What I Learned In College (All Of It!)

At the end of every year of college, I’ve sat down and made a list of a handful of things I learned. They ranged from the weirdly specific and the universal, the personal and the professional, the idiotic to the sublime.

Now it’s the end of my last year. I perform my final project as a USC student in 10 days, and I graduate in 12. It’s over, all of it. I’m doing exactly what I hoped to be doing. I still have panic attacks and stage fright, I still wake up some mornings thinking I look like a bridge troll, and I still leave some social interactions thinking, WTF did I just say? Seriously, what was any of that? What?

But fortunately, I now have coping mechanisms for all of that. And I realize that most of those things are pretty normal, or at least common enough that other people have told me they feel the same way sometimes. And more importantly, I feel like I’ve learned a lot over the last four years. Obviously I’m not talking about academics, although I’ve definitely retained far more academic information in college than I did in high school—what a crazy concept, that when you’re learning for the sake of learning, you actually enjoy it and you remember what you’re taught! But just like every other cliché college grad, I’m talking about what I learned Outside The Classroom (cue Green Day).

So here is a semi-exhaustive list of absolutely every godforsaken thing I figured out going from 17 to 21 at one of the most wonderful, welcoming, stimulating, scandal-ridden, economically imbalanced universities in the country !

— don’t mix your liquor, you will get a hangover, if not this time, then eventually
— do you have your keys?
— clean your toilet
— drink water
— take pictures
— don’t send that long dramatic text it’s not worth it
— asking for consent does not ruin the mood in fact it makes the whole experience better (and, uh, legal!)
— keep a planner or at least a running to-do list, a physical one, not on your phone
— keep a journal, again a physical one with paper in it & stuff, even if you only write in it once a month you’ll be so glad you have it in ten years
— don’t be a narc
— don’t tell your friends what people say behind their backs
— DO tell your friends if their partner is cheating and the partner is too cowardly to do it themselves
— bring medicine — painkillers, stomach meds, vitamin C, et al
— bring snacks
— do volunteer work
— vote
— get involved in a local election somehow please everything is terrible
— stop being passive-aggressive, call out your friend/partner on their BS before it festers into something bigger than it needs to be
— don’t be afraid to ask people to hang out, bite the bullet and be the ringleader
— nobody is going to remember that embarrassing thing you said/did in six months so stop beating yourself up about it
— try dating apps just to see if you like it, if you hate them you can delete them
— dress in layers because some classrooms are boiling and some are freezing
— take a class in a subject that’s always interested you but has nothing to do with your major
— we’re all just people who do good things or bad things but none of us is inherently good or inherently bad (up for debate I guess but that’s where I’m trying to land)
— don’t forget to put on deodorant
— find a pleasant perfume or cologne to wear on special occasions (or, if you’re like me, to wear every day so you always smell like a bakery)
— find a form of exercise that doesn’t make you miserable and do it for 30-60 minutes, three or four times a week
— seriously do you have your keys
— people without uteruses: have trash cans in your bathrooms
— clean your toilet, I know I already said that, but please clean your toilet
— drink more water
— if your crush is single, tell them how you feel, you have up to ONE MONTH to pine and then you have to grow up
— if your crush is NOT single do NOT tell them how you feel because they do not like you and if they make a move on you while they’re in a relationship then they’re not the kind of person you want to be with anyway
— call your parents more
— call your siblings more
— work on that essay/project/presentation/test prep a little bit every day for a week before it actually needs to be done
— take out the trash
— with few professional exceptions, no one lives or dies on the basis of your good work, so don’t stress about getting it done perfectly, just get it done
— eat more fruits and vegetables
— drink less coffee
— buy a reusable water bottle and to-go coffee/tea cup, it won’t save the planet but it’s a start
— stress less about what you look like; you’re probably a lot more attractive than you think, and more to the point, nobody is looking at you, everyone else is way more worried about themselves
— related to the above, being attractive doesn’t automatically make people fall in love with you
— stickers from Redbubble are a quick way to boost your mood, they’re also great birthday presents & the best part is that you get discounts buying them in orders of 4 or 10 so stock up
— take at least one day every semester to skip all your classes and do absolutely nothing
— do not do the above thing more than once a semester
— it’s better to turn it in late but decent than to turn in something crappy / to plagiarize / not to do it at all (PLEASE DON’T PLAGIARIZE)
— seriously any grade is better than zero so no matter how late it is just turn something in
— if you’re not sure if it counts as cheating, it’s probably cheating (romantically & academically)
