

This is a long one, so bear with me.

I enjoy most of the stuff I write for The Times because it’s all happy feature stuff, but the easiest ones to write are probably my Millennial Adventures columns because they just come to me. They’re the articles I write when I’m between issues or when I *ahem* want to procrastinate on writing another story.

The one I wrote for this week’s issue was no different. Assessments for derby were this week, so it gave me an opportunity to reflect on my time so far. Unfortunately, because of our pub schedule, I had to hand it in last week before assessments even happened, but I had more than enough to talk about anyway. Here’s what I submitted:

What does a 22-year-old with a fear of bars and little athletic skill do to make friends in New London County? They join a roller derby league, of course.

Alright, my lack of local friends wasn’t the main reason I joined Shoreline Roller Derby. Between the league here and the one in Ithaca, I had wanted to try roller derby for a while, but a variety of circumstances including transportation, work and flat-out chickening out prevented me from joining a league until this year.

I showed up to a recruiting event in January and could’ve sworn that I walked into the wrong place because it was filled with kids. I know that Sunday afternoon skating is mostly for families, but even the people who got super excited when I said I was there for roller derby had kids with them. Did I miss the age memo? Is this a mom-specific roller derby league? Do I have to have a kid to join?

Turns out you need neither kids nor cool tattoos to join. The only requirements are that you have to be over 18 (and I’m definitely one of the youngest on the team) and you have to have health insurance and a mouthguard. If you have those and the drive to keep going, you’re golden.

Before I talk about what I did do as “fresh meat,” which is derby-speak for new recruits, I’ll explain what I didn’t do. I didn’t tackle anyone. I didn’t throw elbows. I didn’t throw punches, either. Even if fresh meat were allowed to make contact, that’s not what roller derby is. The best comparison I can think of is Red Rover on skates, though the going definition is “speed chess while bricks are thrown at you.”

(There are no actual bricks involved in derby, for the record.)

What I did do: fall. A lot. One of the things you learn early on is how to fall correctly, ideally onto a knee so you can get right back up or at the very least forward because that’s where all your pads are. I’ve gotten to the point where I can consistently do knee taps and double-knee slides, and while I’d like to say it’s because of some vestigial athletic skill, really it’s because I fall down so much that I have plenty of opportunities to practice doing it correctly.

It’s actually pretty incredible what you can do in three months of being fresh meat. I came in not having skated since elementary school, and now I can skate forward and backward, I can do crossovers, I can sometimes do transitions, and usually I can stop without crashing into trash cans or other skaters. We’ll see if I can do all those things well enough to pass assessments, but even if I don’t, it’s still a pretty crazy accomplishment for three months.

It’s also been a great team experience, and while being active is nice and all, this is what I really enjoy about joining. When I joined the softball team in high school, most of the girls had 10 years of experience on me and sometimes treated me like a liability in the field.

It’s not like that in derby. Experience ranges from being there since Shoreline was founded five years ago to fresh meat like me, but it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been there because everyone legitimately wants you to succeed and will help you get there. We get together to watch bouts, volunteer or just eat, drink and be merry; I even went to a concert with our league secretary and I hadn’t even been there a month. It’s like a big group of friends who also happen to skate and appreciate a good bruise.

If you’re at all intrigued, or if you want to see me demonstrate my knee tap skills, come by the rink April 24 at 6:30 or April 26 at 7:30. More info is at their website or on the league Facebook page.

And here’s part of what I wrote on my personal Facebook page Sunday while linking to another post about assessments.

I know the vast majority of you have no interest in roller derby, so I try to keep the derby posts to a minimum to avoid being one of those “the first rule about X is always talk about X” people, but this one is important.

We start our first round of assessments tonight, and unless somehow I get my act together in the next 8 hours, I’m not going to pass. I can see how it’ll go: I’ll do most things the way I expect them to go, I’ll probably panic and mess up something I know I can do, and maybe I’ll be able to do something I had been struggling with, but most likely I’m not going to get everything 100%.

(100% is required to pass, it’s a safety thing. If you threw me on the track without having all these things down, I’d take out several people, including myself.)

I know that not passing 100% is going to make me feel like crap because that’s how my brain works. I’ve been spoiled by my academic prowess and have gotten to the point where anything other than an A feels like a failure. Things like not making the softball team freshman year even though I had decided only two months before that I wanted to play. Things like not making varsity senior year because I had still only been playing for 3 years. Things like not having a job offer May 17, 2015 even though most people I graduated with didn’t. And it’ll happen tonight/Tuesday because I’ll see fellow fresh meats go on to pass all their stuff this week because they’re beasts like that.

