A Letter to 5-Year-Old Me: Don’t Grow Up

Dear 5-Year-Old Me,

Hello, it’s me. (You don’t understand that reference now, but I promise you will someday.)

So tomorrow is your first day of kindergarten, huh? You’re growing up! I bet you’ll be so eager to take off that you’ll leave your teary-eyed mom in your wake, wishing she could go back to when she’d cradle you in just one arm. I bet you’ll yank your hand out of hers and run as fast as your little white Keds can take you to that big yellow bus. But please, for both of our sakes, just let her hug you one last time. Let her take pictures. Smile. When you’re my age, you’ll be glad you did.

First day of kindergarten and last day of high school. I was annoyed that my mom was taking pictures both times. Some things never change.

My first day of kindergarten next to my last day of high school. In both, I was annoyed that my mom was taking pictures. Some things never change.

Speaking of my age, I am 22 years old. I bet you can’t even count that high yet. (I also bet that you’ll try to prove me wrong.) But before you can stomp your foot indignantly in protest of cleaning up your 101 Dalmatians toys, you’ll be me, typing this letter on a machine that hasn’t even been invented yet. That might be enough to make your little blonde head spin, but it’s happening right now. You’re getting older with each passing day, and you can’t stop it. Neither can I.

So when I tell you not to grow up, I don’t mean it literally. I still haven’t found a way to slow the ticking hands of time. But there are things that I want you to know, things that I wish I would’ve known, about getting older. Most of them will come as a shock, so hang on tight.

I know right now that it seems the world is too big for you, or that you are too big for it. You don’t want to take naps when your mom tells you to. You want to choose your own bed time. And you don’t want to eat pork chops for dinner; trust me, I understand that one. Right now, each problem must feel as if it’s consuming you. So you look to your mom and wish you were a grown-up. After all, she gets to do everything you wish you could do and more. All you see is her making the rules, buying you new toys, and going to bed whenever she wants.

What you don’t see is how hard she works so that she can send you to daycare and put those (albeit yucky) pork chops on your plate. You don’t see her making rent payments on a single mother’s salary or trying to squeeze yet another sick day out of her job because you have a fever. This is the side of adulthood that you don’t see, and this side is more real.

Right now, you want your own money so you can buy whatever you want. I know this is going to sound like a terrible paradox, and it is, but the more money you earn, the more will be siphoned away into rent, car insurance, medical bills, and other needs that you never really want. After college, once you step into real adulthood, nothing in life is free. Be grateful for your possessions, but don’t forget the intangibles your parents provide for you, too, and don’t think that what you own in life determines your worth. You’ll learn someday that all the toys in the world won’t make you feel whole.

You want to skip nap time and go to bed as late as possible. I know that’s really fun on New Year’s Eve, but trust me, when you’re my age, you’ll never get enough sleep. You’ll lie awake wondering if you messed something up at work that day or thinking through that time four years ago that you said something stupid. And that abundant kid energy that powers you through soccer games and bike riding? It doesn’t last forever. Don’t just take naps: savor them, and run so fast you feel as if your legs might fly away. You need sleep and exercise, and there won’t always be enough time for both when you’re my age.

You want freedom. You want independence. Hang on to that steadfastness, because it will serve you well someday. But for now, enjoy the freedom of simply being. You don’t have to show up to work at a certain time, score a certain amount on an exam, or put on a certain face for each world you enter. You have the easiest job of all: being a kid. I know that some days are hard, but none of it will compare to what you will face as an adult. Now, I don’t say this to scare you: I’ve survived it all, and since you are me, know that you will, too. You may not have the freedom to make your own choices right now, but the choices get harder and harder with each year you add. For now, just be glad that you are free to be young.

