Lessons from the Halfway Mark

In the past month, I’ve made myself genuinely proud twice. That’s two times more than I did for the rest of freshman and sophomore year combined. I don’t know if that speaks more about the things I choose to do (i.e. I should do more pride-manifesting things) or how I have zero consciousness of self (i.e. I should stop the whole self-deprecating thing on occasion). After too many driving lessons from an adorable old humpbacked Chilean man and failing the test more times than I’d like to post on the Internet, I finally got my license. For a full five minutes, I was the happiest girl in the South Central DMV. A couple of weeks later, I found myself literally and figuratively patting myself on the back after resigning from a job that would’ve been a major part of my junior year. Now that I’m homeless for next school year (IF YOU KNOW SOMEONE SUBLEASING A STUDIO, HOLLA), licensed to drive, and almost done with my second year of college, I feel like being all introspective. (Full disclosure: this is also a semi-productive means of not studying). Here goes. In a week’s time, my sophomore year will officially be over. It’s come and gone so quickly that I hardly have had time to process the fact that half of my college experience has expired. It seems that just last month I was trying to get the last bit of poster sticky tack off the walls of my Birnkrant room in order to avoid housing fees.

I’ve learned a lot* sophomore year – as life seems to go, most of this was learned outside the hallowed halls of Taper.

1.     People are busy (but not as busy as they pretend to be)

Sophomore year has not only been the year of the academic slump, but also the year of the “I’m so busy” maxim. “I’m so busy” served as an excuse to stay home and watch Netflix more times than I care to admit. “I’m so busy” also distanced me from half a dozen of primo freshman year friends. The truth is, none of us are “so busy” that we can’t see each other on occasion. A good friend of mine hates hearing the excuse that people “don’t have time” – whether it’s to workout or catch up or write the next great American novel. We all have time: we just prioritize certain things over others. Sophomore year has made me value the people who make time for friendships – even if it’s once a month.

I read a great article a couple months ago that made the “I’m so busy” attitude one of my pet peeves. Just tell me you have better things to do than hang out with me (I know you’re just going to the 9-0).

2.     Food is not cheap (stop buying so much of it)

Once in a post-spring break, post-pizza-every-day Fresh & Easy run, I spent $60 on healthy food that I don’t like. I probably ate $20 of it in the subsequent days, then decided to return to my whole wheat baguettes and chicken noodle soup. Not having a meal plan has made my food intake super bizarre and I’m already over it.

Also, Yogurtland is only cheap if you go like once a month.

3.     Time is precious (I will never truly realize this)

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never truly value every day of my life. Some days will be spent on Buffy marathons and that’s okay. Also see #1.

4.     Don’t pay me and I’ll do more (please let this be a one-time lesson)

Most weeks, I spent more time on work for my unpaid internship than I did on homework. For some bizarre reason that I have yet to understand, not being paid taught me to try and prove myself in an unprecedented way. That being said, working 20+ hours unpaid a week on top of 18 units is something I’m not super interested in doing again.

5.     Sleep when you can (and occasionally when you shouldn’t)

I do this thing when I have the opportunity to sleep and go on reddit or Facebook or look up movie trivia instead. SLEEP. Also nap sometimes even when you have a paper due the next day.

6.     You can’t escape yourself (even when you try for two years)

I feel like college is the perfect breeding ground for self-reinvention. I kind of tried and I definitely failed more than once over the past two years. I’m over it.

7.     Stop paying for forgetful people (it just makes you bitter)

Since I’ve been making twenty-five cents above minimum wage at a desk job this year, I’ve been weirdly generous with my money. As most people suck at remembering that I covered them/that they owe me money and I’m like $150+ out as a result, my days of generosity are over. This can also be viewed as a bad metaphor (substitute money for other valuable resources and see #1).

8.     Being obsessive gets you nowhere (except for the bottom of a bag of junk food)

As delicious as chocolate covered peanut butter pretzels are, stress eating them at times of being obsessive about (insert not worth worrying about thing here) is really not particularly fulfilling. (I mean, physically it is but that’s kind of beside the point.)

9.     Do things that actually interest you

I’ve spent far too much of the past two years getting involved with activities/jobs/commitments that are about as interesting to me as watching paint dry. Done with that.

10.  Never forget (Doheny, Chapel of Silence, and TroGro)

Self-explanatory. They’re there for me when no other places are (I mean, as much as a library, quiet space, and 24/7 conveience store can be "there for me").

And for those of you who are actually reading this:

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(That's a picture of my dog).

*And by "a lot" I mean ten basic principles that I can condense into a blog post.

You’re so vain you probably think this post is about you. (It totally is).

Sometimes when I can’t sleep, I think of you. Or maybe I can’t sleep because I’m thinking of you.

