The Young Professional’s Guide to the Galaxy

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 26, 2010 by jganolik

This is the first winter I have spent at home since I was in high school and, as my shoveling work piles higher and higher, I think I’m getting closer to accepting that I’ll be spending most of the coming winters at home (whether that be my parents home or in my future one). Well, I suppose that’s not including the ones I spend at graduate school or, if I become one of those so-called “snowbirds” when I get really old, the ones I spend in Florida.

Since July, I’ve been making the awkward mistake of prefacing anything that took place since I graduated as “earlier this summer.” Earlier this summer, I worked as an intern. Earlier this summer, I traveled to Denver. Okay those work. But, earlier this summer, I baked pumpkin bread for our Thanksgiving dinner? Not so much. This post-graduation time feels like an alternate reality in which I’m neither in school nor out of school, living at home, but might be moving out soon, and I guess the only word that I can find to describe such a limbo is, “summer.”

But now, since there is almost a foot of snow on the ground and I’m wrapped in a scarf, a hoodie, and a quilt, summer is long gone. So how does a college graduate come to terms with the transition period that will probably span the next few years of her life? Here is my survival guide so far:

1) Avoid sentences like, “Once I move out of the house, I’ll learn to cook more types of food.” The job, the new apartment, the future hometown are all in flux right now, so if you want to learn how to cook, or join a gym, or reorganize your room, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do it now.

2) Explore the opportunities for young professionals in your community. Just because college is over does not mean that clubs are too. There are tons of neat organizations to join and events to attend, many of which are organized by museums or public libraries.

3) Do not give up the hobbies that you had in college.
Yes, life gets hectic, especially when you are working all day and get tired at night. But in most cases, a short free-write or an hour spent reading a book will leave you more energized than if you were to come home and veg out in front of the tv.

4) Try to mix up your schedule every so often so as not to become a burnt out working world-er. So far, I’ve attempted this by (a) giving up coffee for a few weeks. I wanted to see whether I would feel any less jittery if I switched over to tea. And I did. But then coffee percolated back into my life, and I am an addict again. (b) keeping my nails painted and changing the color every couple of weeks (c) changing the background of my computer based on my mood and (d) making frequent mix tapes for the car. Okay this last one was brought on because my radio and ipod connector stopped working, but it is nice to have a mix tape that corresponds with every few weeks of your life.

5) Get outside on your lunch break and explore the area around your office (or around your home, if you work from home/are still unemployed). Check out the cafes, boutiques, used bookstores, whatever else interests you. Try and take a new route every day.

So, all you recent graduates, arm yourselves with these suggestions as you march into 2011, and let me know whether you’ve got any tactics of your own to add to the list. I’m off to get some rest and prepare my snow-shoveling muscles for tomorrow morning.

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee of Strangers

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 17, 2010 by jganolik

I officially exited the fake world about three weeks ago when I joined the pool of regular suburb-to-city commuters. Each weekday morning I drive to my local train station, squash into a seat next to a stranger, and ride the twenty minutes into Center City Philadelphia. I’ve fine-tuned my trip so that I arrive at the station exactly two minutes before my train leaves, and have precisely enough time to jog through the electric doors, burst through the ticket checker, scramble up the escalator, and hop onto the train just as the doors-are-closing alarm starts to sound. In my ideal world I would give myself a little more time, but I find it next to impossible to resist that friendly alarm clock snooze button.

I’m a pretty vivid dreamer, and I have, on occasion, within my dreams, concocted reasons why it is ok to sleep through my alarm. In one dream from years ago, I had to twist my arm through this maze carved inside of a tree trunk in order to unlock a lock that would, once unlocked, stop the beeping. Unfortunately even my dream-arm was not bendy enough to fit through the maze, so I eventually had to wake up and turn off the alarm the old fashioned way.

Apart from the waking up early and rushing to catch the train parts, I’ve been enjoying my morning commute for many reasons. For one, the train ride gives me a chance to read—something that I hadn’t been doing enough of when my job was just a fifteen-minute car ride away. Back then (as in about a month ago), I would be so drained when I got home that opening a book seemed to necessitate more brain power than I was willing to use.