(the rest was the same improvements thing as above, so it wasn’t all doom and gloom; I just didn’t want to say it twice on here)

And for the results… I will be returning to fresh meat for now. Honestly I did better than I thought I did because only one thing stopped me from passing, and it was something that I didn’t think would stop me (not in the sense that I didn’t need to work on it but rather that there were other things I could’ve sworn would trip me up). I’m torn between being very slightly annoyed that I was this close to passing and being surprised I even made it that far, so I think I’m going to revel in what I’ve accomplished so far and then deal with the annoyance later when the super fresh meat assigned to be my “little” asks me how to do a heely. Sorry, dude, but you’re out of luck on that front.

Coming full circle

One nice thing about coming back to work in the same area where I grew up is that I already know a lot about the area. For the most part, I know what things are around here, where they are and how to get there. In my time working here, I’ve also figured out who to talk to in order to get things done. That part comes to fruition Thursday when I go back to my high school to present at Career Day.

I did Career Day when I was there. The basic idea is that you get a sheet with different careers, pick three that you’re interested, and if all goes well, you’re placed into short info sessions with people in those fields where they tell you about what they do and how they got there. I probably did it junior year since learning about this stuff senior year seems a little too late, but regardless it’s a good way for students to learn about different careers.

I remember sitting through sessions with a local radio DJ and thinking that people look way different than they sound, a photographer and thinking I am so not coordinated enough to do that, and a reporter from the paper I now work at. If I remember correctly, she might have even been covering the town I now cover, which is kinda cool. I picked her brain a little at the reception after the session, and even though I couldn’t do an internship (college students only, unpaid plus class credit), she helped give me a better idea of what I was getting myself into.

She moved on before I came here so I wasn’t able to be all “Hey, good job on that presentation five (six? seven?) years ago because here I am.” I’m also not expecting any of the poor saps that have to listen to me babble about student media and my measly 7 months on the job to come back and work here in another five (six? seven?) years. But it’d be pretty cool.

In terms of the presentation itself, I don’t have a whole lot of professional stuff to talk about since I’ve only been here since the end of August, but I think I have a decent run-down. I have four years of college student media experience, which is critical for getting a job after graduation, and I have a pretty good idea of what it takes to get from college to career since I experienced it more recently than almost everyone in the newsroom. As someone who knows how much it sucks to talk to someone who gives two-word answers, I like to talk, so hopefully I won’t have an issue filling the 25-minute segments. The only thing will be whether the fact that I look like a high-schooler will work in my favor with the crowd.

Sneak peek

I wrote another column for work, and even though it won’t officially go out online til Monday when I put it on the site and in print sometime around Thursday (give or take a day), I’m giving all you lovely readers (all two of you) a special treat by publishing it early here.

Mostly it’s because I wrote about cookbooks and the book sale in Ithaca and I’m excited about it.

The weakness for some college students is booze. For others, it’s coffee or Netflix. For me, it was and still is cookbooks.

(It’s also carbs and I guess food in general, but that’s a story for another time.)

This may come as a surprise, especially after that study they did recently that said many millennials are so lazy that they can’t even handle a bowl of cereal, let alone homemade Swedish meatballs or braciole. But as much as I like a good bowl of ramen every once in a while, I want to eat real food, and sometimes I need ideas that aren’t tacos or lasagna.

Like our Tossing Lines columnist said in his Jan. 28 piece, I also have a soft spot for used book sales. I was introduced to the magic that is Book Barn back in high school, specifically in the context of buying used foreign language dictionaries for a quarter of their list price. Who cares if a page is bent? A dictionary is a dictionary.

What really did me in, however, was the Friends of Tompkins County Public Library Book Sale. As it turns out, the people of the greater Ithaca, New York area really like their books. They donate so many books to the library that the library has to put them into a giant, mint green warehouse for safekeeping until May or October when the book sales are held.

I also learned that the people of the greater Ithaca area are also crazy about their book sale. Like “I’m going to camp out in front of the place before it opens up at 8 a.m. Saturday morning” crazy. Like “I’m going to fill my minivan with boxes upon boxes of books” crazy. It was probably a good thing that I was carless at school, otherwise I probably would have done the same thing.

