“Months are different in college, especially freshman year. Too much happens. Every freshman month equals six regular months—they’re like dog months.”
– Rainbow Rowell
A lot happens your freshman year of college. It’s one of those years you learn who you are, what you’re made of and, in most cases, the art of laundry. For me, freshman year meant Four Loko out of Dr. Pepper bottles on the Metro North, falling for a stranger I met on a scavenger hunt, and holding hands with a once-friend for my first tattoo (spoiler: she went bat-shit and called my roommate a cake-faced, boge-smoking bitch).
A real milestone year.
It was Columbus Day weekend, 2009. I walked through the doors of my family’s two-story home in South Brooklyn for the first time since going away to college and living three people to a dorm room. Mom had the house to herself. I had meticulously positioned one of those middle school slap bracelets around my left wrist, barely masking a two-week old tattoo I’d gotten for my father (without my mother’s permission) on Saint Mark’s Place in the city.
Looking back, settling on a shop called Whatever Tattoo was wrong.
She wasn’t suspicious in the slightest. To her, the vintage bracelet was just another five-second trend I was trying on, paired perfectly with an XL Led Zeppelin tee shirt and the blonde streaks I was still growing out from the summer before. I was going through something, that’s for sure (Cue: I’m Not Okay by MCR and Torn by Natalie Imbruglia).
It took all of twenty minutes for me to break.
“I have to tell you something,” I said, asking her to sit down.
In hindsight, this was cruel. Her mind went straight to teen pregnancy, leaving anything I said after that that wasn’t “I’m carrying some senior on the rugby team’s child” to be tolerated, hell, maybe even thrown a ticker-tape parade.
I peeled back the quarter-machine cover-up to reveal the teeny tiny, permanent text:“This is sufficient for me,” ripped right from the last line of the prayer found on the back of dad’s necklace. The one he was given while working down at Ground Zero. The one he gave me right before he died. The full line read, “Give me your love and your grace, for this is sufficient for me.”
Mom was hysterical. Equal parts angry, touched and relieved I wasn’t with child.
“How can I be mad,” she asked, I had hoped hypothetically. She loved it. But she was definitely kind of mad.
Second came an anchor on my upper back for my best friend since six.
We met in kindergarten and, at 18, she said she hated me at first. Thankfully, she traded in her grudge for rainy weekends spent hiding handwritten wishes under the floorboards in my room. Sometimes they were for full seasons of Degrassi on DVD, or to marry the Madden brothers. Most of the time they were for a sleepover and, most of the time, they came true.
I sat mom down beforehand.
“Eileen and I are getting matching tattoos,” I said with a sort of confidence that surprised us both. I think she thought I was kidding, but I was serious. Rick Shoots Up Degrassi serious (okay, maybe Manny Wants To Be Hot serious). Either way, we weren’t kidding.
The definition we tossed around was, “well-grounded hope.”
“Since an anchor is what puts down roots deep into the sea to hold a ship in place, it has been associated with strength and stability. The anchor can be seen symbolically as something that holds you in place and provides you the strength to hold on no matter how rough things get.”
– Tumblr, 2011
Boy, were things rough at 20 (this is only partly sarcasm; Steve Jobs died that year and Pitbull released an album called Planet Pit, life totally sucked).
Either mom didn’t hate it, or she was really good at lying.
Four years, one shot-in-the-dark addition (“Is that a rope or a dollar sign?”) and one not-so-terrible touch-up (never trust a guy who says, “I got it” because A. He definitely does not have it and B. It will look nothing like what you saw on Tumblr) later and my best friend is still the one who keeps me grounded/reminds me to eat healthy every once in a while.
Third was an ampersand on my inner right ankle. Mom had no more say. She knew I was going to do it anyway and “at least it wasn’t a tramp stamp or Justin Bieber’s face.” Direct quote.
“To always remember what I want to do,” I told her, as if I was going to get into some terrible accident down the road and wake up thinking I wanted to be a doctor. “I want to be a writer.”
Truthfully, it came on the heels of one passionate journalism course and its brutally honest professor who, Day One, told us, “be prepared to waitress after college. Journalism is a bitch.”
(He was my favorite.)
Fourth was a tribute to a summer abroad in France, and mom, or so I said at the time (her true tribute would come later and hurt far less). The foot’s a fucking nightmare (and impossible to flatter in a photo so here it is with hanging dragonfly lights).
It was summer, 2013 and mom was halfway through her third round of leukemia treatments at New York Presbyterian. We sat and talked for hours from her bed by the window, overlooking the East River. About the Home Reporter, living alone and all the drugs I didn’t do at Lollapalooza. About her roommate with the cunty attitude, her constant cottonmouth and her favorite PA John, or Joe (she could never quite remember), before I told her to look at my foot.
I can still see her face.
“Toujours se souvenir; To Always Remember in French,” I said. “It’s for you.”
She started to laugh from her gut.
