Advice for Young Idealists

This advice applies if you’ve ever been: optimistic, emotional, trusting, hopeful, needy, afraid of being alone, or self-conscious.

I used to be very optimistic. I hoped for the best out of everyone I met. I trusted people. I believed that people cared about me just because I cared about them. I’ve spent the past 21 years of my life living in a fantasy world, convincing myself that I could change people, change the way they think of me, change the way they think of the world. Then, much to my dismay, I became an adult. I became a realist. Although I miss my youthful optimism, it can only persist for so long. This is advice I wish someone had given me a year ago.

“A fool learns from his own mistakes, a wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”

1. Develop a tough exterior. If you can’t fake a smile, you’re never going to get through life. Grin and bear it. If you need to, run into the bathroom and cry for a few minutes, but girl wipe that make-up clean and get back to work. Hold yourself with poise and confidence. Radiate. Never let anyone know you’re upset. When people know personal information about you, such as your feelings, there is a good chance they will use it against you.

2. Trust no one. Yeah, that girl you work with seems really nice. Just because someone smiles and exchanges friendly banter with you does not mean they like you. Even if they do like you, it does not mean they care about you. If she wants to know about your love life, it’s not because she cares—it’s because she’s bored, curious, and wants gossip. Do not confuse curiosity with caring.

3. Divulge information carefully. It’s difficult to determine who is a true friend. My advice is stay out of cliques and groups where people have known one another longer than they’ve known you. If you confide in one of them, they’ll probably gossip about it because you’re new and naive. Also, people are dicks. Most of the time, rather than being happy that you’re happy, they’ll judge. Figure people out before you go telling them about your personal life. Test the waters.

4. Listen to what people say about other people. If someone tells you, “Don’t get too close with her, she’s crazy” or “He’s kind of an asshole when it comes to women” and they’ve known the person in question for years and you’ve only known them for months—I mean, do you really need to learn the hard way?  

5. Persistence will not change anyone’s mind. You’re so confused because this guy won’t answer the phone for you. So you call again, and again, and again. You try to convince him a relationship could work out and that you could make him happy. Dude, stop it, girl! You just seem pathetic. Put the same amount of effort into others that they put into you. Only give what you receive.

6. Focus on the negative. I’ve been in faux-relationships (what are they called? Hook-ups? Friends with benefits? Man in my bed who won’t commit to me? Slam-piece?) where I have been told things such as, “I could see us dating,” “I think I’m falling in love with you,” and, “I really like you.” I, however, ignored the statements that would come before or after, such as, “I’m moving to Portland,” “I don’t want a relationship right now,” “If I were fifteen years younger.” Dude, do not ignore these negative clauses. They are the most important thing you need to hear.Listen to these clauses. This man does not want to date you. Kick him out of your bed. Now, before you cry and go crazy.

7. Dating red flags. Learn them: He sends naked/half-naked pictures of himself to you when you’ve only just met. Your entire relationship takes place inside the bedroom (don’t be fooled by the occasional brunch). He goes days without talking to you after you’ve already started hooking up (this means he’s not thinking about you/you are not important to him). He takes longer than an hour to respond to your text messages on a regular basis. He says things such as, “I encourage you to see other people.” Just cut it off, honey. Please, save yourself the weeks to months of heartache that will inevitably follow.

8. Know yourself. Do not convince yourself that you do not want a relationship just because he doesn’t. If you’re bubbling full of feelings every time he smiles at you, be aware of this fact. Don’t pretend that you want a casual hook-up when you really just want him to fall madly in love with you. Escape your fairy princess dreamland and listen to what this guy is telling you.  

9. Never take compliments to heart. Here are some things I’ve been told that have made my heart soar. “You’re hilarious,” “I like having you around,” “Isn’t she great?”, “You do a good job,” “Everybody likes you,” “You’re amazing,” “You look so good naked,” “You’re an intelligent, beautiful woman,” “You’re talented.” Ahh! All these voices in your head, telling you what you are. The thing about taking compliments to heart is that once the compliments disappear you’ve lost your self-assurance. You don’t need this. You need to know that you are wonderful—if others tell you so, thank them, and forget they ever said it at all. Find the compliments from within, not from the echoes of words others have said.  