There are also interesting things that happen during the commute. For instance, sometimes businesses set up tables outside of the train station exit and hand out free things. Dunkin Donuts handed out free coffee coupons on National Coffee Day and Fiber One dished out their “non-cardboard” snack bars on one random Friday. This has only happened those two times, but I hope it’ll happen again soon.

There are always great eavesdropping opportunities to be had on the train as well. Just a few weeks ago, two women were trying to decide on a seat and the one said to the other, “Well, do you want to look at where we’re going or where we’ve been?” I found that oddly philosophical for a conversation about public transportation.

I’ve started to recognize the people that ride my train in the morning, and I’ve noticed that I pass by some of the same people from day to day on my walk from the station to the office. I found myself a bit distressed this past week when the two men who sell pretzels every weekday morning on Market street were nowhere to be seen. Did something happen to them, I wondered. Are they okay? Did they decide to take a vacation? Hopefully they’ll be back next week, and maybe I’ll splurge and buy one of their pretzels someday.

Although I’m sure I’ll grow tired of the trip after a while, yearn for a change of scenery or an apartment in the city, or crave a vacation of my own, for now it’s kind of nice to be part of this community of yawning, coffee slurping, briefcase carrying, newspaper-crumpling commuters.

Pictures: Clock, Subway Train, Fiber One

Rockin’ the Stories

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 27, 2010 by jganolik

So many of Nick Hornby’s novels revolve around music (High Fidelity, Songbook, and his latest, Juliet, Naked), it was only a matter of time before the author wrote some lyrics of his own. And lucky for his fans, that time has come. Hornby, joined by musician Ben Folds, just released their joint project, “Lonely Avenue,” with lyrics by Hornby and music by Folds.

Apparently the two men got in touch after Ben Folds read Hornby’s book, 31 Songs which praises Folds’ song, “Smoke.” Folds gave Hornby a call and thanked him for the complements, but admitted that he did not write the song’s lyrics. Sometime after that conversation, the two started their musical partnership; Hornby began emailing lyrics to Folds, who turned them into songs.

The album is interesting in that each of the songs has a novel or short story-esque quality to it, complete with characters and a conflict. For instance, the song Belinda is about a guy who wrote a one-hit-wonder about his ex-wife, Belinda, who he left for a bucksome flight attendant who gave him “complementary champagne.” All of the musician’s fans love the song, and so he has to sing it over and over, but every time he sings it he has to relive his failed marriage. And “Claire’s Ninth” is about a girl who goes out to eat for her birthday with her two divorced parents, who can hardly stand to be around each other anymore.

My favorite song on the album is “A Working Day,” which is about a guy who thinks he is a brilliant writer until “some guy on the net” tells him that his work sucks, after which he thinks that his writing is shit. (The lyrics go, “Some guy on the net thinks I suck and he should know; he’s got his own blog.”) Because clearly having your own blog is synonymous to stardom. Ahem…in all seriousness though, you don’t know me, Nick Hornby, but you’ve kind of summed up my brain in that song.

According to Hornby, a couple of the songs were originally ideas for short stories, but they became songs instead. It must have been somewhat of a challenge for Hornby to switch from writing novels to writing songs, because there is so much less space in a song for events to happen and for characters to be introduced. But I guess in a way, it could have been easy, since songs don’t really require a conclusion, and are just sort of story snapshots, or simple character sketches. In any case, Hornby made a skillful transition from prose to lyrics.

Also worthy of note is that Folds designed the album to be released on vinyl. But don’t fear, if you don’t own a turntable, you can also get it on CD, and in a special deluxe edition that comes with four short stories by Hornby.

I’d recommend “Lonely Avenue” to any and all fans of Hornby’s and/or Folds’. And on that topic, if you haven’t read any of Hornby’s novels, you should get on that. They’re really delightful and are overflowing with witty tidbits about people, relationships and, of course, music.

Cody and Me

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 15, 2010 by jganolik

We had to put my 13-year-old golden retriever to sleep yesterday. It wasn’t a huge surprise since lately he had been turning his nose up at his normal dry dog food, and then, a few weeks later, at the canned food that we bought to supplement the dry stuff. The canned food was my suggestion. “He’s been eating the same Natural Choice crap his entire life,” I told my parents; “it doesn’t surprise me that he’s gotten tired of it.” In the final week of his life, Cody dined on his favorites: challah, apples, and chicken.