— if you’re always paranoid that your partner is cheating on you, you should break up with them, because either they’re cheating on you or you have serious trust issues
— ask your friends more questions about themselves, don’t hog the conversation
— open up more to your friends, no need to clam up around people who love you
— ask your professors/advisors/mentors more questions about their lives and careers
— create traditions with your friends, it can be something as big as a yearly trip or as small as a weekly brunch
— everything gets two tries - hate it once, give it one more shot, & if it still sucks, never do it again
— muting people on social media is just as effective as blocking them and unlike with blocking they’ll have no idea you did it
— unfollow those influencers that make you feel bad about your body or your life, seriously, hating yourself is optional
— actually almost everything is optional so if you can safely quit the job, dump the partner, end the friendship, or move to a new place, sleep on it, then do it tomorrow; and if it’s something small like dying your hair or rearranging your furniture or learning an instrument, START TODAY
— also even if it’s not optional, it is temporary, so if nothing else, ride that wave until it’s over, one day it will be— platonic love is not a second-rate version of romantic love, it is deep and valuable and intimate and you’re lucky to have it
— stop trying to grow up so fast, there’s plenty of time for that
— hang out with people of different genders/races/religions/socioeconomic statuses/sexual orientations, listen to their stories, check your privilege
— don’t have sex with someone just because you feel like you’re supposed to
— don’t go on a date with someone just because you’re too scared to say no
— say you’re sorry immediately and then leave the person alone to forgive you on their own time, if you keep apologizing it’s not about them it’s about you and that’s not the point of an apology
— accept that some people will never forgive you
— try to forgive people who genuinely apologize and have tried to be better
— don’t be friends with sexual predators
— sorry I don’t think you heard me, DON’T BE FRIENDS WITH SEXUAL PREDATORS
— if you’re teaching someone to be less racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic/just in general to be less ignorant, try to be patient
— but don’t feel obligated to teach absolutely every single person you meet how to be more tolerant
— start packing up your dorm/apartment/room early if you can, it’s very overwhelming trying to do it all in one day
— use protection REGARDLESS of your gender or your partner(s)’ gender and if there’s a risk of pregnancy, double up
— get tested, IDK how often I’m not a doctor
— unless the person is literally the leader of a nation they are not too busy for you, if they want to see you they’ll make time
— I can’t remember who said this but: don’t make anyone a priority who just makes you an option
— make time to read for pleasure
— leave yourself motivational notes around your room, it’s not lame, it might make you smile
— sometimes it’s hard to appreciate the big stuff make gratitude lists of dumb small things that make you happy you’re alive (for me it’s cappuccinos and going to the movies and the golden hour)
— why don’t you just check and make sure you have your keys
— do things you’re bad at for fun, not everything has to be a job and if all it does is make you happy that still counts as being productive
— go to therapy if you can afford it
— wake up earlier than you need to
— go to bed earlier than you need to
— learn to say no to stuff you don’t have time to do, even if it sounds cool
— try to say yes to things that will help you in the long run, even if they sound hard/scary
— be honest with romantic interests about the depth of your feelings & your long-term intentions
— listen to people when they tell you their intentions with you, and don’t try to change their mind
— post less on social media (unless it’s your job, then go nuts)
— expensive cocktails are often bad, don’t bother
— apply for the job, enter the competition, your chances may be slim but if you don’t try then your chances are zero
— if you did something that’s gonna hurt your friend, tell them about it right away, the lying is worse than whatever you did
— I know you think you won’t, but you WILL fall in love again
— ask for help
— if your friend is suffering don’t worry about saying or doing the right thing, just do something, they need to know you’re there
— tell your loved ones you’re thinking about them without the prompting of a holiday or birthday or tragedy
— one more quick key check just to be safe
— you can do this
— please for the love of god drink more water

American Scheme

I go to USC (graduating in less than 2 months let’s GOOOOO). I joined in on the hearty laughter and jocular memeing of the admissions scandal currently rocking the nation—Aunt Becky paid half a million dollars for her vlogger daughter to cover one of our finest gross dorm rooms in Pottery Barn decor. A bunch of other wealthy people have been implicated in bribery and racketeering (I don’t know what that is and at this point I’m too afraid to ask), and all of us whose parents didn’t drop half a Jennifer Aniston-On-Friends-Salary to buy our admission to college are having a good laugh. But it’s important to take a moment to interrogate how all the rest of us got here, too.