10. Fuck what other people think. So, you’ve slept with multiple people at your workplace? So, you’ve accumulated some credit card debt? So, you don’t know how to cook? So, an acquaintance told you that you come off as ditzy? So, you blew off schoolwork to catch up with an old friend? Ask yourself—are you happy with the decisions you are making with your life? If the answer is yes, fuck what anyone thinks. If your shit is under control, do not worry about people wagging fingers. If you are doing no harm to yourself or others, making it to school and/or work every day, paying your bills on time, and getting everything done by its deadline, you’re fine.  

11. Sometimes it matters what other people think. When you’ve done something that makes you feel shitty, have harmed others, or have done something with the potential to harm others, that’s the time to listen when people are wagging their fingers.

12. Actions speak louder than words. No explanation needed. Take this statement to heart, observe the way people treat you. This is more important than anything they say to you. 

13. No one actually cares about you. Once-upon-a-dream-world I believed that love conquered all. Every person I had feelings for, I was ready to love them, care about them, give them 100%. That’s just what I do. However, not everyone has a heart as big as me. If you have a big heart, guard it, and realize that big, loving, caring hearts are rare. Many people have cold, distant, stoic, realist, feeling-less hearts. I haven’t figured out what makes people care about one another yet, but once I do, I’ll let you know.

14. Learn how not to want. I want him to text me back. I want my friends to hang out with me. I want sex. I want Chinese delivery. I want to fall in love. I want a million dollars. I want a pony. Lady, lady, love—the key is learning not to want. Learning not to want is the most incredible, freeing feeling in the world.

15. Learn how to be alone. Enjoying the company of good people is easy. Enjoying the company of yourself is difficult. When you have some free time, instead of reaching out to others, reach out to yourself. You say you like to read, to run, to paint? Do it. Too often we get caught up in our social worlds and forget the joys we can bring to ourselves. Cultivate a sense of well-being when you’re alone, because you’re going to have to learn to be alone for much of your adult life (especially your 20’s! You probably won’t feel as alone again until you’re 65+ when everyone around you starts dropping like flies). It will be more bearable to be alone during these lonely periods of life if you enjoy your own company. 


The first time my heart was broken it felt like the apocalypse. I was buckled down in pain, rocking myself back and forth, overtaken by pain. The sobs overcame me, and there were moments I could not take a breath of air, and began to suffocate. The following days, I walked around in a haze, wondering how everyone else was still going along when my entire world was over. After careful observation, I came to learn that everyone lives on like this. We all carry around our heartbreak on the inside and mask it with sarcasm and smiles. Heartbreak is just a consequence of telling others how you feel, a consequence of asking for what you want, thinking you deserve more. 

Heartbreak gets easier as you get older. It shouldn’t have to be this way. No one should be disappointed so many times that they grow accustomed to being hurt. I shouldn’t complain—others have years on me. My heartbreak, in comparison to some, is meager—however, it aches just the same. The first heartbreak I experienced was a bullet. It ripped through me and tore up my insides. It left permanent damage. Now, though, it smacks against my body like rain. It soaks through my clothes but it cannot penetrate my skin. There is no excruciating pain. I feel it, but not as intensely. It causes me to shiver, to grow uncomfortable, but it does not cause me to fear for my life. It is a dull throb. The stomach lurches are mild and the tears don’t even come. 

A Writers Secret

Everyone that I meet becomes a character on a page. No one is safe. No conversation is sacred. I twist the facts and mutate them into something beautiful. I steal their words and fashion it into dialogue. I steal expressions and turn it into imagery. I write in the third person to remove myself, to pretend that this is something that never happened to me. No one knows the difference between what is fact and what is fiction. I change names, settings, details. Everyone that I fall in love with becomes a part of a fictional character. I elaborate and exaggerate character flaws. Create one character made out of five different people, pick and choose which parts of them are relevant. On a page I can speak the truth. I can be frank, honest, blunt. I can recreate events how I wish they would have happened. I can idealize. Make magic. Make believe. Yeah, writing is the ultimate form of make believe. I think if I keep writing I’ll never have to grow up, never truly have to face reality. A written story is a world where anything can happen. I can transform every moment that I experience into something solid, lasting. I can sculpt moments into paragraphs. I can hash out life lessons, search for meaning. I can escape reality. I can make my own.

