How To Get Screwed By The System

Holy hell friends, have I got a how-to for you. Angry Ian is driving, so buckle up as tight as you possibly can. All strapped in? Good, ‘cause we’re about to get violent up in here.

But first, some soothing backstory. I’m a college student. I’m a college student who’s about to graduate. I’m a college student who’s about to graduate with a B.F.A. (Bachelor’s of Fine Arts) in Acting. This is the part where established adults ask, “So what do you want to do with that?” When I say that I want to go into film acting (or really, if I say anything at all) they follow with, “Oh, okay. So what’s your backup?” Then I tell them that backups are for chumps, punch them in the face, and ride into the sunset on my hover board, flipping the bird to all and sundry.

Or at least, that’s what happens in my head.

So to begin with, I’m looking at little to no support for my prospective career path from most adults in this world. Totally fine, I can handle that shit. I know that I’ll be making damn near no money when I get out of school, even if I do wrangle a money job or two.

But then, this college thing; it costs money, y’know? Like, an ungodly amount of money. So much money that I can’t even conceive of how some people pay for college upfront. I’ve got a hefty amount of scholarships because I put just enough work in in high school, but I’ve still got (four year total here) tens of thousands in loans both to the government (hey, Big Brother!) and to private assholes like Sallie Mae.

Let’s add that all up then: I’m planning on going into a very competitive, low-paying field (that I have a passion and training for, mind you) when I graduate, after which I’ll need to pay for housing and basic needs (food, mostly) by acquiring one (or two) money jobs, while at the same time paying off my megatons worth of student loans and trying to maintain some semblance of happiness and sanity in my life. Have I mentioned that jobs are hella-difficult to come by when all you’ve done for six years is work as a lifeguard at various pools?

I’ve gotta tell you, friends; it’s kind of a bleak outlook. Living at home is out of the question, my parents are public school teachers, and I’ve got no rich aunts or grandparents, so I’m about as on my own as it gets. Even with a paying job, I’m in the hole ‘til the loans are paid off (and stop accruing a daily interest of almost two dollars), which is unlikely to be anytime prior to my death. AND I actually plan on having a family at some point in my life; how the fuck am I gonna support that?

Guys, gals—people have told us all our lives that to do what you want, to get a good job, you HAVE to go to college. Although that’s painfully untrue, I’ve had a great four years here; I’ve been in shows, I went to New Zealand, and I met my significant other of almost two years (whom I love the most) here.

Now, money against experience, was it worth it?ecard I honestly can’t tell you, because I don’t know how I’m gonna fend out there. On darker nights like this one I find myself cursing the system that tells us we can do anything and then severs all lifelines the moment we reach for them. I find myself despairing that I’ll be homeless and broke in a couple years, unable to support myself, much less anyone else. The shackles of loans weigh heavily, friends, and I haven’t even started paying them off yet.

Older generations speak of us as being greedy; they call Millennials self-centered and the “Me” generation. But I find that, if one simply asks us what we want, the responses are remarkably simple. “I want my own apartment.” “I want to pay off my loans.” “I want a job that I can enjoy.”

On nights like this I can get lost in the fears and the woes and the worries that plague our generation more than any other in our nation’s history. Collective student debt is in the trillions, and unemployment rates and depression among young adults are higher than they’ve ever been.

But there’s something that I tend to overlook on nights like this. I forget that it’s not just me, that we’re all having these struggles to stay afloat. We know who we are. And we have to know that we’re together. So when you find yourself getting angry about all the injustices that we face when we’re literally just trying to survive in corporate capitalist America, call up a friend or two, or twelve. Get angry together.

We’ve all seen the power of people tired of being screwed over who rally to a cause. The system is big and the system is scary, but we can be scary too. And here’s the thing: we’re the ones in the right.

Don’t let the nights like this eat you up, because then they win.

Start something. Who knows what you’ll do.

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Hot Date Becomes Hot Mess

It started on Valentine’s Day.

I know. Cliché as fuck, right?

Most single girls on Valentine’s Day eat their weight in chocolate and binge watch rom-com’s like The Notebook. However, that is not my idea of a good time. So let’s flashback to Valentine’s Day 2013.