She called in the passing resident on her rounds. “This is my daughter, Meaghan,” she said, tears of laughter streaming down her face, “and this is her new tattoo. Apparently it’s for me.”
It really was, I assured her. To always remember the four weeks I spent galavanting through Europe at her expense. To always remember everything she’s ever afforded me, like that drunken bike ride along the Siene and that order of Escargot I never ate. And, you know, life.
To always remember where I’ve been (Brooklyn, Bermuda, Paris, Rome, Rocking Horse Dude Ranch, etc.), where I came from (our stoop on 73rd Street, the county of Cork, my mother’s womb), and who I am (a McGoldrick, and, more importantly, my mother’s daughter).
She loved it, I think, but all she could do was laugh.
Five treatments in, I called her to tell her I’d fucked up the anchor and that the rope made its silhouette look like a dollar sign.
“It was missing something, I don’t know,” I said over the phone, smearing tear-soaked mascara from my eyelids to my chin. “It looks awful.”
She returned home for five days before she died. We ordered in from Tasty Chicken, watched The Voice and said “Goodnight” in person. We fought hard the Saturday before her heart gave out, but, not about the touch-up.
“It doesn’t look bad at all,” she said, when she easily could have said “I told you so.”
One month after I buried mom next to dad in a shared plot in Staten Island, I buckled up and got the anchor fixed. A few more flowers, some asymmetrical lines and a lot of “Fuck it”s later, the same guy who did my ampersand gave new life to the anchor that once was.
Nearly a year later and I’m still learning to love it, because mom said it wasn’t so bad.
Fifth and finally came something special. “Love you more,” in her handwriting on my right wrist — pulled directly from a Hallmark Card she bought me the day I e-mailed my current job to ask if they had any internships. Not the day they took me on as an intern. Not the day they hired me full time. The day I asked if they had anyone to do their coffee runs.
“I bought this card the day you e-mailed the Home Reporter. I knew you would get it. Your MEAGHAN. Love you more then you know.”
Wrong form of “you’re” aside, I framed the card and, eight months later, am finally able to accept that she’s no longer here. Never gone, though, as her words lay opposite those inspired by my father; the two of them still holding my hand and guiding me through this fucked up life (and helping me home on the weekends).
(As a journalist, I couldn’t bring myself to tattoo the wrong form of “than” to the arm that I write with. Grammar was never her strong suit, and “Love you more” was always our thing.)
I think she’d dig it. I certainly do.
Also featured on Huffington Post College.
The internet is a scary thing. Not only is every Instagram selfie I’ve ever shamelessly posted plastered on the Google Image search attached to my name but, thanks to WordPress, I have access to an archive of search terms that — at one time or another — have led Internet users to my site.
Here are ten of the best, worst and kind of weird.“why is it important for destiny’s child to keep up their friendly façade”
I’ve been asking this since Independent Women Part I.“new year, new tits”
This has been searched twice.“photos of mold starting on frozen pizza”
I can’t say they found what they were looking for, but they were likely led to the story of My First Apartment which, hopefully, made them feel a bit better about their iffy pizza.“fireball whiskey gives me hives”
I’m so sorry.“your father has presented you a dual-sim card mobile phone on your birthday.write diary entry about your feeling.”
This person is clearly skirting around some sort of weirdly specific writing assignment.“who is the blonde on the digiorno”
Nope.“am a virgin, if i drink a bottle of smirnoff, will it make sex painless?”
It’s worth a shot (no pun intended).“i won’t touch my friends tits meaghan mcgoldrick”
This person obviously knew what story they were looking for (“I will not touch my friends’ tits” and other New Year vows), but this search made me LOL.“how to spell brianna in emojis”
????“meaghan mcgoldrick cynical”
Welcome home, kid.
There are more important things in life than what your ex is doing on Facebook.
There are more important things in life than what that girl wore to EDC, or that she went at all.
There are more important things in life than a brand new Michael Kors watch.
There are more important things in life than keeping up appearances.
There are more important things in life than fitting into that dress or old band tee.
There are more important things in life then those little flabs of fat under your arm.
There are more important things in life than becoming somebody’s Him/Her.
There are more important things in life than gripping tight to a grudge.
There are more important things in life than nine to five.
There are more important things in life than choosing a filter.
There are more important things in life than getting it on film.
There are more important things in life than faking it.
There are more important things in life than just missing the train.
There are more important things in life than striking out.
There are more important things in life than what they think.
There are more important things in life.
There are family and friends and car rides and gut-laughs. Pitcher deals and dollar stores and Sundays spent sprawled out on the roof. Sunrises. Sunsets. Five liter boxes of wine and shoeboxes full of old concert tickets — Good Charlotte, Bamboozle ’07 and the Arctic Monkeys show you were kicked out of at 18. There are weeknights spent feeding the jukebox — My Chemical Romance, Brand New, Kid Rock, repeat. There are all-you-can-eat buffets and brunch specials and stolen kisses after-hours. There are sing-alongs and scream-alongs and bathroom stall cry-alongs. There are Happy Hours and heartfelt toasts.