Think about how happy you could have been. Imagine his soft chestnut hair and resonate laughter. On his bicycle, he turns his head backwards and flashes you a grin. Even though you pedal delicately you create a dirt storm beneath your wheels. It is humid and it is summer. Sunlight stretches through the cracks of the leaves and touches your skin every now and then. The leaves rustle and your back is coated with sweat.

Think about how happy you could have been. You are exploring rocky terrain. Your ballet flats are coated with dirt, but you don’t care. This has been a surprise. If you had known you would have considered sneakers. You reach an overlook. You gasp. It is picturesque.  He puts his arm around you and you snuggle up to his chest. Pine trees and evergreens and maples and old oaks stretch out over the vast expanse.

Think about how happy you could have been. You curl up into a ball on his front porch, wrapping your arms around your knees. You are content.  He’s holding a pencil in his hand, making frantic, scratching movements. He glances back and forth between a sheet of paper and your face. You think of the scene from Titanic. This makes you feel like a complete cornball. You laugh out loud and he asks what’s so funny. Then you explain.

Think about how happy you could have been. You struggle to set up a tent. The poles inserted through the canvas are a puzzle and a challenge. You navigate the campground. There are trailers huddled together on grass lots and cabins creaking. There are families cooking barbeque on grills. You inhale the scent of hamburgers and feel a sense of nostalgia. He tells you he wants to cook over fire later in the evening. You are ecstatic.   

Think about how happy you could have been. Your friends are surrounding you at a table in a dimly lit pub. The clock strikes midnight and you order a martini. This is the first time you have been able to legally consume alcohol in your native country. He is sitting beside you. Banter and jokes are thrown around the table like gumballs pouring out of a machine. You are laughing hysterically. He grips your knee and you steal glances before turning your attention back to the conversation.

Think about how happy you could have been. You fall into sheets together, hiding underneath them like a fort. He challenges you to arm wrestle and you put all of your strength into the challenge. You burst into a fit of giggles when he lets you win. You poke and prod at one another until you’ve touched so much that the playful momentum you’ve created catapults you into sexual tension, then release, and exhaustion. You fall asleep listening to his breath.

Think about how happy you could have been. It didn’t work out, though. It could’ve been a good thing, but it got screwed up. Life and emotions and drunken text messages and lack of communication ruined it. Think about everything that could’ve been. Then, take these idyllic scenes and replace the main character with a fictitious, futuristic person. You will be happy with someone else. There is always someone else. Hold onto that hope and power on.


She wrote about you today, and it made her laugh a vicious laugh. She knows there’s no competing with her, not when she has the super powers of her keyboard. Your silly little stories will get you nowhere. Neither will hers, but at least you’ll both remain stagnant. When she writes, it’s blood, and it’s breath, and it’s everything that is inside of her pouring violently forth like vomit after a freshman’s first frat party. When she writes, it’s a hurricane. When you write, it is shallow, you’re a kiddie-pool. When you write, it’s actions and dialogue, but you haven’t got the faintest ability how to delve deeper than the visible world. You can’t capture motivations or chemistry with those kinds of tools. Be a little conceited. Try a taste of arrogance. A little bit of narcissism will catapult you a long way. Feel something, anything, and then take a dump onto a document. If it’s ugly, if it’s raw, if it’s potent– then it’s better than that cotton candy bodunk playground bullshit. 

Memoir Reviews
“Given the requirements of a memoir within a non-fiction class, I thought Rachael’s poignant honesty was brave and impressive to display for her peers to read. She speaks about the piece’s theme, ‘love,’ with mature insight and  truthfulness in total disregard of her classmates opinions. ‘Young lovers who bickered, conversed, fucked, hugged, and shared’ and, ‘Wine is the new water. I turn into the biggest mess in the world. It’s like my twenty-first birthday for an entire semester, so I am often belligerently drunk’ are examples of her fearless writing.” -Mr. Suber-Jenkins

“I liked this memoir because I think that everyone can find something in it to relate to: the fast-paced college life, meaningless relationships, first love, regretting leaving someone…any of this. I liked the ending; it wrapped the story up nicely, but left the end open so that there can be more in the future; and that’s life.” -Ms. Finnegan

