Teen Attends University, Can Now Tell You Her Experience Fits Erikson’s Developmental Model for Early Adulthood

I have talked a lot about graduating in the last months. I have technically finished classes at this point, and I’m in the thick of writing final papers and packing.

…and, I don’t have a good ending story for college. No elevator pitch. No pithy commentary.

College was a time of self-discovery, but honestly. Call the papers: Teenager Attends University, Has Revelations About Self? Hardly. This is not news, this is the default.

On June 6th, I’ll trade Evanston for Oakland, and on June 21st, I’ll be officially graduated.

and…that is all.

I think I’ll have more stories later. After all, my department’s building did have a Room of Requirement, I did find the original blueprints to NU, and I have lived with an extraordinary group of people.

But for now? I am turning in final papers and packing and registering for grad school classes. It feels a bit like finally picking up that book all of your social circle has been exclaiming over for months, and finding out that yes, it does have Those Characters, and yes they do Those Things, but it’s somewhat less exciting if everyone you know has already exclaimed it at you five times.

Can Can Can

[Somewhat more rambly post, still frantically packing and finishing finals]

I’ve noticed something recently, about this phrase:

Can you do something for me?

There are two ways this phrase can go.

Can you do something for me…[by never doing this thing that I hate that you’ve been doing?]


Can you do something for me? [because I bet you had no idea this could be helpful, and I wanted to let you know, but also, you can say no to doing it!]

The first is unintentionally passive-aggressive: masquerading as the innocuous request that the second one actually is.

And I’m completely guilty of this. “Can you do something for me?” is how I trained myself to start asserting boundaries. It was the nice way to retroactively tell someone that their behavior had hurt me. I was being polite! I was leveraging my way into telling someone I wanted them to change their behavior! “Can you do something for me?” was a way to start the conversation that still gave me an out–I could chicken out and ask them to pass the potatoes, you know. I wasn’t really starting a Scary Conversation That Might Make Them Mad, I was just making it slightly more possible.

Can you do something for me?

Yeah, sure!

Can you not say that thing near me? It’s a huuuuge trigger, and I end up really distraught.

And I learned to start making boundary requests! But at the same time, I learned to have the gut-punch of fear any time an innocuous conversation opened this way. I wouldn’t be surprised if my friends started to feel this way too.

And this is the opposite of my goal! I want to have easy and clear communication, not shift the fear!anxiety to phrases that I also use to make normal requests. I’m not sure how to prevent myself from doing this in the future: this process was a step up from not saying anything at all, and the next step is not using a misleading opening. I’m not sure I could have leaped from Step One to Step Three.

‘Just do it’ is a successful strategy for some, and might have worked for me. I’m hesitant to advocate it though; the thing about Just Do It is that people who can’t Just Do It will nod and then carry on there merry way not doing it.

Aversive and Achievement Goals

[Related to The Cockroach of Motivation. If you’re here and generally consider yourself part of the rationality community, check out the quick note first.]

In psychology, especially the subsector focused on motivation and identity, there’s this idea of future possible selves: the ways you imagine yourself being as you go forward. You can have lots of them at once: being good at math, popular with friends, owning a pet, being responsible, not procrastinating, being known as friendly, avoiding debt, etc. Some of them are considered ‘positive’ and some ‘negative’. This has little to do with the actual goal you want, as how you frame it. Are you aiming to ‘be X’ or ‘not be Y’? The first is positive, the second negative. In other words, one is about achieving something (grades, a relationship, being known as a certain personality trait), the other about being averse to something (procrastinating, failing a class, debt).

In general, people who have more specific and elaborate positive possible/future selves (rather than an equal mix of negative possible selves and positive possible selves, or lots of elaborate future selves they want to avoid) seem to be more motivated and persistent. (here, here, and here)

If you pull this apart, it fits. One of the roles of future selves is something to become more like or less like. If you check in with yourself about whether or not you’re achieving this, you’ll probably get markedly different results from positive future selves and negative future selves. It’s easier to mentally rehearse Doing Something than it is to mentally rehearse Not Doing Something.