To Andrew Garfield’s ass in spandex, and Iggy Azalea’s ass in anything.
To the New York Rangers.
To mom on what would’ve been her 60th birthday.
To your best friend behind the bar.
To another year closer to 30.
To the same company you’ve kept for years.
To the newer company you’ve kept for months.
To the ride.
To life, to love, and to us.
March 11, 2013
It’s three days into our Spring Break in San Juan and all seventeen-or-so of us had seen the view from the Plaza de Armas, strolled through Old San Juan and befriended an overweight and over-pouring bartender behind the counter of a bar I’ll never remember the name of.
For the sake of the story, let’s just call it Fight Club.
Everyone gets too drunk off a liquored-up drink that’s mostly coconut milk and cinnamon (turns out, this bartender was actually the devil). We pretend to play pool, make friends with locals and take pictures on a (dangerous looking) balcony — or so the Facebook albums say.
We cheer on our college basketball team from the bar via ESPN En Español.
Twenty-something drinks too deep, we split into groups — each of them fighting because Katie is missing, we’re not quite sure why we’re leaving (spoiler: we’d all run out of money) and “Shut up, you fucking bitch.” I’m berated by my best friend, Ashton, on the side-streets of San Juan for letting the liquor in my liver take the reigns. I push his buttons and ugly-cry because we’re fighting, which only puts this whole thing on Repeat. Meanwhile, my roommate is lifting her maxi skirt and squatting on the cobblestone streets between a car and a Vespa.
“That is the meanest thing I’ve ever heard,” she says to Ashton, shocked, appalled and quite possibly still peeing. Hours later, he would look at me, hold my hands in his and say, “You know that song by Jack’s Mannequin, ‘Kill the Messenger?'”
“That’s what I did. I killed the messenger. I killed you.”
We regroup and head home, only to learn that — the entire time — Katie has been safe and sound in the company of Denis, Ryan and Gio. They left to buy a personal bottle of Bicardi from a grocery store because, When In Rome.
The following is Ryan’s personal account:
“Then I blacked out so I don’t remember what happened but we started looking for cabs in Old San Juan and apparently I told our friends to go get a cab but, in my blackedoutness, I thought they disappeared and dramatically caused a panic while everyone was fighting. Then I blacked out, went in SJ’s mom’s car* and told her how much I loved her son and was invited to their home in San Juan whenever I wanted (which I don’t remember at all). While in this car, I saw Rae fucking hanging out of this cab’s shotgun window and waving frantically for all of us to get in the cab. Like, just picture that girl halfway out of the window waving as this giant white taxi van comes barreling down the cobblestone narrow ass streets of San Juan. And then I fell out of the car (because I was so drunk, shocker) and stormed into the middle of the street in front of the taxi (which had to stop short because I stood directly in front of it so thank god I didnt die? Thanks, cabbie) and screamed at Rae, ‘RAE ANN, DON’T YOU EVER LEAVE ME LIKE THAT AGAIN!’ to which she started crying. Then I re-blacked out.”
* SJ is a friend of ours who also happens to live in San Juan. Six days into Spring Break, he informed us that there were, in fact, open container laws and we should probably keep that bottle down.
The story ends with Denis and Ryan fighting in the courtyard of the Puerto Rican Marriott over who knows more about San Juan. Denis “kicks Ryan’s knees out,” calls him a pussy and Ryan almost get mulled over by a rape van. All this time, he is sporting a Panama hat he purchased at a gift shop.
Originally published by Writtalin.
Three hundred and sixty-five days ago, I walked across the stage at Radio City, diploma in hand, gauze on my post-Senior Formal feet and mom in the audience. I said goodbye to sharing secrets, stories, and clothes with my closest girlfriends, Tuesday night drink specials, and the corner-deli guy. I said goodbye to all-nighters, gin buckets, and afternoon ragers. I said goodbye to friends, to family, to professors-turned mentors. I said goodbye to one home, and hello again to another.
I said goodbye to college and hello to home.
I said hello to adulthood, or something like it. To bills, old baggage, and boys I’d long forgotten about. To my house in Southern Brooklyn and to my mother – 59 and sassy – happy to have her best friend back.
Three hundred and fifty days ago, my mother told me she had cancer. Acute myeloid leukemia. “But they caught it early,” she said to soften the blow, to ease the pain, to ice the sting. We had a lot of hope and a lot of ice cream.
Three hundred and fifteen days ago, I accepted my first job offer. Part-time-turned-full-time at a former internship I fell in love with. The pieces moved closer together as I said yes to a career as a journalist over frozen yogurt on a city bench with my best friend – a borough over in an upscale New York City hospital – on speed-dial.