When you’re seven, adjusting to a new school, you’ll want to be eight so you can learn how to sign your name in cursive. When you’re nine and just beginning to explore the world of writing stories, you’ll want to be 10, because that extra digit means something. But when you turn 10, you’ll realize it means nothing until you’re 11, because that’s when you get to go to middle school. And once you’re 12, you’ll be too young to be taken seriously, but too old to get away with everything from which being a kid excused you, so you’ll long to be 13, a teenager. When you’re 15 and behind the wheel for the first time, you’ll want to be 16 just so your mom won’t have to sit in the passenger seat with you. And when you get your heart broken for the first time, like everyone inevitably does, you’ll want to cut your ties and escape to a new frontier: college.

It is only after this, the most incredible time of your life, that you’ll start to realize that you shouldn’t have wished to grow up. Your firsts of college — first Badger football game, first party, first midterm — will soon subside to lasts. And at the end of it all, you’ll be sitting in your childhood room, sifting through years of poems and drawings and little keychains that your stepdad brought back from business trips for you, wondering how you have only four days until you put on your cap and gown and become someone new.

A couple months later, your childhood home won’t be yours anymore, and your parents will head off to their own new adventure a thousand miles away from you. In this moment, you’ll think back to when you ran to the bus on your very first day of kindergarten, how it feels different to leave than to be left. You will survive this as you’ve survived everything else. But this will be the moment that you’ll want to go back.

Tomorrow is your first day of kindergarten, and time feels like a path stretched out endlessly to the horizon in front of you. Yes, you have time, but use it well. Hug your parents. Do what they tell you to do. Eat your dinner, even if it is pork chops — you’ll be happy to know that I’m a vegetarian and will someday spare you this injustice.  For now, be a kid, and stop wishing to be something else. You have a wonderful life awaiting you once you reach adulthood: a great job, a loving family, an incredible boyfriend, and a bright future. But I promise that only good will come of taking your time getting here.

Know that I am always rooting for you, and if ever anything feels impossible, I am proof that it’s not.

Love always,

Devin

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Four Things I’ve Learned as an Intern at a Professional Sports Team

Two months ago, when I started my internship with the Philadelphia Flyers, I didn’t know what was in store for me.

Sure, I thought I’d learn a lot, and I figured if it were really my dream job, I’d probably have a lot of fun, too. But the experience has carried with it many highs and lows that I never expected to have. They say there’s really no way to learn what a job is like unless you’re actually doing it, and they’re right.

Edited with Polarr Photo Editor

This is what I saw when Brayden Schenn had his first career hat trick.

When you think of working in sports, your mind probably goes to the glamour of the business: the cheering crowds, the euphoria of winning, how close you are to the game and whatever drew you to it in the first place. And don’t get me wrong, those are absolutely the kind of perks that made me want to work in sports in the first place. What you don’t see are the more trying moments, like the long hours, the fast pace, and the heartbreak of losing.

Here’s what I’ve learned working in sports for these few months that I wish I’d known before.

  1. Everyone who works for the team is a fan. I don’t mean this in the conventional sense; my bosses aren’t wearing Flyers jerseys underneath their suits. But everyone I work with wants this team to succeed. Anyone who has ever played a sport knows how hard it is to lose, or how frustrating it is to watch your favorite team lose. That feeling doesn’t go away when you work for the team; you just learn to hide your emotions. That’s why we love when the team wins: their high spirits carry over to us, and everyone on and off the ice is in a jovial mood. So trust me: we want the team to make the playoffs as badly, if not more, than you do.
  2. You will be exhausted. I absolutely love what I do, but I am almost constantly tired. Yesterday, I walked in the door at 7:40 in the morning and left at 11:40 at night (and my bosses stayed even later!). What keeps me going on long gamedays is knowing that I have the chance to live my dream, even if it means working way more hours per day than I’m sleeping. (I also drink a lot of coffee. I owe all that I am to our office coffee pot.) When I get home at night, though, I get to tell my mom or my boyfriend what incredible things happened at work that day, and that beats sleep every time.
  3. Things will change constantly. There’s one guarantee in sports: no two days will ever be the same. Yes, we do a lot of the same tasks every day — distributing game notes and stats, transcribing interviews, making credentials for reporters — but more often than not, someone will lose a credential or we’ll have a press conference to cover or we’ll have to fill in for other interns and record practice. I never know what the day is going to hold, and I love that. As a creature of habit, it can be maddening to have to stray from my routine, but I’m getting used to having a blank space in my agenda with question marks all over it.
  4. You will have so many moments and memories you’ll want to share. Last night, while I was downstairs waiting to print off a game summary, Brayden Schenn scored his first career hat trick. I was standing in the Zamboni tunnel, and all I could do was watch in awe as hats rained down onto the ice. I had never seen a hat trick in person before and I had the goofiest grin on my face for the rest of the night. This moment is one of so many that still make me light up when I tell people about them. Some people’s jobs don’t even give them one of these memories, and that’s how I know I’m lucky.

