Salty Stories

10 Things I Would Go Back and Tell Myself at College Graduation

I have a real obsession with matching. Some may call it unhealthy. I love to accessorize and all accessories MUST be color coordinated. My hat has to match my sweatshirt which of course matches my sunglasses and sneakers and oftentimes fanny pack. So that’s how I found myself going to the beach a couple weekends ago with a red and grey Marist College sweatshirt and a matching red Marist hat. Because obviously the only red hat I own is my collegiate color and none other than the color of Shooter that wily Red Fox of a mascot. #PutYourShootersUp. What I didn’t realize is that this outfit choice made me look like an overzealous 18 year old who just decided where she was going to spend the next four years and went crazy at the bookstore to stunt that new school pride all over the joint. And that’s how I found myself in a predicament with an actual child (graduating high school senior) asking me if I go to Marist because that’s where he’s going in the fall and I had to reply I did go there…10 years ago.

So after struggling to answer far too many interview-style questions being lobbed at me about my what dorms I lived in and my favorite thing about campus, I wanted to reflect on this ten year anniversary. It feels like a big thing…it’s been a decade since I finished schooling and although they tell you you’re a grown-up in the real world when you leave college, I’ve come to learn that couldn’t be further from the truth. When I look back on baby 22-year-old Ju, I want to pull a Scar and tell her to run. RUN AWAY AND NEVER RETURN! Just kidding, sort of. I just want to do that fun thing you can only do when you have more years of life experience under your belt…look backward and share some perspective with the girl who was so clueless she didn’t even know how her college was paid for until her exit interview a week before graduation when she was handed a packet of info from Sallie Mae on paying off 4 years of loans. What a sweet, sweet idiot.

Disclaimer for all who haven’t heard or experienced it for themselves, May 25, 2013 will not only forever be remembered as my college graduation, but more importantly, as the day that there was such horrifically bad stormy weather from top to bottom, and yet the geniuses that planned my commencement decided to FORGE AHEAD with an outdoor ceremony. To say it was a miserable shitshow would be the understatement of the G-D century and yes obviously I’m still bitter about it and I was even more bitter when the following year it was 75 and sunny. To sit facing the Hudson River while you get pelted by rain, soaked completely through, can’t hold an umbrella because it will blow inside out and also have to hold your graduation cap in your lap with a death grip because if you don’t it’ll take flight in the hurricane winds whipping is not a milestone moment I wish on anyone. Shout out to the do-do brains who decided everyone should suffer through that for hours instead of just putting everyone in the dry and warm gym. Hope that gametime decision doesn’t keep you up at night.

For anyone who wants to visualize the soggy crapfest that I was still shivering from a week later:

10. Stop looking backward so much. I realize the utter irony of kicking off a blog that is completely centered on looking backward and telling myself to stop looking backward. It’s something I definitely struggle with, and I’m always hard on myself with my struggles. But I have noticed throughout the years that I’m always looking into the past and romanticizing how I was happier then or had XYZ then that I don’t have now. And then I do it over and over again as the years go on. And if you think about it, if I’m always looking back and saying wow look how great that time in my life was, then my life is probably great pretty often and I should maybe cherish those moments as they’re happening instead of reminiscing or comparing the past to the present so much. So this is a solid reminder for Lil Ju AND Big Ju (big refers to my age and not my size because obviously as you can see, I’m basically the spitting image of 22 year old me. Haven’t gotten chunkier due to a slower metabolism AT AWL.)

9. Take more road trips. I absolutely love to travel and have always kept a running list of places to visit and trips that I want to take. However, it’s been a rare occurrence that I’ve had the budget for traveling. In college, I was able to make the most of studying abroad, checking out different spots in Europe while I was in Italy, boarding Ryan Air with a prayer that the wing wouldn’t just dislodge itself mid-flight because with the prices they were charging for that airline and the state of disarray the planes were in, it’s honestly a miracle that so many broke students have survived to tell the tale. But once I was stateside again, I couldn’t really afford flights (US doesn’t give you the poverty option to fly barley legal aircrafts for cheap) and I wish that I got craftier in planning trips. There’s so many states to explore and I should’ve just gotten some friends together, hopped in the car and made it happen. Road trips can be just as fun and splitting gas costs and stopping at cheap motels with a gang of buds could’ve been cost effective and some great travel memories. Now that I’m old, most people don’t have flexibility with their jobs or time off from work or even day to day family responsibilities to be able to just take a frivolous trip just because. My go-to travel buddy is my retired dad right now. And while that’s pretty great, I also wish just once I could’ve done a coming of age style cross-country road trip with buddies fueled by junk food and mix CD’s, stopping at all the stupid roadside attractions documented by my Nikon Coolpix dusty pink digital cam.