Two hundred and ninety-four days ago, I sat back-seat of a Jeep for fourteen hours cross-country to Chicago. I blacked out at Wrigley Field (may or may not have made out with a townie), slept on the floor of a high-rise apartment with a view of the city and braved Lollapalooza with ten of my closest guy friends.
Two hundred and twenty-one days ago, I said goodbye to my best friend. She kicked her cancer late September but, home for good for just five days, pneumonia knocked her out. Two hundred and twenty days ago, I packed a bag and began calling a best friend’s basement home.
One hundred and sixty-seven days ago, I moved out of a two-story, two-bedroom home with the help of ten friends, four cars and two personal sanitation trucks. We tossed a professionally sketched portrait of Hilary Duff and decade-old middle school transcripts mom saved to be safe. We treasured old journals and scrapbooks and salvaged a Scooby Doo alarm clock.
One hundred and thirty-seven days ago I signed a lease with two male friends in a 70’s-style realtor’s office complete with mustard-colored carpeting and a birdcage cloaked in a 101 Dalmatians comforter. We moved in mom’s old living room set and bonded over one hellish trip to Ikea and an unexplained painting of George Washington.
Forty-three days ago, I marked five years out of high school with bottomless white zinfandel and a ride in the disabilities-only elevator for old time’s sake at our first reunion (shout-out to senior year, September 2008, and the bottle of Baccardi that landed me in a full leg cast). “You look great!”s came and went, and I only cried a little in the all-girls bathroom.
Just a few days ago, I took the subway to the city to see one of my closest girlfriends walk for her Master’s Degree at Madison Square Garden, the very same venue and very same stage that – just hours earlier – our alma matter’s Class of 2014 braved with a smile (some genuine, some forced, many laced with fear).
It’s been 365 days since I was that senior scared for my life post-graduation. Post-Best Years of Your Life. Post-“Hey, Look I’m on my own and don’t have to worry about student loans yet.”
Here’s what I’ve learned:
- Don’t take anything for granted. Time. Money. People’s presence. Avoid cancelling plans at all costs – unless it’s raining and there’s a Grey’s Anatomy marathon on TV. But only use that one once.
- Say “I love you” more and mean it. Just don’t do it via-text after 3 a.m. Say it to your pizza instead.
- Avoid songs like “23” by Jimmy Eat World unless you’re looking for an extra side of Feels to go with that Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia.
- Go ahead, take a picture in the bear suit. You’ll regret it if you don’t.
- The very first Homecoming/Fall-fest/Spring Fling at your school will hurt a little. Maybe even a lot. It’s all fun and games when you’re day-drinking under the alumni tent but later, when the bars are closed and a senior friend’s couch is the closest thing you have to a bed, expect some serious emotional tailspins.
- Screenshot most Snapchats.
- Buy a good pair of running shoes and, if you opt for a gym membership, actually use it. It’s no longer paid for by your school. If you don’t, consider putting that money towards rent, or those ice-cube trays that also make popsicles.
- Always look into the “family” option when ordering in with your roommates. Even from that bougie Chinese food restaurant across the street.
- Thou shalt bottomless brunch whenever possible.
- Don’t be afraid to go through old photos, shoeboxes, journals, etc. You never know what kind of stick-figure drawings of a female basketball player or well-thought-out Reasons to Hate Your First Ex-Boyfriend pre-listicle diary entries you’ll find.
- Put your tongue away for the camera. You’ll thank me later.
- Open bars that don’t include shots almost always include Insert Liquor Here on the rocks.
- The ride home is always longer when you’re driving cross-country in a Fiat.
- Revisit old stomping grounds every once in a while. Freshman year dive bars. High school hot spots. But pregame first, it’s likely full of underage high schoolers.
- Sure, you can attend that senior event/party/formal as an alumni but, odds are, you won’t be able to hang. Unless you’re superhuman (or found a job post-college as a bartender), the stress of the nine-to-five daily-grind is bound to set you back in tolerance and send you home at least an hour or two earlier than usual. (If not, I commend you.)
- You are only as strong as your support system. Have faith in your friends and they’ll have faith in you (see also: stand guard while you pop a squat, recommend you for that open job/single friend of theirs, and throw a fundraiser in your parents’ honor while serving up dollar Jell-O shots for cancer research).
- Save every voicemail. A familiar voice may, one day, be hard to come by.
- Try something new. Spend a dollar at the pool table instead of the jukebox and challenge a stranger. Take a cooking class. Dabble in Do-It-Yourself Pinterest projects. See a city you’ve never seen before. This is life off-campus (and off the island of involvement fairs). Explore it, and make a name for yourself.
- The friends that are meant to stay are in it for the long haul.
- Graduation is not the end. It is not the end of your friendships. It is not the end of your academic career. It is not the end of the world. College may have been a beauty but life is a looker, too. Let it surprise you, one day at a time.
This morning, I heard your laugh.
Six and a half months later and the Alex and Ani website still has the matching Leukemia bracelets I was going to buy us in my shopping cart. I can’t bring myself to take them out.