And I’ve been using this framework to poke about it my goal setting and motivations. I’ve started tagging things as aversive (negative/go away from/be less like) or achieving (positive/aim for/be more like), and then flipping them around the axis.

Here’s an aversive one, as I decided when to have a stressful phone call:

I don’t want to be the sort of person who avoids things because they’re emotionally weighty.

Okay, I feel fairly good about wanting this. I don’t want to be someone who avoids these interactions! I’m  impressed by people who dive right in to figuring out emotions that make me want to mentally recoil. I find myself frustrated when people aren’t willing to introspect.

But I also flip it around to achievement:

I want to be the sort of person who tackles emotionally weighty conflicts.

Actually, I feel even better about this framing. Not only that, but I’m likely to be able to notice when I get closer to this goal. Hello, availability heuristic, let me use you to my advantage!

Take the aversive framing: when I ping my brain and ask “Have I been the sort of person who avoids things because they’re emotionally weighty?” I’m asking it to come up with times when I’ve avoided things that were emotionally weighty. If the question is Am I This Person, and This Person is defined by “not avoiding”, I’m going to pull up times when I avoided–it’s faster to locate instances of something happening than discrete instances of something not-happening. As Robby put it, it’s easier to remember elephants than not-elephants. So suddenly I’m recalling all the times I screwed up. Wheeee!

But look at what happens with the positive framing: I ask myself Have I been the sort of person who tackles emotionally weighty conflicts? And now the elephant that my beleaguered brain is looking for is instances of dealing with emotionally-heavy conflicts. Suddenly, I have a list of times I did the right thing!

And even if I don’t have a list right now–maybe I still haven’t achieved this future self–I know that I’ll be closer when I have a longer list. Whereas with the aversive framing, it’s probably always going to be possible to come up with an example or two when I avoided a stressful conversation. If I think about the goal like that…well, I’ll likely end up frustrated with myself even when things have improved. “I could do better!” is a useful mindset, but when it plays out into “I suck just slightly less than I used to” repeatedly, it’s hard to motivate myself.

Yeah, but what if you already frame goals in the achievement direction?

I want to prioritize cooking meals for myself. 

Nice and achievement-oriented. So I flipped it around:

I want to not fail to prioritize cooking for myself.

…which, uh, sounded a little bit awkward and ungainly. What the hell did that even mean? How would I know if I was ‘not failing to prioritize’? And this train of thought lead my brain into figuring out exactly what prioritizing meant–if only so I could rescue that sentence from its awkward grammatical puberty. One obvious way was to define my terms in the aversive condition:

I want to avoid eating out more than twice a week.

Evanesco double negatives, Accio simple sentences!

Which also gave me a better achievement orientation:

I want to cook meals all but two times a week.

And beyond rescuing a horrible sentence, I’d now spent more than a few mental cycles on this goal. I’d turned it over in my head, defined the more nebulous bits, and pictured and discarded other versions of the plan.

Hello LW/Rationalists/People Who Were Curious and Clicked the Anchor: make sure to keep an eye to the abstract and methods section within research links. For some reason, the LW colloquial usage of ‘future/possible self’ doesn’t quite jive with how they’re operationalizing it, and this will save you time and confusion. If that doesn’t clear things up, here’s me giving a more informal explanation. [Return to top.]

The Cockroach of Motivation

[Draft-clearing again. Quite old, somewhat updated for clarity.]

Today, as I have several times this year, I told someone that I had gone on a date with that I would prefer not to see them again. Then I gave a presentation I thought could have gone better and proceeded to be horribly unproductive all day.

The first two are things that give me shivery-panic, and that I have to deliberately talk myself into doing, the third will can leave me feeling hopelessly behind (I was) and awful for days. But I mostly muddle along with Pollyanna cheer and Doing The Thing(s). And I do it with cockroaches.