Every time I’m feeling tired, every time I miss seeing the sunlight or having a free Saturday afternoon, it’s moments like the one above that remind me why I’m here and why I want so badly to be here in the future. If you love it, working in sports feels like the farthest thing from work. And after all, that’s a career goal I’ll never stop chasing.

 

Learning: Why It’s Hard to be a Perfectionist at the Start of Your Career

January, which has probably been one of the wildest and most exhausting months of my life, is drawing to a close. Throughout the month, I’ve had so many friends text me and ask how Philadelphia is, especially what it’s like to work for the Flyers, because most of them know that what I’m doing right now is as close to my dream job as I’ve ever gotten. Most of the time I’ll tell them that it’s great, amazing, exactly what I dreamed of — and I’m not lying.

But I do leave out the one thing that I wish everyone knew: what I’m doing is achingly hard.

I’m not saying that my field (public relations, for those who don’t know) is too challenging for me, and I’m definitely not implying that what I do is hard. After all, much of my job is taking care of the sort of behind-the-scenes details you’d normally not even think about — that is, until your credential is late to will call or you’re missing a stats packet that I was supposed to make.

What makes this so hard is what makes every new job, especially if it’s the kind of job you’ve always dreamed of having, hard: not everything you do is going to be right or perfect on the first try.

perfectionist

*sighs heavily*

As a lifelong perfectionist, this has been the most difficult realization for me to swallow. I’m used to turning in papers without even reading them because I feel confident in how they turned out. I’m not used to failing, mostly because I hate the feeling of failure more so than actually failing, and I’ve trained myself to do whatever it takes to protect myself from feeling it.

What’s so hard about a new job is that you are going to fail, time and time again, because you are learning. I’ve followed around the other full-time intern with the Flyers for a month now, and there are still things that I don’t fully understand about our job that she does instinctively. A few minutes later, I’ll be at my desk, mentally walking myself through whatever process she just completed, wishing I had asked more questions when I had the chance.

So to all my fellow entry-level perfectionists out there, I say this: don’t go into your new dream job thinking that you’re going to do everything perfectly and blow everyone away. Chances are you won’t, and you’ll end up feeling disappointed in yourself just because your standards were impossible to begin with.

“Good enough” doesn’t have to be your enemy. Some things don’t require you to overthink it until it’s completely flawless. Take brainstorming. How many times have you sat in a brainstorm and kept your mouth shut because your idea wasn’t perfectly penciled out in your mind yet?

Let yourself fail. Let yourself learn.

Make up for whatever perceived (and, most likely, totally expected and acceptable) failure you think you’ve committed by apologizing and working really, really hard. Your bosses will notice the effort, and they’ll appreciate it.

Most importantly of all: don’t doubt yourself or question your worth based on a few small failures. You’re more than that, and you’ve learned from them, so you’re already better than you were before. Don’t focus on the tiny mistakes. Focus on what you bring to the table, and make sure you’re bringing it every day.