I won’t get to see you Sunday, not even your gravesite. Staten Island is a ways away and your name isn’t even on dad’s stone yet. The flowers I brought you for your birthday are probably dead by now and, odds are, you’re still wondering why I didn’t just opt for fake ones.
“Duh,” you’d say if you were here. But you’re not.
This is the first Mother’s Day without you, and it’ll likely be the hardest, though, your first birthday was a surprising breeze. That’s just because you made sure all of your biggest fans packed out a pub in your honor — toasting to life, love and what it feels like to find peace.
This week is much harder, though. This week is tough.
It’s almost a year since you stood outside of Radio City, cane, cancer and all, to mark my entrance into the real world. Losing you felt like a terrible hangover, the kind that leaves you numb and hazy. Kind of like a car crash. At almost 23, I’m finally getting my footing, but I have questions — like — how did you deal with losing dad so gracefully? Will the world ever stop and wait for me to catch up? What’s a 401k? Can I survive on 25k a year? Are those Chinese Food containers microwaveable? What do I do about mold? Hypothetically, of course.
Are you happy with how I’ve handled myself? The apartment? My writing? Would you be happy with the “woman” I’ve become (even though you can finally see all of my credit card statements)? Sorry I spend so much on Starbucks. I promise I’ll learn to balance my check-book.
Where did you and dad meet? How is he? Have you guys met Frankie Valli yet?
I wasn’t ready for you to go, but you had to. You would’ve been 60 last month and all of senior year, I had hoped to throw you a party. I wanted to buy you that bracelet. I wanted to visit you more. I wanted to fly you to San Juan for the weekend so you could cross it off your bucket list.
I wanted to do a lot of things, and I wanted to do them with you. I thought we’d have more time, but that’s just how the story goes. Your story. Your incredible story of growing up in the 70’s, picking up and moving to Bermuda for months at a time, dating that guy in that rock band and dancing on stage with that singer whose name I wish more than anything I could remember.
I still have your claddagh earrings, and I hope to one day wear them. I can’t say that I’ve carried on your taste for Coors or kept up with Ellen for you (I do know 25k doesn’t buy me cable), but, six months into being a 23-year-old orphan, I still jump at the chance to bring you up.
“Mom would’ve cried if we got a
Panera Bread around here.”
– In reference to a coming Chipotle.
“Mom would’ve voted for the sassy,
middle-aged black woman.”
– In reference to our show, the Voice.
“Oh, that makes me think of my mom.”
– In reference to just about any person, place or thing.
Forget Mother’s Day. Forget the Hallmark Card I would’ve gotten you and the episode of NCIS we would’ve watched together. Forget the dinner I know damn well we would’ve ordered from Tasty Chicken on 17th Avenue and the pillow-talk we would’ve had before your meds kicked in. Forget the argument we would’ve gotten into over my selfish attitude and forget the tears we would’ve shed as we apologized — half out of regret for taking it that far, half out of love.
I love you every day and I’ll keep loving you until the sun stops setting. I can only hope to keep you alive somehow, in a toast to Patrick Swayzee or in a song like I’ve Got a Feeling by the Black Eyed Peas because, unfortunately, it was your favorite (and your ringtone until 2012). I’m still sorry for that time I called you a prick (and that time I killed your poinsettia, and that time I forced you to try Fireball), and I’m sorry for telling the third grade drug counselor you smoked marijuana when you really smoked Marlboros. I’m still glad you didn’t get arrested.
Happy Mother’s Day, mom. This morning, this Sunday, and every day until the next one.
I’ll always love you more.
Also featured on Thought Catalog.
Update: Turns out, Frankie Valli is not dead yet. Oops.
Last weekend I made the (totally conscious and sober) decision to go paint-balling with 20 friends, a couple of ex-boyfriends, one ex-boyfriend’s younger brother and some strangers. Anyone who knows me well knows that, while I have negative athletic net-worth, I am (kind of) rich in inner rage (and only kind-of kidding). Hiking aside (not my strong suit), I fucking loved it.
When I wasn’t getting shot in the tit (thanks, August) or gut-laughing in the backseat of a three-hour car-ride as all six of the mix CDs I made for the trip violently skipped (“Call me a safe bet, I’m betting I’m nah-ah-ah”), I was letting my guard down — lightyears away from my comfort zone.
In between spouts of briskly walking for my life, I took to Twitter (because my memory is shot and I have a memoir to write one day) and the results are as priceless as what it must’ve felt like to get me to agree to go paint-balling. The welts and sores may have faded, but the story no one really believed (“Meg Goes Paint-balling”) is forever.
“Suck a fucking dick Jason”:
life living above lonestar
– 4:56 a.m.
My morning is meant to begin at 5 a.m., but thanks to signing a lease three doors down from a bar, I’m awoken by one drunk bitch’s crusade to find her car (which I hope she never found, for everyone’s sake). I drag my ass into the bathroom to find the shower-head mangled on the bathtub floor. I vaguely remember a text my roommate sent the night before.