Explanation via Pervocracy:

The Worst Thing In The World is a yawning chasm of failure, constantly open beneath you, and there is no describing the horror at the bottom.  You just go around with the knowledge that if you make a mistake big enough, you can fall in.  If a relationship fails, if you get fired, if you get rejected… you’ll fall into TWTITW, so you put everything you’ve goddamn got into that relationship.  You’ll try anything to keep the relationship. Because it’s literally unthinkable what will happen if it ends.

That unthinkability is how it traps you.  Because it’s like Stephen King says in Danse Macabre–knowing that there’s something horrible behind a door is terrifying.  Once you open the door, it’s ruined.  Even if it’s a really terrible thing behind that door, even if it’s a six-foot cockroach, any horror you feel is going to be mixed with relief.  “Oh, thank God, it’s just a six-foot cockroach. It could’ve been a sixty-foot cockroach.”

It resonated with me, I think because I have spent most of my adult and teenage life knowing like what many of the logical close-to-ends of my fears were, and quietly calming myself with them. Scared of doing that interview? Nah, remember that time you gave your first speech and a whole class and teacher laughed at you to your face? You survived that. Nervous about turning that guy down? Remember the one who followed you around the cafe, calling you ‘bitch’ and ‘cunt’ because you said you couldn’t talk now, you had homework? You were shaky but you walked all the way home and made lunch.

And I think this is perhaps not the story I want. I want to have been strong, to have set boundaries, to have faced down the mundane scary things like bad performance reviews and the-one-who-never-called not because I was certain that worse things have happened to me, but because they were important to do. I am wary of a framing that is only about Things Could Be Worse. I want to delight in things because of how they are–not because they are better than the sixty-foot cockroach.

I am concerned that I might be training myself to spend too much time looking for the worst possible option. Is this it? What would be even worse than this? Is there a six-hundred foot cockroach I’ve forgotten about? How much of my time am I spending looking for awful eventualities?

Not only that, but I want to give myself permission to mope. I am an extraordinarily happy person by nature, but my habit of not reflecting on when things were sad or bad or disappointing means that it can take a series of badbrains days before I realize “OH, there have been a lot of horrible and distressing things in my life, perhaps I should consider those caused this.” Framing everything as “not the worst possible option!” means I don’t leave myself for space for sitting with exactly how bad the option I got was.

Some Musings on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

 Robby Bensinger told me to finish a post on CBT, so hark! A post on CBT. Many, many thanks also to Miri for critiques and help with the composite example in Part Three. 

Recently, I’ve been on this kick where I read books about therapy and self-help not because I think they’re going to be useful to me, but because I want to know if they’re going to be useful to other people. Like, this marriage manual*, for instance. Books that teach you to do Cognitive Behavioral Therapy on yourself have been a particular focus. When I’m asked for resource recs, people often specifically ask for evidence-based therapy or CBT, and I give the classic suggestions. (If you’re coming up with titles here, you’re probably right.)

And I get feedback! ….which is often mixed. The most common thing I hear is that the advice was good, but the narrator was condescending/annoying/patronizing. In fact, this is what I’ve heard almost every single time. Keep in mind that these are people who sought me out for a specific kind of book rec, then bought or rented the book I suggested, expecting that it would help. With that expectation, they read the entire thing, despite hating the writer’s tone.  (And they described it as ‘hate’ too.) That’s not encouraging.


I’ve been thinking lately about what kind of therapist I want to be. I’m approaching termination with my third therapist in three years. Very shortly I’ll be in exactly the same place my previous therapists were: in an internship, practicing microskills and hoping I sound supportive and trying to take notes and watch the clock and never have distancing body language and not sound overly judgmental and to do it all at once.

I’ve watched them work at it and improve and have off days when the prevailing theme of therapy was “You’re watching the clock and I’m watching you watch the clock.”

At the same time, through some combination of blogging, talking openly about my mental health, and social selection, I’ve spent most of the last few years around people who have tried therapy, are seeking therapy, or are in therapy. These too, are usually people who actively sought out therapists who offered CBT or ‘evidence-based therapy’ techniques. Many of them…maybe even most? that have abandoned therapy as a useful solution have done so because they felt their therapists talked down to them.