As I said, It wasn’t a huge surprise, but I didn’t expect it to happen so soon either. What happened was that yesterday morning, Cody could not stand up, so my dad carried him into the car and he and my mom took him to the animal hospital. The vets thought it might be arthritis, but they wanted to do some blood work to make sure. The blood work revealed that Cody had severe kidney failure which, if we were looking to cure it, required dialysis. My family had decided a few months ago that we would not put Cody through any more surgeries: the poor dog had been in and out of so many Elizabethan collars throughout his life, he need not be shamed any further. I was at work while this was all going down, so when my mom texted me with the news, I dropped what I was doing and rushed home.

In all of times that I had imagined how the day would take place, I had always secretly hoped that I would be at school, or away from home. Of course I wanted the chance to say goodbye to my dog, but the thought of standing there, and watching the vet put him down was too difficult for me to process. It seemed like masochism to me, and when I was standing in the examination room, teary eyed, waiting for the vet to bring Cody in so that my mom and I could say our last goodbyes, I had the urge to rip open the door and run away from the animal hospital at top speed.

But I stayed, and when they brought him in, it was a little bit of a relief to see him looking, well, like Cody. I don’t know what I expected him to look like, suddenly emaciated or forlorn or something? He was still able to walk, to pant stinkily and nuzzle up to my mom and me.

As she and I sat in the room, scratched him in all of his favorite spots (namely behind the ears and under the belly), and fed him treats, I realized the level of strength that can come from the belief in life after death: you know, the adult version of the huge pet farm up north. For support, I grasped onto all of the books, TV shows and movies that I’ve seen which tackle ideas about the afterlife: everything from Dracula to Pushing Daisies and beyond. Once I stopped thinking about the situation as a farewell and started thinking about it more as a sendoff, I calmed down and no longer felt the need to run away. He’s going somewhere great, I told myself. He’s off to chew holes in plenty of socks and tennis balls, and to have some other amazing adventures that will probably involve a large amount of bread products.

So farewell to Cody, the best “brother” I could ask for (I’m an only child, so my parents often joked that we were siblings.) Yes, he did chew up some of my favorite shoes and winter scarves, and yes his breath did stink to high hell at times, but those things are all forgivable. He was there with me when I started high school, and headed off to college, and he was able to comfort me in times of both stress and heartbreak. And throughout his 13 years, up through his last moments, he never lost his appetite for life…or dog treats.

High Holy Reunion Days

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on September 12, 2010 by jganolik

The High Holy Days, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, feel a bit like high school reunions of the Jewish world. Just like there are Christmas and Easter Christians, there are High Holiday Jews: those congregation members whose faces are only seen within the walls of the synagogue two times per year. Therefore Rosh Hashanah, because it comes first, is the time when everyone my age collides with their old Hebrew school friends, fellow youth group board members, and bar/bat mitvzah guests who they haven’t spoken to in years and years. It is when all the gossip leaks out: when everyone learns who got married, who divorced, who got pregnant and who just got fat.

My grandmother is one to comment about the fat thing. I often admire how she always speaks her mind, or I should say yells her mind, since her hearing has been on the decline. However, on other occasions when my mother or I have to mouth “Sorry!” to Deborah Moscowitz after Debbie overheard grandma questioning whether or not she (Debbie) was with child, it can be a tad embarrassing.

This is not to say that my mom and I don’t do our share of judging and avoiding old acquaintances on the holidays. For instance, on Saturday morning my mom was forced to sit next to one of my Hebrew school friends’ moms who, after saying hello, proceeded to groan and sigh to my liberal mother about how she hoped the Rabbi would not talk about Obama during his sermon and how she has pictures of Palin and McCain hanging in her living room. This struck me as a pretty daring announcement to make at shul, seeing as the vast majority of Jews are Democrats. The lady then complained that her seventeen-year-old daughter was as insufferable as she was, and asked my mom whether she was getting annoyed and wanted to change seats yet. I’m pretty sure I developed a bruise from all of mom’s elbow nudges throughout the conversation.