“This piece literally seems like an assigned reading. It was that good. People talk about wrong tenses and pacing and shit like that in class, and that’s not something I ever notice. So I am not sure if it is a problem in this piece…however I am assuming it is not because this paper was fucking good.” -Mr. Crawford

“The writing was exceptional and the topic was captivating. I was drawn in immediately by the opening scene and couldn’t wait to see where the author went with it.” - Ms. Lorinczy

“I feel like the author is holding out on some of the personal details, which, if included, would be more interesting and refreshing. As is, the broad descriptions feel like she’s skirting around some uncomfortable details or that they are too difficult to describe succinctly.” - Ms. Small

Expressive People

Words like pretty and wonderful hurled through time-space.Feel giddy like a teenage girl. Pause. Oh shit. Here they are again. The things with wings. Pretty insects. Skepticism creeps in. Never trust a sweet talker, your friends told you. Deflect the compliments with words like shields. Jokes. Never say thank you. Flattery is the best form of manipulation. Never smile. Remember when you were a giddy teenage girl and shit like this made you go berserk? For every action there is always an opposite and equal reaction. That’s what Newton said, anyway. People are like onions, according to Shrek. They have so many layers–some more than others. Try and grasp onto some unbridled enthusiasm if you can find it anywhere, if there’s any left. Pretend that everything is giggles and daisies. You know, it just might work. Don’t be a cynic. Just drink the Busch from your parents refrigerator and tweet about cats. That’s the best thing to do right now, you think. 

The Night I Lost My Virginity

Usually, I stay in my dorm room and play WOW on Thursday nights, but Silvio manages to coax me out this evening. 

Silvio is my roommate. He’s an exchange student from Italy and constantly reeks of cologne. He’s only five foot three and has a beakish nose, yet he somehow manages to get girls. I think it’s his accent. Chicks always fall for that shit.  

He tells me I should wear a button-down shirt. I laugh and tell him I don’t own one. I wonder if he realizes most straight males here don’t dress like him. Since I don’t own any tailored shirts, he tells me to at least wear a shirt without a stain on it. I look down at my chest and shrug. I guess he’s right. 

I feel awkward at the party. Socializing takes so much effort and I never know what to say to people. I’m leaning against a wall with a red cup in my hand, uneasy about consuming the beer inside. 

There’s a girl who walks up to me and tells me I look like Harry Potter. I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be a compliment or an insult. I rationalize that people normally don’t approach one another for insults at parties. I purse my lips together and nod my head in an attempt to smile at her. She’s making me uncomfortable.

She doesn’t leave, though. She leans against the wall next to me, chirping away. I’m concentrating more on the sound of the stereo than her voice.

She asks me what I do in my free-time, and since I don’t want to tell her that I mostly play video games and jerk-off, I tell her that I like reading. That way I sound intellectual. Girls like that, right?

I notice her glancing at me a lot. I start to plan on ways to ask her for her number. Should I wait until there’s a lull in the conversation? What if she leaves to go to the bathroom and can’t find me and I don’t get a chance to ask?

On her tip-toes, she leans towards my ear and pretends to ask innocently, “I’m kind of tired. Do you think you could walk me home?”

My heart starts racing. I somehow manage to keep my face as expressionless as possible, struggling to come off as collected. If I move a muscle, she’ll know I’m thinking about having sex with her, she’ll know that I’m nervous. I spurt out a response,

“Uh, yeah. Yeah, I mean, if you wanna leave, it’s not safe for you to walk home in the dark by yourself.”

We slide out the backdoor. She’s telling me that she doesn’t understand why Ron and Sammy keep getting back together. I tell her that The Jersey Shore is an embarrassment to America. She throws her head back and laughs and we walk into the night.

Looks like I won’t have to ask her for her number after all.

Socially Awkward

I turn to my friend on the train and giggle, 

“He’s so cute!” 

“So you gonna try to get with him tonight?”

“Haha, no.”

“What? Why not?”

“I don’t know how to flirt.” I pause. “Actually, that’s a lie. I can’t flirt with guys I’m attracted to.”

“Well, you better learn!”

I put my energy into talking to everyone except him. Maybe if he sees me laughing with everyone else he will become attracted to me.