“Totally broke the shower-head. I’ll have to show you using charades.”
I take a two-minute shower (mind you, the water is running vigorously, and straight out of the pipe), pack up, get dressed and head to Jimmy’s at 5:30 to make our friends’ incredibly optimistic 6:30 meet-up and 7 a.m. departure (I have little legs and even smaller strides).
“Did you sleep last night?
5:45 is a brave time to be awake”
– 6:16 a.m.
Jimmy is concerned by my 5:30 a.m. “need anything?” text. I get there on time. Everybody else gets there around 7. We talk about the weather and how everyone is excited to shoot me.
We all look homeless
– 6:54 a.m.
Also ready for war.
“Yo my heart might explode”
– 7:29 a.m.
Five minutes into our road-trip and Roberto is on his third Red Bull. We only get lost once on the way to Pennsylvania, and use a porta-potty somewhere in Jersey. Mazel Tav.
“I can’t talk right now, this is the best part of the song” @Rmminondo during Circle of Life
– 8:17 a.m.
In the days leading up to what felt like my own death, my car-mates had asked if I would make some mix CDs — with their suggestions, of course. I made six and, while four of them skipped the whole way home (spoiler: don’t go running through the woods with anything breakable in your backpack), the best ones made the cut. See: the first track list:
- Shots – Lil Jon and LMFAO
- Ignition – R. Kelly
- Whenever, Wherever – Shakira
- Underneath Your Clothes – Shakira
- Groove is in the Heart – Deee-lite
- Lose Yourself to Dance – Daft Punk feat. Pharrell
- Burnin’ For You – Blue Oyster Cult
- Slow Ride – Foghat
- So Fresh, So Clean – Outkast
- Right Back Where We Started From – Maxine Nightingale
- Stockholm Syndrome – Blink 182
- You Get What You Give – New Radicals
- 212 – Azealia Banks
- Circle of Life – The Lion King
- In the Summertime – Mungo Jerry
- Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough – Michael Jackson
- Spirit in the Sky – Norman Greenbaum
- Sugar We’re Goin’ Down – Fall Out Boy
- White Houses – Vanessa Carlton
“Getting on the road by 7:30 a.m. is like putting a man on the moon for our friends”
– 8:19 a.m.
We left late, but we’re still really proud.
Jimmy named his gun Gordon Ramsey because it’s very loud and mean
– 9:31 a.m.
We get there a minute past opening and it feels like fucking Christmas. Roberto tapes together his ripped pants as Robert gears up, Jimmy loads Gordon Ramsey and I sit around on my phone waiting to be told what to do. Captains pick teams. I get picked second-to-last, likely out of pity and for the sake of keeping me on the same team as the girl — my best friend/sista from another mista — who begged me to give paintball a fighting chance.
We run to each other like this is a real draft.
“Did you see Black Hawk Down?”
– 9:51 a.m.
I am scared. I tuck my phone into my bra — immediately rethink that decision — and leave it in the floral backpack I’m so gracefully carrying over my full-camo jumpsuit. The whistle blows, I take a deep breath and spend the majority of my morning hiding behind barrels and crates and cardboard cutouts. I get shot in the side by my first ex-boyfriend’s younger brother.
He’s on my team. At least I shot David in the dick (also sorry).
Update: paintball is hard
– 12:22 a.m.
I put my phone away again until…
Update: August shot me in the tit
– 6:37 p.m.
I get shot in the hands, thighs and back a few more times until we call it a day around hour nine. We hike back to the car, strip ourselves of our five-pound jumpers (hallelujah) and split up. We reconvine at Wendy’s over frostees and air conditioning. I laugh harder than I have in years over a three-hour a car-ride through three states with four of my oldest friends — then sleep.
The morning after paintball feels like
laying down in front of a truck that’s
pouring pounds of thumbtacks
on you then running you over
– 10:35 a.m. the next morning: Easter Sunday
The moral: venture outside of your comfort zone, even if that means getting shot in the tit.
Also always pack a pair of sweatpants.
Update: Four months since this was published and I’m still emotionally triggered by Sister Act.
Death is kind of like a bad break-up. There’s a lot of ugly crying, fetal position dry heaves, binge drinking and subsequent after-hours spent reaching for the phone. The only difference is that, this time, there’s no chance of reconcile in the corner of a crowded bar three Cuervo shots/cries for help deep. There’s no 4 a.m. call to say “I miss you” or late night text turning words like “I still love you” into “I stilk loke tou.” (You want to wish they hadn’t sent it but really you’re just glad there’s something in writing that says you aren’t the only one riding front-car of this emotional roller coaster.)
There’s no “one more chance” or “last goodbye.” Goodbye was goodbye and it’s actually forever (not just early episodes of One Tree Hill “forever”). The dead can’t come back like Hayley does for Nathan and they certainly won’t pick up the phone when you ass-dial them at the bottom of a bottle on a Friday night.