Finally after my mother made her smooth getaway, the seating arrangement changed so that I was next to the girl I knew from Hebrew School, which wasn’t all that bad. And thanks to the averted eye contact and hair over the face routine I carried out on the way to the bathroom, I was pretty successful at avoiding the rest of my Hebrew school alums. Now I don’t want it to sound like I’m a recluse or anything, but I’m sure most people will agree that, unless you’re reconnecting with a very good old friend, the catch-up conversation is full of bland ‘did you graduate?’s, ‘what are you doing now?’s and ‘I’m an intern trying to find a job. sigh’s.

On a nicer note, since Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, it provides a new beginning, a chance to reflect on the past year, and, for many, a chance to check back in with Judaism and seek comfort in its traditions. The Rabbi’s sermon was all about the necessity of telling personal stories; he asked the congregation, “what story do you have to tell about this past year?” And “what will next year’s story be about?”

I’ve got to wonder what type of story I’ll be telling at this time next year, and what sort of stories I will get to listen to over the course of the coming year. How will my responses to the catch-up conversation change? What world events will shape the Rabbi’s sermon? What will my mom and I be whispering about the next time we listen to someone empty their lungs into a ram’s horn? I guess all there is to do is gorge on apples and honey and hope to create a sweet new year.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Online Dating

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on August 23, 2010 by jganolik

This post is a kind of appendix on my previous post, “Love at First Click?” Over my month-long JDate subscription, which ended up stretching longer than a month, I met a few guys from the site in person. From those experiences, I’ve compiled a lists of do’s and don’t of online dating face-to-face meetings, for a guy, from a girl’s point of view.

Don’ts

1. Don’t talk about your dating history on the first date. Seriously, we are supposed to be getting to know each other, and I shouldn’t be obligated to comfort you about all of your past relationships, or the fact that you’ve met up with over 20 people from the site and all of them have been strike-outs.
2. Don’t bring up anything about the future on the first date, unless it has to do with the second date. Talking about the fact that you want to be married to a Jewish girl by the time you are 30 is not something I want to hear. This and #1 will speed you into the maybe-we-can-become-friends zone pretty darn fast.
3. Don’t try to hold my hand, or put your arm around me. These are things for date number two at least. Do not, by any means, pull the high school stretch and arm over the shoulder move. People still do that, you ask? Yes. Yes they do.
4. Don’t turn away from your date to watch the sports game that is on the restaurant or bar tv, no matter how important the game, and especially if the girl you are with tells you that she is not big into watching sports.
5. Don’t talk about your crazy drinking habits, and how you puked all over your friend’s boat a few months ago. It’s a little bit of a turn off.
6. Don’t treat the date like a speed dating session. Yes, the fact that you met online does make things a little bit different than if you met in person, but it does not mean that you should shoot rapid fire questions across the dinner table.

Do’s

1. Do contact the girl before the first date, on the day of the date. A simple text goes a long way, as it is a final reassurance for her that she will not be stood up. The text can either ask for clarification about certain date details, or simply say that you are looking forward to meeting her.
2. Do pay for her meal and/or drink on the date. Yeah I’m all for gender equality, but this is just an old tradition that, in my opinion, should not disappear any time soon.
3. Do choose a place to meet that is halfway in between you and the girl you are meeting. Neither you nor the girl should be traveling much further than the other.
4. Do contact the girl soon after the date, if you would like to plan a second date. Yes, I know, I know, there’s that three-day rule. But you guys met on an online dating site, so your intentions are pretty darn clear from the beginning, and so guessing games seem (at least to me) unnecessary. Call her or message her the next day: if you enjoyed yourself on the date, let her know so she doesn’t have to spend a long time wondering.

Love at First Click? Creeps and Charmers of Online Dating

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 23, 2010 by jganolik

Chances are, if you watch TV, you’ve probably seen one of those match.com commercials. You know, the ones that claim that, in today’s society, the majority of couples meet each other online, on dating sites? For a while, I tuned out the commercial, and was not at all interested in the idea of online dating. A scene from the movie, Closer used to come to mind, in which Jude Law’s character logs onto a cybersex chat room, pretending to be Julia Roberts’ character and completely fools the man at the other end of the chat: a British dermatologist played by Clive Owen. Now I know that online dating sites are not the same as cybersex sites, but they just seemed weird to me. I thought, there are all sorts of creeps that could be hiding behind their laptop monitors, looking fifty pounds heavier, two feet shorter or five years younger than the descriptions on their online profiles.