The sale goes on for three weekends twice a year, getting progressively more sparse but also cheaper until you get to the point where it’s however many books you can fit into a Wegmans bag for a dollar. (For those of you not in the know, Wegmans is the Disney World of grocery stores and an experience in itself, but for all intents and purposes its shopping bags are the same as a plastic Stop and Shop bag.)

Since the selection changes every day, you also never know what’s going to be there, but I was struck by the wall of cookbooks. There are a lot of old cooking magazines and fad diet cookbooks and veggie-happy cookbooks that make sense in a green and crunchy community like Ithaca, but if you can think of a cuisine, chances are there’s a cookbook for it at the sale. And I learned very quickly that, like my Spanish and ASL dictionaries, this is absolutely the way to buy them.

Brand shiny-new cookbooks usually run upwards of 20 bucks in the bookstores. The same books at the book sale, maybe a bit rough on the edges or with the telltale stains that show which recipes are the good ones, are at the most $4.50, and by the end of the sale, they’re less than 10 cents each.

Is a Pacific Islander or Scandinavian or Australian cookbook worth 20 bucks? I don’t think so, but I’ll take any of them for a buck. Would I pay extra for a signed copy of “Yan Can Cook?” No, but I have one now that I probably paid two bucks for. And do I really need a 1999 “Taste of the World” cookbook full of recipes from long-closed Ithaca establishments? Probably not, but that braciole recipe was worth it.

I have since lost count of how many cookbooks I’ve gotten from the book sale in Ithaca, but at last count my grand total was more than 50. Now that I have Book Barn to fill the hole left in my heart by my distance from the book sale, it’s probably more than 60 or maybe even up past 70 now.

If anyone needs any gift ideas, I could always use another bookshelf. I have the cookbooks to fill it.

Filling the gap

Hello, reader(s) from Brazil! I’m not sure how you found your way here, and I apologize for not having much to say recently, but welcome.

I guess I should give an update. Just completed six months as assistant community editor here, so that’s pretty cool. Here are some of the stories I’ve written for our weeklies lately (and for a full list, check out the portfolio section, or follow The Times on Facebook/Twitter for all of our weekly stuff and some other stories we find interesting):

In addition to that (and the reason why I didn’t say “Oh I have nothing new to say”), I decided to join our local roller derby group. Before you ask, no, I’m not bouting, come back in 2 years and we’ll talk, but I have my own skates and stuff and I can skate forward and sometimes backwards and I can stop in some ways and I’m really good at falling. I mean, we practice how to fall correctly and quickly recover since you need to do that on the track, but it helps when you have a lot of experience falling.

More importantly, though, I’m enjoying the camaraderie of the group. I kind of got screwed in softball because I joined as a freshman in high school, so everyone already knew each other, and even if they weren’t cliquey, a lot of them had 10 years of experience on me. That’s definitely not the case here. Our league is only about 5 years old, and there are a lot of “fresh meat,” which is derby speak for newbies, but even the longstanding members are super friendly and encouraging. We do a lot of community stuff together, which admittedly is partly because we can’t fund ourselves otherwise, but aside from awkwardly realizing that I didn’t know what anyone looked like without helmets for our Moe’s fundraiser last week and possibly being both the youngest and the only one without a kid, it’s a nice group to hang out with; I even went to a Gaelic Storm concert with our secretary and I’ve only been involved for a month.

Once I’m in it for more than a month, I’ll probably do a column for work about it. My next one is about cookbooks, and by cookbooks I mean it’s half about cookbooks and half about how much I love the book sale in Ithaca, which is how I ended up with most of my cookbooks.

Earning my keep

 

A few weeks back, I posted a ranty column about how everyone thinks millennials are dumb and how I know a lot of dumb millennials but we’re not all like that. I ended up deciding it was too ranty to publish at work, so I rewrote it to be a little bit less self-serving (sorta) and wanted to post the new version.

There’s a running joke around the office that every time I tell a story about an old job, it’s always somewhere different. I certainly don’t make the task of remembering said former places of employment very easy considering I’ve had 12 different jobs since 2009. But what throws me off is how surprised some people are when I say I’ve worked so much, especially last summer when I worked 58 hours a week.