“They asked stupid questions!”
“Of course I’d considered that!”
“Yes, I know not literally everybody thinks I’m worthless, hasn’t anyone heard of exaggeration? I just said it felt like that sometimes


So for a very long time I had this model in my head that my friends has just encountered the Bad Therapists, and some rule of conversation meant that people preferred to commiserate over Bad Therapists more than they wanted to tell me about Sparkling and Perfect Therapists. (A version of misery poker or Northwestern’s favorite: homework Olympics.)

And then Part One of this post happened, and I switched from primarily reading instructions for clinicians administering therapy to instructions from clinicians to laypeople.

Sometime later, I noticed how many times my reaction to reading an example was “Wow, this example is painfully heavy-handed, but what’s the principle behind it?” or “I mean, obviously the client in this example didn’t mean that literally, but what’s the skill the therapist is trying to teach?” I was intentionally ignoring all the stuff that might turn clients off therapy entirely, in favor of learning techniques.

An example**

Jason has anxiety, and has been having trouble sleeping because he’s afraid he won’t finish his next project on time. His daughter has been ill, and he’s missed more work than usual, though he has a stellar track record with the company. He might be able to ask his boss for an extension, but every time he considers it, his chest gets tight and he has trouble breathing. He says he fears his boss will fire him for failing to complete a project for the important client.

I, [Therapist X] asked Jason to work through some questions for me.

“Have you ever had a friend who got fired for respectfully asking for an extension?”

“Don’t you think that your boss would rather have your work a little late rather than have to go through the process of hiring someone new to get it done even later?”

Except that if I were Jason, answering No to the first and Yes to the second still leaves me with the crushing fear of “What if I am the exception and I need this job to support my sick daughter, even a five percent chance of firing is still scary.” Working through the questions might give him an idea of what to think about when the fear is crippling, decrease the physiological reaction, or prevent future fears from spiraling out of control, but that hasn’t been made explicit. Jason has to trust Therapist X to have a plan.

And while there’s an argument to be made that books have to construct examples that are larger than life to have clear cut principles, I started noticing it in therapy myself. It was actually, once I was paying attention, very common for me to suspend my annoyance, as it were, in favor of expecting the paradigm of therapy to succeed.

So when my therapist asks “You said you wanted to restrict your calories after eating dinner two days in a row. Does that seem like it’s part of your plan for recovery?” I don’t say “Of course it’s not how I want to do recovery, but I’m struggling with anorexia, dammit!” I trust that she has some goal that involves me learning something new about triggers or a coping mechanism, and that that goal is served by the conversation her question is starting. So I say something like “No, it’s not, but I don’t know how to feel okay with eating so much more than I’m used to” and we go merrily on from there.

The problem is, this only works if I expect that therapy is going to be beneficial to me, trust that I might not be the best judge of what is succeeding, and believe that what sounds like stupid questions or silly roleplaying has an end goal I support.

Guys, I want to be a therapist, and I still have to work on suspending my initial, irritated reaction to CBT techniques.

Then how do we prevent the feeling of condescension? The image of the snooty psychotherapist, making judgemental notes and pontificating on childhood repression is still very much part of the public imagination. (Someday, I want a world where “penis envy? *snicker*” is not the rejoinder to my career plans…) “Here’s let’s try some roleplay to practice this social skill!” “Yes, but can you think of another way of looking at that?” …they don’t exactly make people disengage from that mental picture.

What about taking the opposite tack? Closing the distance a lot, laying many more cards on the table.

We say “Look. This is CBT. It’s been shown to help quite a bit for some people, and I think it could help you. Sometimes I’m going to ask you questions that sound condescending or silly or obvious, and I’d like you to step back and just answer them. Play along, as it were. Imagine that you’ve got to choose between sometimes being annoyed with what happens here, and not trying a therapy that’s evidence based. I’m asking you to pick the one that means you’ll sigh in frustration occasionally. And in return, I’ll do my best to frame questions well and make this a good experience of getting better.”

And then we really do see if there’s another way to see that situation.