He’s not even looking at me. I am Helga G Pataki. I am in fourth grade and my life is a Hey Arnold cartoon. 

You start to doubt if men even find you attractive anymore. You can’t understand why—your breasts are still perky, your waist is still slim. Your eyes are wide and your lips are glossy. You smile and nod in all the right places. You say things like, “How’s it goin’ over here?” and, “Oh yeah, how was that?” 

This isn’t okcupid. This isn’t a dive bar with sleazy men.

How do I even develop relationships in the real world?

No one is telling you that you are special anymore. No one is blowing up your phone with text messages that make you smile. Your bed is empty and it’s okay, you really don’t mind. It’s nice to sprawl out, stretch your legs from corner to corner, hog the covers all to yourself—

but sometimes, you just wonder. All the wondering creeps up on you, attacks you like an army of red ants. You wander around and stare at the ceiling, at the silverware, asking inanimate objects, “What is my life about?”

You aimlessly fumble around until the next bit of fun. Anything that provokes a grin. A wrinkly, tattooed drunk man says, “Look at you, cutie pie! You new here?” You smile sheepishly. A man with a ring on his finger sarcastically tells you, “Alright, Princess!” You laugh hard.

This is flirting. Easy when they’re unavailable, when I am disinterested because it doesn’t mean anything. Harmless. Feel how my body rolls when I let my laughter roar. 

Overly-confident, cocky. Bright blue eyes and a V-neck. He puts his hand on my shoulder every chance he gets. I keep a watchful eye, waiting to see if he is doing this to the other women. 

Am I flirting? I don’t know if this is flirting. I’m afraid to make eye contact. I fear laughing too hard. Keep the pitch of my voice steady. Do not giggle, do not act amused. I keep myself in check these days. No giddy feeling, no butterflies. Every human interaction is carefully crafted. 

Is he gay? Why am I so attracted to men who don’t even blink twice at me? 

Too many ellipses. Scrutinize. Would I sleep with this person? No. 

The same wavelength. People have to be on the same wavelength. I need a person who will walk by me and say, “Merp.” The kind of person who drums on their knee and asks inanimate objects questions. 

I need someone to be amused when I say, “I just found out beer on draft comes from kegs in the basement!” 

“Where did you think it came from?”

Someone who laughs hard when I smile and respond, “The beer fairy.”

If this was a book, would you read it?

Synopsis for my short story:

It’s about a former academic chemist who finds the right chemical combination to turn her scapulas into wings. The side effects of the potion are the symptoms of manic-depression and a manipulative personality. She’s an addict, though, and can’t give up the magic so she holes herself up inside of her manor with her cat and indulges in destructive behavior. She stops resembling a normal human beings and reinvents herself as a fairy, believing she has all of these powers when really it is all psychological. The setting is the future, where the occupy protestors and liberals have basically started a civil war with the upper class and big business.

A laughable matter

You looked at me with hunger and excitement—never with a sense of wonder or intrigue. How could I have been so blind? 

Human beings are not one-dimensional balls of fun. Women are not video games to pick up and play whenever you need entertainment. 

Your audacity shocks me. No, I won’t let you in at 4 in the morning when you’re looking for fun. No, I’m not going to be anybody’s last-minute late-night drunken afterthought of a booty call. You’re moronic if you think that’s all I’m worth. 

I lowered my standards to be with you. Put blinders on and impetuously cared about you in this twisted way that you didn’t even deserve. 

I’m never doing that again.

The "art" of hooking up

The words spritz out of your mouth, vulgar and nonchalant. “He has this confidence now that he’s banging the hot chick." Then you chortle. How blunt. How insightful. How two-dimensional of you. I’m sure that’s what she had been to you. The girl at the bar. I heard you had a big grin on your face the next day. Recycling women is your forte, more of a science than an artform, due to the sheer methodology. When she hasn’t got the right transmission but she’s got all the right parts. You’ll take it, you’re an adept motorist, so you’ll get this one to run for a little while at least. She gets you from point a to b, then you drop her off at the dealership; you don’t do involved tune-up’s. Someone else will find her here, who can handle her acceleration, knows how to drive stick, because you sure as hell fucking don’t. It’s time to hop off and find a new mode of transportation. I’d recommend the train, sir. No intricate mechanics required, but they’re one helluva easy ride. 