That was a few months ago. Over the past months, I’ve heard about more and more people that met online and are incredibly happy with their partners. My grandmother regularly updates my parents and me about all of the aufrufs (honorings of to-be-brides and to-be-grooms during the Shabbat service before their wedding) that are held at our synagogue for people who met on J-Date.

J-Date, for those of you who aren’t savvy is the Jewish version of Match.com and e-Harmony. My mom, curious about the site, made herself a profile, disguising herself as a 22 year old from South Jersey. She then forwarded me a bunch of her “matches,” the people with whom the site ‘thinks’ its users have things in common. (The site allows you to create a profile for free, but in order to send messages or instant messages to other users, or to read messages that are sent to you, you need a paid subscription.) For a while there it felt like everyone was nudging me to join the site, and because of that, I became even more against the idea. I wanted to give myself some more time, date the “old fashioned way.” Joining a dating site felt like a desperate move: a love life cop out.

But then I graduated from college, moved back home, started work at a summer internship and fell into a real world routine slump: wake up, drink coffee, go to work, type for hours, drink more coffee, go home, eat dinner, go to sleep, repeat. I was craving something new to remedy my boredom, so I thought, you know what, why not give online dating a chance?

Right after I joined, I “met” a few pretty creepy people. For example, there was the guy who instant messaged me on the site and, two seconds later wanted to chat on skype because he found me “inspiring.” Then there was the other guy who told me his account was ending soon so we should start emailing, and whose email name turned out to be “Moo Moo.”

When I asked him what the deal was with the name, he said he picked it a while back because he thought it was funny. Great, I thought. Just what I need: a cow enthusiast. Moo Moo also told me he does not like to watch movies during the summer and that, since I majored in English, I must have graded his profile, and he must have passed. Uhh…

After some practice, I learned how to analyze the profiles on the site. Here is a short key I made:

1) All pictures on the profile are taken from the shoulders up, taken from far away, from awkward angles, or they all look like different people: he’s hiding something, whether it is a few extra pounds, years, or some deep, dark, unattractive secret.

2) There is a girl beside him in one or two of his profile pictures: This one always confused me. Does he want girls to think, “well that guy does not fail at relating to girls because that girl likes spending time with him.” She might be his sister, his friend, or his ex; whoever she is, I don’t want to meet her, or him.

3) His mother is in one of his profile pictures: this could be a good thing and mean that he has a good relationship with his parents, or it more frequently can be read to mean that he is very, very desperate to show girls that he is a nice Jewish boy.

4) He has a premium profile: First, let me explain. JDate has this deal that lets you pay a little more money in order to put a bright yellow square around your profile link, which is supposed to make you more noticeable to site-surfers. Unfortunately, it also shouts “desperate” to many. Your picture should make me want to click on your page, not the frame around it.

All of the creepers aside, I think the reason dating sites can and do work well is because, from looking at profiles online, it is possible to spot deal-breakers right off the bat. Each JDate profile has a section for you to write a paragraph or two about yourself, and then a bunch of other fields where you answer various questions provided by the site. Some of the questions are “what types of food do you like?” “what do you like to do in your free time?” and “what pets do you like?” The one that I referenced the most was the “what types of things do you like to read” question, because one of the biggest turn offs for me is a guy who does not read at all. I was an English major, what can I say?

Also, the online serial-dating atmosphere tends to soften the blow of rejection. That is, for some reason (and maybe this is just me) it seems much more acceptable to cut off contact with someone, or give them what some may refer to as the silence of death, online on a dating site than it is offline, just because it is understood that everyone on the site is probably talking to more than one potential “match” at a time.

Now without giving away too much of my personal life, I’ll just say that good things came from my joining the site. Yes I did encounter many people who lied about their appearance and/or age, but there are quite a few genuine people to be found online on dating sites. So I urge all of you who are curious, or bored with single life to give it a try. If anything, you’ll make your parents happy and will gather many ridiculous tales to tell.