*It says relationships. It’s 95% about marriages.

**composite, not from any of the books/writing I’m referencing in this post

Losing at Brain Games

[TW: ED]
Small post today, because I’m feeling contemplative.

I had something confirmed for me last week–that I have an unusual presentation and persistence of eating disorder/disordered eating* symptoms, given all the treatment, work, time I throw at it. In short, standard and adapted-for-me coping mechanisms and approaches for my anorexia tendencies (henceforth anorexia!brain) trigger my bulimic/bingeing tendencies…and coping mechanisms for bulimia!brain trigger my anorexic tendencies. Having both aspects isn’t terribly unusual, but that I split the difference so equally means that I never have an obvious choice about which eating habits to encourage. On days or weeks when I managed to eat properly, I’m balancing on a tightrope of tolerating the anorexia!brain and the bulimia!brain.

Which made this quote from Allie Brosh especially poignant:

For me, motivation is this horrible, scary game where I try to make myself do something while I actively avoid doing it. If I win, I have to do something I don’t want to do. If I lose, I’m one step closer to ruining my entire life. And I never know if I’m going to win or lose until the last second.

Replace ‘motivation’ with ‘eating’ and you have a summary of my mental calculus in sixty-two words.

Take this: It’s 3pm. I’m hungry.

Do I:

Eat an apple? After all, responding to hunger is important, and eating snacks is a skill I need to teach anorexia!brain.
On the other hand, this may lead to:
-I ate food at an unreasonable hour! All is lost! I’m uncomfortable and upset about this and now I want to binge.
-I ate food as a snack, and now maybe I can/should skip dinner.

So should I skip the apple? After all, dinner is more calories, and if eating the apple might trigger a binge or mean I don’t eat dinner, perhaps I should go for a solid option of a meal in a few hours?
On the other hand:
-I almost never feel hunger, and I need to learn to respond to it. Not to mention needing to get used to snacking. Teaching myself to ignore hunger didn’t exactly do good things for this whole eating disorder business.
-If I skip this snack, I might be so hungry at dinner that I accidentally overeat or trigger bingeing.

If I ‘win’ and eat enough food but not too much, anorexia!brain beats me up for eating, and bulimia!brain beats me up for the bingeing impulses I’m ignoring.  And so I spend cycle after mental cycle, trying to figure out which brain I can cope with when, how to trigger the least severe options, and only finding out if I’ve succeeded at the very last second.**

And nearly everyone else?

They just eat the damn apple.

*I don’t quite meet criteria for an eating disorder because I ‘win’ at feeding myself properly enough, but it fucks up my functioning and eats my willpower and brain enough that the distinction isn’t terribly clear. 

**A rough estimate, from the few times my brain has spontaneously clicked to non-ED (glorious weeks, those were) has me spending about 50% of my motivation/willpower towards eating properly. 

A Week

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 10.52.33 PM

There aren’t really any pre-eating disorder Kate photos in my possession–very few exist–but this isn’t long after it started.

[The eating disorder content note on this post is so loud it tapdances in sequined tights. Skip the latter half if that seems bad for you.]

It’s a Friday. 12:42 in the morning. And I’ve done something for the first time in seven years. I have fed myself properly for a week.

Twenty-one meals in a row.

I have eaten seven breakfasts and seven lunches and seven dinners, one each day, and the last time I can point to and say, “that happened” was when I was fourteen.

It has always made me feel like a child, in the helpless, immature, possibly-unfair-to-children way. Accomplish all manner of things, come of age, go to college, hold a job, spend years working on recovering, and you still can’t feed yourself for a week, can you?

I am twenty one years old, and I have spent one third my life depriving and counting and adding and crying over calorie totals. I have binged and exercised obsessively and hallucinated and measured and feared

And I did it.

I haven’t beaten the parts of my brain that want this to be a loss–who think failure is eating when you are hungry. But they’re a little quieter, a little cowed. And that’s enough.

Seven years ago, I wore braces. I hadn’t been kissed, and Kate Donovan certainly didn’t exist. I wanted to be a ballet dancer. Was one, actually. And nearly the happiest I could be was starving.