Not everything you do in your first real career experience will be perfect. But you, my fellow perfectionist, will make everything you do as damn good as it can be.

How to Say Goodbye to Your Second Home

November is nearly over. And my last college final is a few short weeks away. Which means, as of this moment, I only have about a month left in Madison.

I know, I know, I got my fair share of time here, and there’s no use in nostalgia. Everyone told me at the beginning of the semester that senior year goes by quicker than you can stop to catch your breath, and I suppose I believed them, but I never felt their words the way I do now.

I don’t know how to write this post. I really don’t. Oftentimes, when I write blog posts, the words will flow fast and easy. This time is different. Maybe it’s because I really can’t fathom how four years passed so quickly, or because I still can’t really wrap my mind around being a 21-year-old senior in college.

Tomorrow is my last Badger football game in the student section. I'll be the one sobbing "Varsity" at the end of Fifth Quarter.

Tomorrow is my last Badger football game in the student section. I’ll be the one sobbing “Varsity” at the end of Fifth Quarter.

But I think the real reason is because I have no freaking idea how I’m going to say goodbye.

Madison has become a part of me in a way that no other place before it ever did. I’ll always have a soft spot for Minnesota, and I’ll think about my hometown from time to time, but Madison is the home I chose. Madison is where I became a real person. Madison is where I’ve experienced the best and worst moments of my life. And as much as I love it and as much as I’ve carved out a place of belonging here, I know I can’t stay. That might be the hardest part of all.

So as I lay here, wondering how I’m going to leave, I’m also trying to plan for the eventual loss of my second home. I don’t know how to say goodbye, but I’m trying to figure it out.

How to say goodbye to your second home

First, remember that it won’t be easy. You created a lifetime for yourself here in four short years, and that life, even though it may continue in smaller fragments, is about to end. Even though you’re going to embark on new and amazing adventures, that doesn’t mean you won’t look back. Let yourself look back sometimes. Some memories are too good to forget.

Cherish every “last” the way you cherished every “first.” That last trip to College Library might not be as thrilling as your first college party, but it’s part of your experience, and you’ll miss it when it’s gone. Visit your favorite restaurant a lot. Do whatever your parents want to do when they come into town for the last time, even if you have a big paper due that day. I promise you won’t regret it.

Prioritize, but in a way that makes you happy. When you look back, you definitely won’t remember that trivial assignment you spent hours on, especially if your heart wasn’t in it. You’ll remember laughing in line at Ian’s at 1:45 a.m. on a Thursday, though. So when it comes to a choice between the two, choose wisely.

Take a lot of pictures. If the light is shining really beautifully on Humanities, but you don’t want to look stupid taking a picture of one of the ugliest buildings on campus, do it anyway. It’s getting torn down in a few years. Don’t you want to remember getting lost and dripped on by the leaky ceiling?

Leave campus better than it was when you arrived. Contribute something. Anything, really. Whatever makes our place a better one, whatever moves us — and future Badgers — forward. This is one of the only chances you’ll ever have to impact such a broad, diverse, and special community. Don’t be afraid to leave your mark, as long as it’s a good one.

No matter where you live, it’ll always be home. Home isn’t always where you are physically. Sometimes home is what’s shaped you into the person you are today. Home is the warm feeling that spreads through you as you remember that place. You may leave it, but it doesn’t leave you.

When December rolls around, I’ll reread this, and hopefully, I’ll smile. When I’m peering over the ledge of the press box to center ice of the Wells Fargo Center, I’ll remember doing the same thing here at La Bahn. When I’m curled up in my bed watching a crappy live-stream of the Badger basketball game, I’ll remember what it was like to be there. When I’m walking down the streets of Philadelphia, I’ll remember the streets of Madison, and how I always felt so safe. And after that, when I’m God-knows-where in the world, a little piece of me will always be right here in Madison. Right here at home.