I was in London, studying abroad for the semester. At this point I’d been in the city a little over a month. I had made friends and knew my way around the city fairly well. So when Valentine’s Day rolled around, I knew exactly where I wanted to go. O’Neill’s. The only way I can describe O’Neill’s is that, at best- it is a shit show. But I had not yet experienced it such as my flat mates had. So my friend Johanna and I, and her friend Lia decided that we were going to make Valentine’s Day our bitch.

Lia had met us at our house in Kilburn Park and greeted us with chocolate and wine. Because really, what is Valentine’s Day without chocolate? We got ready and my flat mates (and Lia) all ventured out for the evening.

The night did not begin at O’Neills. We went to a place called Strawberry Moon first, which was entirely too boring for us. Essentially we were looking to get wasted and hookup with beautiful British men. At this point in the night, we decided to head to O’Neill’s.

I wish I could tell you how much fun I had or how much money my bar tab was but the truth is… I don’t remember. I went from 0 to drunk real quick. I lost Johanna and Lia at one point. I met a British man named Alex who I then started hooking up with. He also paid for all of my drinks and eventually helped me find my friends. I found Johanna upstairs in a corner attached to an Italian man’s face. Lia was dancing with everyone because she is beautiful and everyone wanted to dance with her. We had all found “our guy.” Eventually it was time to go home. Alex came back with me, but Johanna and Lia exchanged numbers with their guys.

Alex left my flat VERY early the next morning, and that next day we laughed and tried to recall drunken memories from the previous night. Now, you may think this is where this story ends. However you are very much wrong.

Not thinking anything of it, Johanna’s guy had texted her later in the week and also found her on Facebook. He wanted nothing more than to see her again. Crazy right? Who would ever expect a hookup at a club abroad to turn into another date? Then again, if you knew Johanna, she IS a beautiful, blonde, bombshell from SoCal. So if I were an Italian man, I’d want to date her too. She wanted to see him again, but also did not want to put herself in a bad situation, after all she hardly knew this guy. So, because I am such a great friend (and because Antonio- her guy- had hot friends) I agreed to go on a date with them. The only requirement was that Antonio had to bring a hot friend for me as well. We made plans to go to a local pub on a Thursday night.

I sat through my dreaded three hour marketing class that Thursday night until 10pm. I quickly got changed at school and then met up with Johanna. We texted Antonio (Johanna’s guy) to try and find them. After some miscommunication, we eventually found them in the tube station. But Antonio didn’t just bring one friend…he brought three. Now again you’re probably thinking “Four beautiful Italian men, how lucky are these girls?” Again, WRONG. Four of them, and two of us. That’s a lot of fucking testosterone. Additionally we went to greet them and quickly discovered the three friends he brought BARELY spoke English!!! All I could think was “What the fuck did I just get myself into…”

We headed to the pub and got drinks. I wish I could say it was smooth sailing from there, but that would be the understatement of the year. It was like trying to communicate with brick walls. We all barely understood each other. I used Google Translator half of the “date” (PS shout out to that pub for having free Wi-Fi so that I could even use Google Translator.) On top of the language barrier we realized we barely had anything in common with them. I also found out one of them had a girlfriend back in Italy. It was just a mess. A hot mess. Literally a hot mess, after all they were easy on the eyes. Eventually we finished our drinks and headed home. We cracked up about how weird the date wbrewskisas the whole way home. Johanna and I must have sounded like little school girls giggling on the bus ride home.

From this date though I did learn a few VERY valuable lessons.

1) You will never fall in love in a bar.
2) You CAN in fact hookup with someone in a bar and be very unaware they barely speak English.
3) When all else fails, there is nothing a good drink can’t fix.

My Australia Playlist

During my year and a half spent in Australia, I compiled a playlist of songs from just before getting on the plane there up until leaving. Some of these songs have a story behind them, some just have the right vibe, or an essence of nostalgia. Some are just plain ol’ cheesy, and some I just felt like putting on the playlist because I can. My experience in Australia has been the most amazing adventure, and these songs are all a part of my journey. I’ve been adding songs all along the way, and here is my finalised playlist.