I do wish this were a “can’t sleep, can’t eat” scenario, but unfortunately on nights that are accompanied by thoughts of you, I find myself in the candy aisle of CVS (deciding between Cadbury crème eggs and discounted Valentine’s Day confections – who am I kidding, I buy both). So basically, you’re inadvertently adding empty calories to my diet. Thanks for that.

If I were fourteen again (or the female character in a Taylor Swift song), I would probably find hormone-fueled comfort in your unnerving apparition. I would smile to myself, my retainer glinting in the moonlight. I’d see you in algebra the next day and awkwardly avert eye contact when you ask to borrow a pencil.

At nineteen, I really just wish you would go away. (I mean, not in real life – you’re great. I just would prefer not like an infatuated middle schooler when I think about you).

Not only do I value my sleep – which you, by the way, are stealing from me – but there are other people I’d rather occupy my pre-sleep brain space. Where’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt? That cute-ish guy from my guitar class? The scruffy faced guy I saw on Trousdale? Nope, just you.

Tonight I had this really odd moment where I thought I was living out a romantic comedy version of Fight Club. (I guess you’d be Tyler Durden?) As in, I actually questioned if you were real. This brings a couple of psychological concerns to the forefront:

1)    I would rather you be a schizophrenia-induced being than actually have romantic feelings for you.

2)    The idea of a romantic comedy Fight Club actually appeals to me in my midnight-thoughts-of-you dilemma.

The real clincher to all this is not that I’m losing sleep, is not that I’m eating Cadbury crème eggs – but is that I’ve been programmed to not actually talk to you about this.

This isn’t Notting Hill. I’m not Julia Roberts (DAMN IT?) and I’m not going to barge into your metaphorical travel bookshop with corny dialogue about how I’m just a girl asking a boy to love her. If I took cues from any movie that has helped form my understanding of what to do in these situations, I would find myself batting my eyes at you from across a room. You’d probably ask if I need Visine. I would show up in the rain outside of your apartment building and cry my way through a monologue that would go something like this:

CAILIN LOWRY, 19, stomps down the sidewalk, drenched from the unexpected Los Angeles rain. The rain has mixed with the tears that are running down her strikingly average face.

YOU, 19, sees Cailin from his warm lobby. Being the stand up guy that he is, he opens the door for her.

YOU: Are you okay? Come in from this unexpected torrential* downpour?

CAILIN: I had to see you.

YOU: Is everything all right? Did you find an upsetting puppy gif?

CAILIN: I don’t know… I don’t know. (Throws hands up in exasperation. Wipes rain/tears/snot from face). I think about you.

YOU (trying to be funny): Naked? (Sees Cailin’s incriminating reaction). Oh.

CAILIN: I don’t know how to say this. But you make me eat Cadbury crème eggs. And watch trashy reality TV shows. I do literally everything to stop thinking about you –

YOU (still trying to be funny): Naked.

CAILIN: Just let me talk okay? I know we’re friends and I know this is crazy, but here’s my number, call me maybe.

YOU: Oh did you get a new number?

CAILIN: No. NO. I can’t do this. I WANT TO BE MAYBE MORE THAN FRIENDS BUT I DON’T ACTUALLY THINK I DO, I THINK I JUST MIGHT WANT TO TRY IT.

YOU: You have snot on your face.

Cailin runs back out in the rain, ruining her leather boots.

As promising as that scenario is, I think I’m going to take the mature adult route. Which is obviously writing an open letter to you on the Internet.

If I were a real life mature adult, here’s what I might actually happen:

CAILIN LOWRY, 19, confidently knocks on the door to your apartment.

YOU, 19, open the door after an appropriate amount of knock-time (which is approximately three seconds). You hug Cailin friend-appropriately. Cailin dies - just a little bit - inside.

CAILIN: Hey!

YOU: ___.

CAILIN: Yeah, it’s been a while.

YOU: _____. ________?

CAILIN: No, I’m good.

CAILIN takes a seat.

CAILIN: Hey, actually I wanted to talk to you about something.

YOU: _____? ____!

CAILIN: Haha, no. Okay. This might come off as strange and might be unexpected, but I need to get it off my chest –

YOU: ____.

CAILIN: Shut up, not literally. I know we never bring this up… but do you ever think about that time –

YOU: ________? _______. ___________?

CAILIN: Yeah. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. And I’m not really sure why and I wasn’t going to say anything – but, well. Yeah. And you know that time you talked about _______? That’s how I’m feeling now and it’s really, really shitty.

YOU: _______________________________________________________.

CAILIN: Exactly. I just care about you a lot as a friend and as a human, you know? And I realize that this jeopardizes that, but it just felt like it was worth saying.

YOU: _____. ___________________.

CAILIN: Really? 