Postgrad Panic: How to Keep Your Sanity in Your Last Year of College

4608963722_7c88e503f8_bWell, here you are. You made it. You struggled and worked through three years of classes—some great, some that tested your patience, some that affirmed that this is what you’re supposed to be doing—and now it’s almost over. You’re a senior in college!

And even though that’s supposed to make you feel wonderful and smart and prepared to enter the real world, it doesn’t. Instead, when you think about what you’ll be doing this time next year, you start to break into a cold sweat and one of your eyes inevitably starts twitching.

The thing is, until now, this moment felt far away. You reassured yourself that you’d have your life all figured out at this point, that you’d be ready to leave college behind. But now everyone around you seems to be securing full-time jobs, and you feel like you’re on the outside looking in.

Scary, huh?

It’s hard to push aside the panic that comes with senior year. You have to worry about everything you never had to think about before: starting your career, paying all your bills, maybe moving to an unfamiliar city or away from your family. It’s no wonder we can’t relax and enjoy the ride, even though we know we’re nearing the end.

As someone who spends half their time worrying—and the other half worrying about worrying—I get it. I’ve been there, and there’s no doubt I’ll be there again in a matter of days. But there are things I do or tell myself to help me calm down, and maybe they’ll help you, too.

This is what you need to remember when you hit a fit of postgrad panic:

  1. No one has it all figured out. Sure, it may look that way on social media, but don’t you put up that front on Facebook, too? Even if someone has their postgrad plans set in stone, I guarantee they’re still worried about something. We’re all about to enter this big, scary new phase in our lives. It’s natural and totally okay to be a little freaked out.
  2. You don’t have to secure your dream job on your first try. I know it can be tempting to shoot for the moon, and I know how discouraging it is to get rejected. Your worth is not the equivalent of how fantastic your first job out of college is. Say that to yourself. Then say it again. Repeat it until you believe it.
  3. Networking is important, but don’t let it make you anxious. Start small and easy. Get in touch with your old bosses and coworkers, and try to make connections with people they know. Connect to your college’s alums. Use LinkedIn; it’s an amazing resource. Networking doesn’t have to be scary. Think of it as striking up a conversation. There is no harm in sending someone a friendly note once in a while, and you’re not weird for doing it.
  4. Don’t let anyone discourage you from trying. Maybe the position requires a certain number of years’ experience you don’t have, or skills you haven’t quite mastered. So what? You might have the talent to make up for the experience gap, and you can always learn new things. In the words of Coldplay, “If you never try, you never know.” And in the words of Wayne Gretzky, the greatest hockey player of all time, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”
  5. It will all work out. If you’re anything like me, I bet you’re yelling “NO, IT WON’T!” at your computer screen right now. But please, just trust me on this one. You have worked too hard for too long to not believe in yourself. And if there was ever a time for you to carry yourself with confidence and a can-do-it attitude, it’s now. So own what makes you special. Play up your strengths. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it—I know you can, and I hope you know that you can, too.

So the next time you find yourself hyperventilating, wondering how the hell you’re going to figure it all out, take a deep breath and remind yourself that everyone’s been here before. Now, it’s our turn.

Hi There

Nice to meet you. My name is Devin with an “i,” although many Starbucks baristas have attempted to add other letters.

I am:

  • Your average Minnesotan from a suburb called Apple Valley, where there are neither apples nor valleys
  • An only child that spent too much time hanging out with (read: annoying) adults as a kid
  • Obsessed with hockey, particularly the Minnesota Wild and Pittsburgh Penguins (don’t ask)
  • A senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I have discovered an untapped love for Wisconsin cheese, football Saturdays, the color red, and chilly walks to Picnic Point in the fall
  • A writer with experience in public relations, journalism, sports writing, social media, poetry, short fiction, and terrible fanfic (definitely don’t ask)

I’ll be blogging here about my last year in college as well as what’s next. Stay tuned.