ENG 200

He entered the classroom while I was sipping my French vanilla and I felt a twinge of alcoholism, wishing that my coffee was spiked. If only I had a little bit of Baileys, I could numb myself to this encounter. He desperately tried to make eye contact, glancing over his shoulder toward where I was seated. I held my poker face, reminding myself, look nonchalant, look like you don’t give a fuck. I raised my eyebrows so as to acknowledge his existence. Then in a calculated effort I fine-tuned my body to every voice, movement, and object in the classroom that didn’t belong to him. There were moments though I couldn’t ignore his presence, the couple times he laughed. I listened to his guffaw, a boisterous one that used to make my heart soar, used to make me feel all kinds of silly. Now it was a noise that made all of my innards cringe. I was disgusted with myself for having imagined this moment differently. For having placed any meaning whatsoever on shedding my clothes with him and letting him hold me in his arms. The meaningless encounters will continue though, I know they will. People tend to come in and out of my life like I’m some sort of revolving door.


Here are some things I overheard drunk college students saying whilst they waltzed down the block. One young man was screaming, “I’m in love!” His friends laughed and told him he wasn’t. He insisted, saying, “It’s true, everything is great now because I’m in love!” He wasn’t shouting to anyone in particular, just announcing it to the air. It was beautiful. Another young man in gym shorts and a tee shirt walked by briskly, chatting on his cell phone. I overheard him whisper, “I’m not sure if I’m ready for that kind of a relationship.” I wondered if he was confiding in a friend or speaking to the person he wasn’t ready to be in a relationship with. A particularly belligerent gentleman asked a lady if she had a boyfriend, then shouted obnoxiously, “It’s okay, I have a boyfriend too! Just kidding, I’m not gay!” He then laughed at himself hysterically as if he thought himself a particularly talented stand-up comedian. 

Being drunk. Everything comes to the surface, and the words we release float towards vocalization like a balloon being released into the air. Intoxication takes away the brakes that normally stop us from crashing into the truth. It can cause us to confess our most private and fearful thoughts in that moment. We lose our filters. We shout into the air, making proclamations with certainty; we are able to dance, we are able to sing, we are able to run amok. It’s freeing, but it’s dangerous, because sometimes beneath the surface thoughts aren’t so lovely. Sometimes insecurities surface; sometimes we say stupid things. People grow opinionated, sometimes they grow violent–however, they never grow articulate. 


You know that feeling, when you have the perfect peanut and butter jelly sandwich in your hands? Oh, and when your teeth sink in. The bread is soft, the jelly’s cold. It’s like falling into the arms of a familiar lover, that perfect combination.  It’s Smuckers strawberry jelly, not jam, in a glass jar, not plastic. Not the peach preserves Dad would buy, not the squeeze bottle grape Mom chose. The peanut butter, Skippy natural creamy. Not crunchy like Nicks, not Jif like your middle school girlfriends. Not weird organic spread like your tenth grade boyfriend had. The bread, dark honey wheat, few grains. Not whole grain your best friends, not crunchy seeds like at your ex-boyfriends Moms. Not the light wheat like Dad insisted upon, or the white Mom liked. This bread has just the right amount of softness and grain, with a touch of sweetness. Oh, your own perfect peanut and butter jelly sandwich, a joy unlike anything else. Have you ever felt a moment of greater elation than this?

April 17

My phone rings. His name appears on the screen and I brace myself. The insides of my stomach harden to icicles, painfully, and I begin to quiver. My blood and organs freeze. He begins to speak. As words float out to my ear, I thaw, begin to melt. My body begins to shake—my fingers, gripping the rubber case of the phone wearily—my knee, jutting up and down—but my voice remains steady. All I can think is how weak I am—how I don’t have the power to hang up the phone, how I don’t have the strength to admit that he makes me frail. My condition was better before he crept in through the cracks again. Now, though, the warmth of his voice doesn’t reach my entirety—my heart remains cold. I cannot let him melt me; my heart is a freezer now and so that area remains icy. I will trust no one; I will love no one; I will feel nothing. Self-interest and apathy—they are my new game.