It was Friday the 13th (go figure) and I was one whole White Zin wine product-in at a Christmas party as I caught a glimpse of what should’ve been my lock screen (once a photo of Jessica Lange, now a shot of my mom riding a bike on a Bermuda beach in 1975). What I saw instead was “Mom” and the seconds ticking slowly.
0:16, 0:17, 0:18.
I ended the call, finished the rest of my “wine” in one sip and slipped into a spiraling panic that prompted stress hives and a refill. I fled from a room full of friends decorating a Christmas tree to “All Star” by Smash Mouth and threw my phone on the kitchen table under loaves of bread and behind a box of beer. I stared at it for what felt like an hour but was probably just seconds and poured myself another glass of Rite Aid brand wine-product.
I took a deep breath and resumed position, hanging one of what had to be a dozen penguin-themed ornaments belonging to the family of the friend whose house we were decorating. A collection of both his mother and his dead step-dad. They both really loved penguins.
There’s a quiet comfort in those friends who share a similar loss. It’s like getting broken up with the same week as your best friend, both of you left for dead and drastic weight gain. It’s not often spoken about but it’s assumed and understood. You develop a special Lassie-like sense that tingles whenever the other needs a hand packing up their house, a hard hug or a stiff drink (Everclear, please). You go to them first and they’re the last ones standing by your side, no matter how many mid-afternoon margaritas you’ve both downed. They don’t waste their breath with ten too many “you’ll be okay”s because they’ve been there and they know right now you’re not.
Just like when the walls of what you consider “can’t sleep, can’t eat, reality over dreams” love come tumbling down, death comes crashing in like an eerily similar heartbreak, only it’s on steroids and a power trip. It’s a jackhammer and your heart’s roped off for construction.
This wasn’t the first time I’d been emotionally triggered to the point of panic.
Like in the days, weeks and months following a brutal break up, the weirdest things remind you of a person you’ve lost — things you never thought twice about when they were still here. A stoop you shared a kiss on. A bus stop you waited at together. A bar you got free buy-backs in. The air.
My first-ever breakup left me with a crippling fear of the sound of skateboards, the second with a year-long disdain for Brand New (thank God that strike is over). The third left me with an eerie sadness during the movie “Elf,” a six-month hatred for bagpipes and an unhealthy urge to kill off his character in our shared Sims game (I held back for the sake of our two kids and the three-story glass house we built together).
The world moves on around you but you’re stuck in between a rock and a fucking boulder and everything feels bigger than you. You’ll never feel more alone than at the bad end of a breakup or front row at a funeral. (Maybe at the bottom of a box of Franzia and the end of Blue Valentine. It’s a close second.)
When my father died, I couldn’t listen to Shillelagh Law, eat KFC or even catch a glimpse of golf. I’m still learning what sights and sounds hurt most since mom passed, oftentimes leading to a gruesome display of public depression. To anyone who’s ever seen (or been) that girl sobbing on the sidewalk, mascara running down her face faster than she can wipe her nose on her North Face: you know damn well that those displays are even worse than any public display of affection.
Unless you’re that couple making out on the subway. I still hate you. We all still hate you.
Almost three months in and I’m emotionally triggered by Five Guys Burgers and Fries, all 100 seasons of Survivor and the chicken teriyaki Subway sandwich. It’s the last meal she ever asked me to bring her and Siri couldn’t even find the Subway that was six blocks away from her high-rise New York City hospital. Instead, I brought her a some shitty wrap that someone down the hall stole out of their communal fridge before she could even eat it.
I’m also partial to a travel-sized hotel lotion sample sitting on my desk at work. Bath and Body Works’ Rain-kissed Leaves (it was a Hilton). We pocketed two and some conditioner after a family wedding we both got white-girl-wasted at. It was the first and last wedding we’d attend together and actually enjoy. The half-ounce bottle reminds me she won’t be at my own.
I’m emotionally triggered by Coors Light, Sister Act (one and two), Amazing Grace (bye again, bagpipes) and Google Maps because the satellite image of our South Brooklyn block includes a shot of her pushing a shopping cart and wearing an Iona College Rugby shirt.
“Does your daughter date a rugby player?,” asked everyone, always. “No.” “Does she date any one?” “No.”
Most of all, I’m emotionally triggered by any walk more than ten blocks long. It took us 22 years to get where we were when she died. I’d finally shaken off the years of teen angst and general cuntiness, stopped blaming her for what wasn’t her fault and reserved coming home blackout for just Thanksgiving Eve. I called because I wanted to, almost every long walk I made, and missed her when she wasn’t around.
We fought until she died. About boys. About boobs. About how to spell the word “about” and about her going to the hospital because, come hell or high water and cancer aside, we were just like any other 20-something daughter/50-something mother combo.
Every now and then I reach to call her and, when I don’t, my ass does it for me.