There was this sharp piece in the New Yorker two months ago. We write about anorexia too positively, the author claimed. And she wasn’t wrong. It’s hard to capture what it takes to override something like wanting to survive. So you dig deep when you write, and try to find it–what could possibly be worth all of that?

There was something, though. That intersection of feeling competent and sparkling and happy. God, the happiness. Hard and diamond-bright and just so easy to get. You can’t get away from hunger easily, and the two melded a bit. Feel clenching hunger? A rush of joy. Over and over and over. And the choice? Happiness or food and feeling slightly duller and slower and sadder? Why, you’d have to be crazy to pick eating.

I felt a little bit of it today–late to dinner with an errand that ate into my time. My stomach growled and it flared.

Be happier…go to the gym instead.

It’s a hell of a drug, this madness.

But I’m winning. I will sleep and tomorrow, I will eat breakfast before class. I will come home for lunch, and commiserate with housemates about approaching midterms over dinner. In the coming days and weeks, I’ll slip up at some point. Rome and days of building, you know. It’ll be harder to come back if I make this an all-or-nothing game. So I’ll expect that sometimes, the feelings will win.

But for now? For now, I’ll be really goddamn proud. Proud of eating, imagine that. I’m not sure fourteen-year-old-Kate could have. I’m going to have a hell of a Friday for her.

2013 14!

Recovery: it looked a lot like this, but without the cute animals.

It’s January of 2014, officially that time of year where we decide to switch our calendars and spend two months forgetting we’ve done so. I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but I do reflect on what the past year has brought me.

In 2013 I…:

– wrote quite a lot, got my own blog, and then wrote quite a bit less. I am proud of this, and also quite sure that the latter half is not how it’s supposed to work.

– worked at Fabulous Unspecified Internship, decided what I wanted to do with at least the next ten or so years of my life, and then began applying to grad schools.

– moved to Columbus, interned for the Secular Student Alliance, moved back to Chicago, and then kept working for them.

– spent the whole of 2013 working on recovery, which included leaving therapy, going back to therapy, getting a new therapist, being far less troubled by body delusions (I can see myself accurately in mirrors a lot of the time now!)

– owned a pet rat, and 10/10 would repeat.

– visited the Creation Museum for a women’s conference and went to the NYC Solstice. I’ll leave it to the reader to guess which one I liked more.

– maintained close relationships with people who moved. This is a big deal. I’ve actually never been good at keeping in touch with…well, anyone. No ‘friendship permanence’ as it were. Except this year, I did. For the first time, I don’t live in a city with close friends–they live all over the continental US. And we keep in touch. We visit each other and skype and call and text and it’s working.

2013 Posts I Wrote and Liked the Most:

Falling in Love With People

Training Therapists: We’re Doing It Wrong

How Not To Be a Jerk to the Future of Your Movement

Forward Thinking: What Would You Tell Teens About Sex?

Posts I’d Like to Write:

Adoption! A general post about the stuff we keep getting wrong about how adoption works. I’ve actually written this post twice, but dammit WordPress stop deleting my drafts.

Some sort of reflection on my time at Northwestern. Both because this is The Traditional Thing To Do, and because I didn’t particularly enjoy the college part of being in college. I learned a lot of things, I made a lot of friends, I fell in and out of love, and all of that sort of thing, but very little of that was on campus, near campus, or as a result of being at Northwestern specifically.

How I’d Like To See Psychology Taught: I have feelings about this.

Deterioration effects and other ways we could measure the harm of talk therapies. (I wrote a fairly long and detailed paper on Lilienfeld last quarter and would like to be less hamstrung by “focus on the things that will make this an acceptable final paper and also it’s due soon”.)


So! Onwards! To new places and visiting old friends and reading long books!





In Which Scary Things Happened, Decisions Were Made, And I Didn’t Blog


Dear readers.

I have been really great about blogging Monday Miscellany link posts. Except for that time I posted on Tuesday last week. And when I haven’t done them.