Leaving On A Jet Plane – Slightly Stoopid
The summer before I came to Australia, I was crashing at my best friend Alyssa’s apartment in order to work and save money before traveling. Alyssa had told me to listen to the original Leaving On a Jet Plane by John Denver because she said it reminded her of me because I was leaving and she was going to miss me. The song is about going away for a while as the lyrics say, “I am leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again.” I think any traveler feels this way when saying goodbye. The first lines of the song perfectly describe that anxious, lonely feeling when you’re just about to head out, and this is exactly how I felt when I had to leave Alyssa’s. “All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go, I’m standin’ here outside your door, I hate to wake you up to say goodbye, but the dawn is breakin’, it’s early morn, the taxi’s waitin’, he’s blowin’ his horn, already I’m so lonesome, I could die.”
When I heard the Slightly Stoopid version, I was even more hooked due to the relaxed and tropical feel of Slightly Stoopid’s interpretation, as opposed to the depth and sadness of the original. It was obviously sad that I was leaving, but exciting to be heading to a beautiful new place. I listened to this song nonstop on my way to Australia– before leaving, in the airport, on the plane, during my layover in LA, and of course, when I arrived in Australia as well. Alyssa was always there for me throughout my entire experience abroad, and she even traveled all the way to Brisbane to visit me during her spring break, so this song is really important to me because of her.

Australia – The Shins
The title is literally Australia, so I couldn’t not put this in my playlist. But there’s actually a lot more to the song than just that. The lyrics are a bit contrasting to the upbeat melody, as it seems to be about going through the motions and not enjoying life to the fullest, for example in the lines, “Faced with the dodo’s conundrum, I felt like I could just fly, but nothing happened every time I’d try.” However, the opposing happy, fast-paced melody seems to work as an inspiration to keep going and to free yourself from the boring day to day motions. As he ends the song with the line, “Watching the lantern dim, starved of oxygen/So give me your hand and let’s jump out the window,” it shows the narrator finally breaking away from the life he hasn’t been enjoying. Coming to Australia has been this change for me to break away and have fun in a place I’ve never been able to experience before. Sometimes it was hard being in a new place with new people but after I was able to break out of my shell, I realized how much better everything can be, and how sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side, but you’ll never know until you put yourself out there.

Mango Tree – Angus and Julia Stone
First off, it’s written by Australian artists, Angus and Julia Stone. I listened to it a few times with an Australian boy I had a crush on for a while. I also listened to it a lot during my first trip to North Stradbroke Island. It’s got a really nice, comforting vibe to it. Whenever I hear it, it brings back really fond memories and a longing for Australia.

Tubthumping – Chumbawamba
My first semester, I tried to go surfing for the first time during Arcadia’s free excursion to North Stradbroke Island. The whole weekend was incredible, but I’ll always remember the last day of the trip when we went surfing. I was pretty bad at it but I still gave it a few attempts. I eventually was able to get up on my knees at least, but I wasn’t able to stand on the board. Regardless, it was such a fun time. While everyone else was showing off, I was mostly just paddling around on my board and singing this song to myself, “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down.”
While this song will always remind me of that first attempt at surfing, it also sums up my entire experience abroad. Even if things go don’t go your way or work out as planned, just keep going and keep trying. This song always reminds me to keep my chin up and that nothing can never keep me down.

Hackensack – Fountains of Wayne
My hometown is a city known as Hackensack, New Jersey. Whenever I was feeling homesick, I would listen to this song. The line “If you ever get back to Hackensack, I’ll be here for you,” always reminded me that I had people waiting for me back home, who would still be there for me once I returned. You should always remember where you come from, but for now, I was in Australia and I didn’t want to worry about missing out on anything back home. This song would comfort me that I would return eventually. Now that I’m back, I’ve been able to reconnect with all my friends and family. It’s almost like I never left, except now I get laughed at for saying Aussie slang like “How ya goin?” and “No worries, mate.”

The City – The 1975
I’ve never lived in a big city before, and I always drove everywhere I went. I used to listen to this song a lot on the bus, and almost always while walking home from QUT over the Goodwill Bridge. On my walks home, I would always admire the view and acknowledge just how beautiful the city is. The lyrics, “If you wanna find love then you know where the city is” will always remind me of Brisbane and reflecting on those lovely walks home.