Most people have some degree of privilege. There are grotesque examples of privilege on display in the United States all the time—cis white male billionaire evades taxes, brags about sexual assault on tape, colludes with hostile foreign power, somehow is president. 21-year-old white heiress to multimillion dollar media empire becomes a billionaire, somehow lauded as self-made. Wealthy white actresses pay millions of dollars for their wealthy white offspring to attend schools they are not qualified to attend. But privilege is not always or even often grotesque. It is subtle and thus more insidious, because it’s harder to call out.

Every aspect of higher education and college admission is classist. Research shows that wealthy, mostly white legacy students benefit from affirmative action far more than their less fortunate peers of color. The SAT and ACT are designed to trip up students who can’t afford expensive tutors. And the public education system in most parts of the US is such a disaster that kids who can afford private high school automatically get access to smaller class sizes, more individualized attention from teachers and counselors, and more AP and honors classes to choose from—not to mention that those kids probably have time to focus on their schoolwork & engage in extracurricular activities because they’re not working a part-time job. How do I know this? Research. Common sense. And also because I lived it.

I have parents that attended a top college, one of whom also has an advanced degree. I went to a month of SAT tutoring with a private instructor. I took AP and honors classes at my plush private high school while doing improv and slam poetry and songwriting on the side, because my parents told me my only job was being a good person and a good student. The privilege was all around me and I scarcely noticed I was swimming in it. To quote David Foster Wallace, this is water.

I worked very hard in high school, and I received a full merit scholarship to college. But the circumstances that led to that merit scholarship could not have arisen without immense privilege. Yes, I am black and Jewish and a woman. But I’m also an affluent kid from Los Angeles, and that gave me a crazy head start. The system that ultimately gave us this intricate admissions scandal is not broken. This revelation is the next step in the logical progression of false meritocracies. Much like Donald Trump’s presidency is a result and not a defect of the American political system, outright bribery is a natural byproduct of American educational elitism.

I have a faint hope that one day, the United States will undergo a cultural shift that rips the price tag off a college education and enables people of all socioeconomic backgrounds to pursue advanced degrees without strings attached. I hope one day student loan debt is forgiven. I hope one day, everyone involved in this deeply prejudiced system is taken to task. Today is not that day. Today, we begin the tough conversation. Today, we meme.

2019 New Year's Resolutions

Hey! It’s been a while. Happy new year!

I’ve never made this blog a thing I forced myself to do. When I have something to write about, I write about it. Sometimes this results in a flurry of posts in quick succession, other times I go months without writing. I’m not sure if that will change in 2019, but I thought I’d share some other resolutions of mine, and see if you guys have anything similar on your lists.

Work out more. Duh. With the exception of my dad and brothers, pretty much everyone I know wishes they worked out more. Here’s hoping!

Cook more. I get takeout a lot because I am 21 and always tired and not passionate about cooking. But I do know how to make a few things, pretty well actually, so I’m gonna try to make those things and maybe learn how to make some more things, because cooking is an act of self-care - physically, emotionally, and financially. Plus it’ll make me feel more like a grown-up, which is often a plus.

Drink more water. I actually drink a lot of water most days but sometimes I forget. In 2019, no more dehydration headaches! Do better!

More weekend outings with friends. This is kind of amorphous, but I want to do more Cute Weekend Things with my friends. In October, one of my best friends invited me to a pumpkin patch with some friends of hers I didn’t know yet and then we all went back to her house and ate dinner and watched old Disney movies (starting with Halloweentown, duh) and baked cookies and got drunker than we intended. It was one of the most fun days of my life and I want to do more stuff like that. Flea markets, old movie theaters, outdoor concerts, hip restaurants and coffee shops, that kinda thing. I’m so lucky to live in LA! I need to take more advantage of it!

Try some bars. As previously mentioned I am 21, somewhat newly 21 (September 10, a Virgo, obviously). I’ve been to a couple of bars, but I’m not really the going out type so I haven’t tried that many. I want to do some research and go to more spots and try to find a couple that I really like. I’ve always liked the idea of being a regular somewhere, and even if that’s hard to do in a city like LA, I would like to at least know the names of some bars and feel less lost when someone mentions one.