Just like moving on from an ex that called it quits, these soft spots grow fonder over time. The skin around the wound gets thicker. The things that once cause emotional (bordering on physical) pain will one day, someday bring even the slightest smile to your face, reminding you of a former love, be it an ex-significant other or someone taken too soon. One day, you’ll make it through a saved voicemail without hanging up and reaching for wine. One day you’ll keep the TV on for their favorite part of their favorite movie. One day, you’ll order their go-to at Five Guys without ugly crying. One day, you’ll remove them from your phone favorites and maybe even delete their number.
Some days, you might not even think about them — and that’s okay, because one day, you’ll love with your whole heart again while holding close the love that came before. No matter how Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston the break-up or how Birttany Murphy the death, everything happens for a reason way bigger than us. Every path is an important piece of some fucked up puzzle we may never put together but, finished or not, it’ll make a great story.
In my case, she’ll always be a part of mine, even after Google Maps sends out the truck for a retake.
Also featured on Huffington Post College.
To the Class of 2014,
This is it. One month ’till May and, odds are, you’re feeling numb and nauseous. The walls are closing in, all rugs have been pulled out and you’re compulsively spell-checking your resumé (while simultaneously snapchatting, putting off that ten-page paper and planning your next pregame). In six or so weeks you’ll be saying goodbye — to friends, to family, to weeknight whiskey specials — because an Irish Exit isn’t in the cards anymore. Not for four years of college.
You’re scared, (see also: restless, sleep-deprived, and a slave to happy hour), and that’s okay.
Trust your convictions. Go out on a Tuesday even though it’s raining and you know the bar’s full of freshmen. Have one, or ten too many people over (your neighbors won’t hold that title much longer) and stop censoring your rounds of slapcup. Put a ten in the jukebox. Take more selfies. Wear more sweatpants. Make sangria. Find a bagel store that delivers and order three dozen.
Skip a class for a drive with the windows down, make more time for roommates — past and present — and download Find My iPhone. Call home but hold tight to your last weekends away.
Make amends with someone. That girl who stole your bottle, or your boyfriend at that party at the baseball house. That professor who sent a four-page paper on spring break with you, first-class. The old flame that forgot your name (and never said hi).
Then tell someone else to go to hell.
Do not cry in the bathroom. I repeat, do not cry in the bar bathroom. Do not cry in your own bathroom. Do not cry in any bathroom and do your best not to cry at all. This may be the end of a really juicy chapter, but it’s not the end of the book (and, spoiler, there’s a sequel). Get off the floor (don’t worry, we’ve all been there), wash your hands and shake it off. Suit up and dance like no one’s watching because those who are won’t remember and those who will are probably the worst.
Start a group chat with the ones you love most and swear to still cherish it — to have and to hold, in sickness and in health — even when you’re napping.
Treat yourself, but be productive. The post-grad-25 is real and so are the post-grad hangovers. Make peace with your newfound tolerance and set some beer money aside for student loans.
Apply to ten jobs then apply to ten more. You’ve got nothing to lose. Channel your inner Hannah Horvath and venture outside of your comfort zone (and maybe even outside your field of study). Proof-read your cover letter and proof-read it again. Then give it to a friend. May they catch something you didn’t and may they do it before you send out sixteen copies with the introduction, “I am senior at (insert college here).” (No wonder New York Times said no.)
Bring flats for senior formal, steam your graduation gown, CHECK AGAIN FOR MISSING WORDS IN YOUR COVER LETTER, and be nicer to home when you get there. It’s adjusting, too.
Don’t be mad or sad or scared to move back in with your parents. Home will only hold you hostage if you let it. Save up. Take a road trip. Move out. Do you. You may be broke but you’ll manage.
No matter how qualified you know damn-well you are, expect more rejections than job offers because you will fall short at least once and you will bomb an interview no matter how long it took you to iron your blazer. You’ll spend hours on the phone with Time Warner Cable fighting with the automated operator and your bank will cancel your credit card the same day Con-Ed has plans to shut off your electricity (okay, maybe not but, even if, you’re not alone).
You are one of roughly 300,000 hot-off-the-press post-grads with no plans past the weekend and little to no idea what the fuck they’re actually doing. Remember, not all who wander are lost (and most HR departments fucking suck).
You will find something that makes you happy — be it a shiesty apartment above a makeshift Blimpies or a job you learn to love — as long as you keep looking. Just don’t settle.
You’ll get your shit together eventually.
Until then, keep your options open. Say yes to Sunday Funday, the occasional night in with Netflix and even your school’s senior events. They’re not all lame (and some are open-bar). Say yes to life and love and all the shit that makes you happy because if there ever was a time to order Bloody Marys by the pitcher and openly use YOLO as a verb, it’s now.
These are the times of your lives. Make them count. Don’t hold back.
The Class of 2013
P.S. We’re all still looking, too.
Also featured on Huffington Post College.