Okay, so I’ve been mediocre.

But! There are reasons!

1) Big Life Changes. I’m increasingly sold on the idea of graduate school following this year. This means applying to graduate school. Which eats a lot of time. Common App? No such luck. Individual applications with ambiguous instructions? Yeah, got that bit covered.
      a) This meant picking graduate schools. Yeah, that’s hard to do. I’m intending to get a Masters in Social Work (MSW), and I needed to decide exactly where to do that. Since certification as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker varies from state to state–and licenses don’t transfer–I’m effectively picking where I want to live for a long while. That’s…scary. I don’t have a strong identification to a place as My Place.
      b) In the absence of having My Place Where I Want To Live Somewhat Permanently, I have to decide what I need and value from a location. Real seasons seem to be a minor but notable requirement. A support system seems very necessary. At the same time, I feel a strong aversion (which seems to be socially conditioned and not useful at all) to not be That Girl, who moves because of friends, who isn’t independent enough, etc. This is probably a stupid feeling, since all my experience in the last four years says that I like being in places with people who make me happy, care about my feelings, and will sit in coffee shops and blog with me. Unfortunately, stupid feelings want be just as loud as reasonable feelings, and don’t come with warning labels.
     c) Good news! I have a whole list of places I’m applying to now. I have started those applications! This feels delightful. The future seems a little less like a big scary black hole of paperwork and failure.

2) It’s finals. It was midterms. (These keep happening.) This results in lots of stressing and very little writing. What little writing that does occur does seem to be in the pursuit of finishing papers.

3) I’ve been working. I just finished a teaching assistantship on the weekends, and I’m the social media contractor for the SSA. These are both fun, but they take time, and I haven’t managed to get my hands on a Time Turner.

4) Fear. For some reason–perhaps reading more specialized science blogs, perhaps jerkbrain, I’ve started a number of posts over the last weeks, and then just…stopped. The impulse would die, or I’d get caught up in another project, or I’d look at 300 words and think, nah, someone else has written a much better version of this anyways. So…link posts reigned. These will continue! But I’m trying to talk myself into more blogging. I LIKE it. I really do! So! Ideas for blogging? Stick them in the comments? Topics you want to see? The same!

On Nail Polish and Pizza

After a bit of an unusual childhood/teenagerhood, I spent a lot of my senior year of high school and freshman year of college hacking away at a list of things I’d never had to learn that are rote to your average young adult.

I’d never used a microwave before, for instance. (For the record, really mean it about the metal. Also, generalizing from “well, the other containers I put in the microwave those other two times didn’t get hot!” is a terrible plan.) Or matches/lighters. If anyone has hints or tricks on that front for someone with either a mild phobia or silly fear, toss them thisaway. (The first time I attempted to light a candle, I set my thumb on fire. Turns out nail polish is flammable. Have sneakily avoided all kinds of fire since.)

The thing is, it was rarely just a single task that I wanted to know, like, how does one paint their nails? I didn’t actually want the specific information about getting the smelly stuff on your nails and only on the nail parts–though seriously, how does one do their right hand?!–I wanted the set of all the knowledge you get from trying it at age twelve and screwing up and being told you need to take it off because it’s too chipped. It’s knowing which colors are considered professional and which aren’t and whether or not it matters if your nails match your clothes (it seems impossible to do, but teen magazines kept assuring me it’s a thing). So it never was “how do you paint your nails?” that I was asking, it was “how do I get all of the knowledge you have from painting your nails without screwing up a simple step and looking foolish in the process?”

At this point, few normal things reduce me to stressful bafflement, or require me to google around. (Shoutout to WikiHow!) Few things, that is, until last Wednesday, when I realized I had no idea how one places an order for delivery. Or whether one can pay with a credit card. Or if one does it far in advance of when you needed the food. Or how much to tip. It’s all solved now, but geez, I have no idea how I’d be doing without people writing nice articles like How To Order A Pizza Over The Phone.

[Of course, the best laid plans and all that, and the pizza arrived an hour later than I’d scheduled it.]