Fade out: ambiguous ending to hypothetical scene.

 

Hypothetical versions of this conversation aside, I’m still awake thinking about you. And you’re probably sleeping soundly right now.

*I do not think you would actually say torrential.

Pseudo-Propaganda for Admitted Members of USC's Class of 2016

My name is Cailin Lowry. I am a proud member of one of the most widely recognized “cults” on the West Coast of the United States. Two years ago, I spent several weeks dramatically flopping down on different furniture. I flung myself onto couches in my high school’s student center. In my living room, I sprawled out on the most amazing beanbag chair known to man. As a senior in high school, melodramatically collapsing onto comfortable furniture was a physical manifestation of the stress that accompanied Choosing the Right School.

I mean, at that point it had been really built up for me. It was like reaching the climax of a high school dramedy where the witty, intelligent, strikingly humble lead has to make The Big Decision. Would it be USC or NYU or UCLA? Would it be Los Angeles or New York? Would it be giving into senioritis or actually studying for my IB/AP exams? Would it be Edward or Jacob? (NEITHER, PLEASE CHOOSE NEITHER).

I cried when I submitted my enrollment deposit to USC. Not tears of joy. Tears of stress, nervous anticipation, and “I DON’T EVEN KNOW IF I WANT TO GO TO COLLEGE DIDN’T I JUST SPEND FOUR YEARS SLAVING AWAY IN ORDER TO GET THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE???” (These were tears with dynamic personality, everyone).

I looked through the glossy YOU-S-C brochure, dismissing its contents as mostly propaganda (to be fair, I was living in “Communist China” as my grandmother likes to call it).

Two years later, I’m drinking the cardinal and gold Kool-Aid. I’m not really sure when this happened. It seems that one minute I was rolling my eyes at the notion of the Trojan Family and the next I was a full-fledged, wholly committed member.

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Maybe it was somewhere in between watching the sunrise from Leavey Library (longing for Doheny, naturally), seeing the Dalai Lama speak at the Galen Center, having conversations on the knoll in McCarthy Quad.

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Or it might have been when all the members of my Thematic Option class on Revolution came together online and wrote a manifesto on why we should not have to take the final exam. In what was perhaps the most moving moment of my academic history, we collectively read the manifesto to our professor the morning of the exam – and were all granted an A for the final. We then sat and discussed the content of the final together, proving that knowledge is not always best proved with short answer and essay questions.

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Regardless of whether my initiation to the Trojan Family was while spending hours talking with friends at the dining hall freshman year or when Molly Ringwald came to my film class on John Hughes to discuss her experiences on Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, and The Breakfast Club – here I am, getting teary eyed thinking about my time thus far at USC.

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There are still times when I wonder whether or not college is the right fit for me right now. However, the question of whether USC is where I belong does not occur to me. As cliché as it seemed two years ago, I have truly found family here: in the eager alumni who are incessantly willing to offer advice, at airports where fellow Trojans flash the Fight On fingers at me, and whenever I see a friendly face at the Campus Center.

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It is difficult to describe the Trojan Family. Perhaps it is easy to call it a network of alumni and students, but experience after experience proves that it is more than just a career-oriented “tool.” The uninitiated like to call us a cult – which perhaps is a little more accurate (sans creepiness).

My name is Cailin Lowry. I am a proud member of the Trojan Family and encourage you to become one too. Fight On!

Better in the 90s: February 14th Edition

If I could live in the Consumer Value Store, I would. For the most part, this is not a hyperbolical statement. My truly absurd reliance on CVS (see I actually went through the effort of finding out what the letters stand for, I really do care), however, is the topic for another article and probably several sessions of counseling. That being said: there is about a five-week period (January 17th to February 14th) that I would take a vacation from living in my hypothetical CVS home. Like any blissfully single 19-year-old girl, I abhor Valentine’s Day with every fiber of my (50% cotton, 50% polyester) being. I did not grow up in this Hallmark card crazy, conversation heart loving, “Be My Valentine (or Else My Loneliness Is A Real Thing)” country. My memories of February 14th in America involve every single person in my kindergarten class getting every other kid a Valentine and the class parents (let’s be real, I’m being politically correct, they were class mothers) giving us cupcakes. Then I moved to Asia (where they have much cooler celebrations)… and there was no CVS! (But perhaps more relevant to this article: Valentine’s Day is not quite as big a deal there.)

2011 marked my first American Valentine’s Day in over a decade. It was a complete let down and not just because I am terminally single. Here, my fellow 90s babies, are reasons Valentine’s Day was way better before the new millennium.

To read more... click here! (And also generally explore Campus Basement, especially if you're a college student or someone who likes funny stuff). 