Go on hikes. Semi-related to the above, but I genuinely enjoy hiking and I rarely do it. In the summer when I’m at home, my dad will often take me when he’s not working or out of town, but during the school year I go a grand total of zero times, or one, if I’m feeling particularly adventurous. So this year I want to do more of that! I always dread going and then afterward I feel fantastic. Being outdoors makes me really happy (as long as I get to go home to indoor plumbing and a real bed afterward), and hiking is one of the only forms of exercise, besides yoga, that doesn’t severely hurt my joints (spinning? anything involving squats? PASS).

Spend more time outside. See above. But not just for exercise! I want to read and write outside as well. It’s about to be cold in LA (or at least cold-ish) but by late March whatever measly rain we normally get will have stopped and it’ll start heating up enough to sit on the grass and just freakin HANG. A lot of activities I do indoors could be moved outside, because I’m usually either reading or on my laptop. And my friends and I can also sometimes move our Gossiping Around Someone’s Kitchen Table to Gossiping On A Lawn Or Field I Guess.

Meditate. An obvious one. Every year I say I want to meditate, and every year I am the dumbest clown in clown college and I don’t even bother. This year! I will genuinely try!

Continue journaling. Kinda crushing it on that front. I journal almost every day! I want to keep doing that, even when it becomes a chore, I want to push through. I love having a record of my life, and in May I will have been at it for three years. So wild.

Continue getting a lot of sleep. Again, kinda killing it. I get 8 hours or more of sleep probably 95% of the time. I want to keep up this streak. It’s honestly not difficult, because I’m exhausted during the week and fall asleep by midnight, and on weekends, my compulsion to Stay Up Party Rage Forever has diminished significantly in the second half of college. Love aging.

Stand up for yourself more. There weren’t a ton of occasions where this came up, but I have a feeling that in 2019, for professional reasons, I will be in circumstances where I’ll have to stand my ground and it will be difficult. I want to be polite and respectful, but I don’t want to be pushed around. I’m determined to speak my mind when it matters, but also be good at picking my battles.

Be honest more. I wouldn’t say I lie frequently, but I definitely withhold information from people when I get scared or feel like it’s not “necessary” to tell them. I want to be less precious about walking on eggshells. Sort of related to the above, but I want to say what’s on my mind and ask for what I really want even if I might hear the word “no.” I want to keep fewer secrets and I want to stop constantly feeling like I’m biting my tongue. This is me, baby. Take me as I am. No fear!

Live in the moment more. I’m a big planner. It’s a tendency that has served me quite well in my life, but it’s also been sort of problematic sometimes. I look back at long swaths of time and realize I remember very little because I was so frantic about getting to The Next Thing. Even if I was enjoying myself, I was counting down until the good thing ended so I could get back to the proper business of my life, which I decided was being miserable all the time. Towards the end of 2018, I realized how freakin dumb that is, and that of course everything is temporary, but you should still soak up the sadness and happiness as it comes in equal measure. So I’m gonna really focus on that in 2019. It’ll be hard—I graduate in May, I’m traveling a lot this year, I’ve got a lot of professional opportunities on the horizon—and I know I’m gonna slip up and find myself staring at calendars and literally calculating how many minutes there are until The Next Thing. But I want to do it less. I CAN DO IT. So can you.

Practice Spanish. Kinda random but I used to be near-fluent in Spanish but it’s been like three and a half years since I spoke it with any regularity. I want to listen to Spanish podcasts and music, read Spanish news articles, and maybe sack up enough to practice with some friends of mine that I know speak it. I love traveling, and being fluent in Spanish would be a HUGE asset, of course. And one day I want to learn French too but let’s take this thing one day at a time okay?

Gossip less. I don’t gossip with everyone, but I’ve got a couple of friends who just love to throw down, and when I’m with them, I love it too. I want to do that less, and then maybe not at all. Even though we only talk about people who have genuinely done bad things, to us or to others, I still feel like dwelling on their indiscretions is a bad use of my time. I want to be more positive in general, and that means talking about people who make me happy and do good in the world. As far as the jerks, predators, and snakes…well, there’s that old adage that if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all. So maybe in 2019 I’ll just shut the hell up. Finally!

Whatever you’re planning for 2019, I hope it goes great for you. Oh, and if you want to check out the video I made about 2018 (I filmed one second almost every day), here ya go: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D06EJqajs-A