I think what it comes down to is the trope of millennials being an exorbitantly lazy bunch that relies on the money of parents and others to get them through. I’ve seen some examples. Most of the other members of my high school graduating class were given their cars, whereas I paid $1,000 for my wonderful little 1998 Mercury Tracer. I went to a private college where I was the only one in my friend group who had to work through school to pay for it. And I also worked at a college town bar, where I was called a multitude of names for refusing entry to anyone with a fake ID because heaven forbid I turn down an Ivy Leaguer.

You could also make the argument that I’m just as spoiled. I went to a private college instead of sticking to UConn or Three Rivers, and now I’m $100,000 in the hole. I was able to come back to Connecticut after graduation and live at home rent-free while I get myself financially situated. And unlike a lot of recent college grads, I actually have a job in my field.

So yes, there are people in my generation who may not necessarily “earn their keep.” Like any stereotype, however, it’s important to remind people that not all of us are like that. Hard-working millennials do exist.

A US Census study showed that in 2011, more than 70 percent of college undergrads worked at some point during the year. Most of those students worked less than full time, but more than half of them worked more than 20 hours a week, which is more than the 10 to 15 hours recommended by colleges to avoid academic problems. My school only allowed 20 hours a week on campus, but the only thing stopping me or anyone else from working more hours off campus was our own academic standards (and maybe transportation).

Those jobs during school can also lead you somewhere else. Sometimes it’s a place you want to go, like how my experience as a volunteer at a science museum for kids led to two science writing internships. Sometimes it’s not directly related to your major but rather another field, like how a former student manager in my department of IT at school now does IT stuff full-time, even though he went to school for television.

And if all else fails, you’ll probably see us doing odd jobs to make ends meet. Before I was hired here as a reporter, I worked for an EB subcontractor installing computers, writing for a science news site, and delivering newspapers (more on that at another time). Pretty much all of my jobs (a dentist office, the campus mail room, a library, and so on) have been of the odd job persuasion. I know the age-old joke of art/music/English/etc. majors going to school to become baristas, but at least they’re doing something, and someone has to make your coffee.

Roundup

Not the herbicide. I needed another way to say “year in review,” not a political bashing for making a reference to a company that has ruined the name of a potentially lifesaving technology.

ANYWAY.

I didn’t do a whole lot of posting this year, so I should probably take this time to wrap things up.

My final semester was pretty good – I only took 15 credits because part of me wanted to give myself a break for taking 18 credits the entire rest of my college career (though I ended up working 30 hours a week instead). My senior capstone, Issues in the News, was really depressing, but it gave me a lot of… well, issues to think about. My fun class, which was the anthropology of travel, did the same thing but in a fun way. My narrative journalism workshop gave me a great excuse to be lardacious and eat at a greasy spoon every Saturday for the entire semester, and it was a fun project. Science Writing apparently wasn’t memorable enough because I had to go back into my transcript to remember I had taken it, but the professor was cool and it was a class I really needed to take considering what I want to do in life. I survived another semester of band on bass clarinet, which really wasn’t that tough aside from those long drone notes in Carmina Burana, but fortunately in the concert there were six of us so I didn’t have to risk passing out. And I got myself into Strings, which I probably wasn’t supposed to do because I’m not a music ed student, but the prof let me and I really enjoyed the class. I mean, where else am I going to be able to learn the basics of a bunch of strings instruments for free? (well, “free” in the sense that I didn’t have to shell out physical money for lessons; it was a credit, so $1,355)

My boyfriend was finally able to come to one of my GSO concerts, but not before his car died on the way up, so his only other driving friend had to bring up the herd. Since we were supposed to eat before the concert and that didn’t end up happening, I got Moe’s delivered so I could drown my upset in tortilla chips, and then we ended up going to the original restaurant after the concert for dessert and drinks.

I had a 7-month remote internship with Modern Notion, which was neat because I got to do science writing stuff without having to drop my entire life’s savings to live in or commute to NYC. It was a valuable experience because I got to practice writing science stuff for the general public, which can be a little hard considering I understand most of what I’m reading and I know what I’m saying but the average person might not. It also got me used to a more reporterly deadline schedule with multiple things due during the day rather than the monthly cycle I was used to with Buzzsaw.

I graduated. That’s always nice.

I was not blessed with a job right after graduation, so I worked 3 days a week at my old computer job, 2 days a week at my internship, and 7 madrugadas a week delivering newspapers for a total of 58 hours a week. I’ll have another column about that coming up in a few weeks, but the TL;DR version of that is that the hardest part of delivering a newspaper is the time, with pissy customers with no concept of time at a close second. But one of the guys on my route was also a Royals fan, so he filled me in with baseball news if we ran into each other in the morning, and I got to listen to NPR.