Teenage Dirtbag – Wheatus
This has been one of my favourite songs in the world since I was younger. I hadn’t heard it in ages, but when I came to Australia I started hearing it all the time again, even at clubs. I looked it up and apparently the single was massively popular in Aussie. I became really good friends with another girl from Arcadia, Michelle, who also studied here my first semester. We listened to it all the time together and used to joke that we are musical soulmates because we have such similar taste in music. It might also be that we like to go for those grungy, skater type guys and bonded over that as well. Regardless, this song reminds me of the good times we had, especially at Ric’s in the Valley. We’re all just a bunch of kids figuring ourselves out in another country. “I’m just a teenage dirtbag, baby like you.”

Down Under – Men At Work
Isn’t this Australia’s national anthem? I had to put it on the playlist…Nothing describes Australia better than the line, “I said ‘Do you speak-a my language?’ He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich.”

American Girl – Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
When I first came to Australia, I hated standing out for being American. I felt like people would just see me at the bus stop and KNOW I wasn’t Australian, which seems ridiculous now. But even if they did realize I was American, it was nothing to be ashamed of. I learned to embrace who I am and this song with it’s upbeat, rock n roll sound always gave me confidence by reminding me that it’s more than okay to be an American Girl.

Tourist – RAC, Tokyo Police Club
I listened to this song on repeat for the last year and a half. It’s all about being a tourist, finding the right cafes to go to, making small talk with people, “Are we strangers forever or are we strangers for now?” It’s about figuring out a new place. If I could pick one song to listen to my entire trip abroad, it would be this one.

Australia Street – Sticky Fingers
The lyrics describe it all. It’s written by an Australian band who played at Splendour in the Grass (which I had to miss because I was in America, and I can’t even tell you how many times I cried about having to miss this festival.) This song will always remind me of the friendships I had in Australia and the good times we all had.

The Good Good – Snoop Lion
My Australian best friend Grace is one of the most significant people in my journey. I met Grace at the end of my first semester, and by my third semester we became inseparable. She is even coming to visit me in America for Christmas! Grace showed me this song and we listened to it all the time. She is also a musician, and recorded a cover of this song dedicated to me. It has really chill, good vibes and a nice, beachy feel to it which is just perfect for Australia with all it’s breathtaking beaches. The line, “This is the good good, this is what people look all their lives to find” describes my friendship with Grace, as well as the amazing times I had in Australia and the beautiful places I was able to see.

Woodland – Paper Kites
The Paper Kites are a really cool Australian band that I got to see live at The Hi-Fi in West End with my other Arcadia friends Bri and Nat. Bri introduced the band to us, and when we went to their show with her we all got to meet them and get hugs and autographs and posters. This song has relaxing, fun, nature-y vibes making it perfect for hiking and bushwalks, or just a nice, sunny day.

A tout a l’heure – Bibio
I just love this song. I showed it off to all my friends when I first heard it. I listened to it while roaming through the QUT Botanic Gardens one night with my friend Alyssa when she came to visit and a few other friends I made in Australia. (And that night was one to remember.) I would listen to it while traveling, on flights, buses, trains or just walking. It would always cheer me up and calm me down. I like to think of it as my “spirit song.”

Bumpy Ride – The Hoosiers
With it’s upbeat and positive lyrics and melody, this song always keeps me going strong. “It’s gunna be a bumpy ride but it sure beats standing still.” Through the ups and downs of traveling, it’s still the most incredible experience and I wouldn’t change it for anything. From the beginning of my journey, there were obstacles– I was delayed in Newark and missed my connecting flight at LAX, so I was stranded in LA alone for a night. But then the next morning I got to lay by my hotel’s pool and wait until my flight to Brisbane. Later, I dropped my laptop at the airport and cracked the screen, I was freaking out but once I got to Brisbane, my computer was still working. There were many difficulties being abroad– jetlag, missing home, making and losing friends, tons of schoolwork, financial troubles– but through everything, there was always a light at the end of the tunnel. The good times made up for the hard times.

It was all part of the experience.

Originally written for my Co-Curricular Learning Certificate