Compartmentalization

(For those of you just passing through my little slice of cyberspace, here's a bit of background: I was born in North Carolina and moved to Japan at age seven. [Note: This was after several years of thinking my Dad was frequently going to "Neverland" for business, since I guess to a kid "Japan" sounds like "Peter Pan"... I was pretty surprised when we arrived in Kobe and Captain Hook was not present]. By thirteen, my family moved to Shanghai through my high school graduation at which point I headed to Los Angeles. For an expatriate my number of moves is on the low side, but I moved at such critical points in my life that the effects still reverberate.) I've always been future-centered. I do not know if this is a result of growing up knowing that I would never really settle wherever I was -- when I was in Japan and China, there were expiration dates (a little ambiguous, yes, but expiration dates all the same). Now that I'm in college, I feel the four-year hourglass slowly pouring its metaphorical sand out. Time is constantly winding down and there's rarely a moment that I don't feel its weight. Perhaps it is because this constant pressure of time that I've laid my life out in such a compartmentalized way.

I was shocked when I first saw Facebook's Timeline, not because Mark Zuckerberg was changing things on us again ("Oh my godddd, the new timeline is soooo hard to look at, what do I do?????") but because I related to it. That's how I've always looked at my life: like a very specified timeline. It is very easy for me to remember how old I am in memories because I know if I was seven or younger, it was North Carolina. Elementary school was Japan for the most part, and my painfully awkward years were all in China.

The bad thing about this is that once I have placed a period of my life in a mental compartment, it doesn't go beyond that point. High school stays in high school -- I haven't made the effort to maintain those friendships because I feel it's a time that's so utterly "behind me."  I openly admit that I was not a fan of high school, so that's fine with me (other than six or so people who I'd like to maintain contact with). I've gotten used to moving to a strikingly new place and building a mini-world around me, that I usually just leave it all behind and move on. Sometimes, I so envy people from small towns -- people who are literally able to return to everything when they want. (That is not to say I'm ungrateful for my upbringing: I loved growing up abroad, it's just easy to envy what you don't have).

My worries for the future are in the present (what you just read makes sense, I promise): I do not want to wrap college up in a neat little mind-bow with a "finished" attached at the end of it. The busy-ness of college makes maintaining friendships within these four years painstaking and I can't imagine how difficult it will be in a little over two years. I'm fine with leaving student life behind in a couple years, but I don't want to compartmentalize these people.

Real World: Season Zero

A couple months ago I turned nineteen. Most say that nineteen is fairly inconsequential. We've already reached legality - that was so last birthday. Nineteen doesn't bring any newfound rites: we're at that awkward median of teenagedom and adulthood.  As a general population, us nineteen-year-olds uncomfortably tow the line between idiotically debauched house parties and awkwardly attempted classy affairs; barely-earned-parent-supplied-allowances and practically-slave-labor-earned-paychecks. Nineteen has already given me an unexpected and unusual sense of adulthood.

Signs of Adulthood (with Cailin Lowry):

  • First legitimate paychecks (and hard earned at that!)
  • Buying own food (good-bye hot meals!)
  • Shopping for first apartment (forget the fact that my parents are paying my rent!)
  • Higher indicators of maturity (comes face-to-face with issues!)
  • Turning nineteen (barely even a teenager!)
In theory this whole being-nineteen-and-kind-of-fending-for-myself schtick should equate to finally being in the mystical Real World. (See How I Capitalized for Importance?)

Ah yes: The Real World. That mystical realm beyond high school (and perhaps, as I'm noticing, beyond first world problems).

The channel that is still somehow known as Music Television may be on Season 25, but at nineteen it still feels out of reach. I used to hate when people half a decade older would practically pat me on the head, with sighs of Real World worries. How condescending! I humphed as I chowed down on homemade meals and snuggled into my impossibly comfortable bed. This - yes this - with rudimentary homework and fickle friends as life's paramount worries, seemed like the realest of worlds. The overwhelming independence of college made me one of those patronizing pseudo-adults: "Oh, high school is hard?! You don't even know." I became - to my embarrassment - a Real World sigher. In theory I had reached it - what with paying for my own groceries, managing my own time, and my life having come an actual "Choose Your Own Adventure!" story. But there are always headlines that make me doubt that the Real World even exists: insatiable hunger in Somalia, senseless riots in the UK, collapsing economies. How can my world of college libraries and comfortable apartments be "real" scenarios (you know, living the big time, finally growing up) when all this is happening on a daily basis?

Either everything is Real World - famines, buying books for college, sleeping in fluffy beds, war, insipid crushes, rioting, celebrity culture - or nothing at all. I prefer to think the latter: the Real World is an accepted state of mind, a purely subjective final destination. I'd prefer live in the ever-changing fantasy. Welcome to Real World: Season Zero, it's wonderful to meet you.