I did get two job offers, but I had to turn down the first one with the Cortland Standard (yes, that Cortland) because I wasn’t going to be able to afford both rent and loans. The second one was at the company I was delivering for, so now I’m writing for the paper I delivered over the summer. I like it because it’s a little bit of everything (writing, layout, editing, town stuff versus features, etc.), and I get to be the person who writes happy cutesy things when the rest of the news is gloom, doom, and death.

I finally won NaNoWriMo after 3 unsuccessful attempts. I actually posted regularly about that so I won’t rewrite it here, but it was fun and I’m glad I was able to do it. I have a revision plan set up for next year, and I’m hoping to get the story done and at least partially edited by the end of July.

And I guess that’s it. Nothing catastrophic other than my loans, but those are my own fault. Overall a good year.

Words not published

A title with two meanings today. 1, my NaNo story is nowhere near ready to be read by anyone other than myself (it’s not done, and even if it was, it’s in desperate need of editing). And 2, I wrote a column for the weekly paper I write for, but it’s a little too ranty to publish, so I’m going to post it here instead.

So I guess that means these words are indeed published, but nowhere where anyone will read them…

As a spring college grad, I’m pretty much guaranteed to be among the youngest, if not the youngest, person in a given situation. As such, I end up sitting awkwardly through the occasional rants of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers that accuse members of my generation of being extraordinarily lazy, entitled, delusional, and just plain bratty.

Dental office floater, December 2009 to August 2010.

I get it. I went to a private college for four years. I have a liberal arts degree. I got a half-ride and a job in my field and my student loans are still more than half of my income. My job is a cushy 9-to-5er writing cute happy-ending stories. And I still live at home because I can’t afford to have my own apartment anywhere within reasonable commuting distance. So yes, you could argue that I am in that crowd.

Concession stand cashier, Summers 2010 through 2013.

I’ve also witnessed how some of my peers can fit the narrative that Gen Xers and Baby Boomers paint. Pretty much everyone I knew from high school of driving age had a hand-me-down or (the horror) a brand new car. At school, they drove five minutes from their apartments and parked their late-model wheels over the line not only horizontally but also vertically and sometimes even on the sidewalk.

Campus dining hall, September 2011 to December 2012.

They also spent a lot of time at the local bars, fighting with the bouncer to let them in with fakes, fighting with the bartenders to be served RIGHT NOW, fighting with another patron who accidentally hit them while dancing, fighting with the employees kicking them out, and fighting to stumble back up the hill at the end of the night.

Science museum guide, September 2011 to May 2012.

They skipped their 8 a.m. to recover from fishbowl night the night or because the class is boring or because they were too busy doing things that weren’t homework. They were the dreaded project partners who ditch the scheduled work meeting to go to a concert or just don’t respond to any emails and hand in a single haphazardly thrown-together slide for the presentation five minutes before it’s due.

Assistant technician, July 2012 to August 2015.

They were impatient. The person checking IDs at the bar isn’t fast enough. The person making sandwiches at the campus deli isn’t fast enough. The professor’s response to a last minute email isn’t fast enough. The car in front on the way to the movies isn’t fast enough. The time left before spring break isn’t fast enough.

Student mail worker, January 2013 to May 2014.

And they didn’t work. Phone bills? Car payments? Student loans? What are those? Delivery four nights a week? Why not? Newest tech? It’s a necessity for functioning in modern society.

Library assistant, September 2013 to May 2014.

Student desktop technician, September 2013 to May 2015.

Hostess, September 2014 to May 2015.

Editorial intern, January 2015 to August 2015.

Newspaper delivery driver, May 2015 to August 2015.

I know the tropes. I know people who fit them to a T. Sometimes I’m guilty of some of them too. (I’m probably being bratty right now.) My point is that most of us are better than that. We buy our own little junkers with what little we have saved up. We spend late nights juggling overnight shifts cleaning bathrooms, finishing up 20-page research papers, and sleeping. We roll ourselves out of bed for that 8 a.m. chem class that we really don’t want to go to but we do because we have to. We take moments out of our day to thank the guy who made our omelet or the lady who drove the bus after the bars closed or the friend who brought us downtown to go grocery shopping.

Staff writer, August 2015 to ???

And we work.