8. Don’t think about building a career at 22. HEY YOU, YEAH YOU! You’re not going to graduate with a degree in Radio/TV/Film and start working on a TV show or film set within the first year of graduation. The unrealistic expectations I had with this were bonkers mad. I spent my first summer post-graduation sending my resume NON-STOP to any production assistant opening that came through on Media Bistro or whatever dumb job search engine was hot in the streets then. I had two resumes, one with a fake NYC address on it, and one with a fake LA address on it. I had worked connections on both coasts and asked to use their address to get my foot in the door because I didn’t think I was going to land a TV gig in Upstate NY. Which turned out to be very correct. Also, don’t really recommend lying about your address because all it got me was an interview for the Steve Wilkos Show in Stamford, CT and I had to pretend I just breezed on over from my apt in NYC when in reality, my dad chauffeured me 3 hours each way to make this interview that was a real bust. I was so laser-focused on my “dream” and how bad it would look to have lots of jobs and to work at places that I knew weren’t connected to my goal of being a TV producer that I didn’t think about the big picture, which was that I was 22 years old and no one gives a shit.

Every experience that you say yes to, you’re going to take something away from it. And maybe that leads to a career, but you’re never going to have a career right out of college. Some people never have a career at all. Sure, you just graduated with $27,000 in debt that’s about to accrue a buttload of interest for the next ten years, and the entry level entertainment positions pay $10-$12 an hour, and you just want to be a big TV exec rolling in it…but that’s not the journey you’re on, kemosabe. You’re on the get laid off 3 times by the time you’re 30, work in 10 different industries, string together some restaurant and temp jobs, barely scrape by in a small town journey. And you know what? That journey will lead you to a little thing called covid with a lump sum of pandemic unemployment assistance to pay off that student debt you didn’t know you’d have until you graduated because you never thought to ask your dad who was footing the bill for college. Most of my friends were still working at restaurants in their mid-twenties trying to figure out what was next. Career Schmareer. It all works itself out so take the ride, kid, and maybe try harder to get free drinks at the bar. Cut costs where you can, yanno?

7. Do social things other than going to bars. I was fortunate to spend my prime drinking years in a party town. Caroline St. was in its heyday in my twenties (I can say this for sure now because I just galloped down it once again for a throwback night and learned that it’s gone all the way downhill since then even changing closing time from 4am to 2am because the riffraff that’s drinking there these days are exploring knife and gunplay while blasted. FUN!) So obviously I had my fair share of debauchery. I knew most of the bartenders and bouncers and was no stranger to the happy hour that turns into going home at 4am with a doughboy. (Even those are trash now, called OBoy’s and tasting worse than a frozen burrito.) HOW-EV-ER, once I hit 25 I got sick of exclusively going to the bars every single weekend and was looking to expand my portfolio of fun adventures. I dabbled in a kickball league (if you spit out your coffee while reading this trying to picture me existing in an athletic environment pls know that I did this exclusively for my boyfriend and we broke up mid-season and I was so relieved to not have to go anymore…but an effort WAS made), local hockey games, comedy shows, plays, game nights, and tubing–river in the summer, snow in the winters. And I can’t recommend it enough. It’s easy to get stuck going to the same bars you’re comfortable with and getting fuzzy on the deets, but there comes a time (or at least with me specifically) where it started to get a little embarrassing to be getting older and still drinking like it was college. Sure, these are the years to get after it like a bunch of boozehounds, but also know when it’s time to start suggesting new things for the friend group and also potentially mix it up and meet new friends! And not for nothing, I believe booze was incorporated in every single one of those other activities. But as long as it’s breaking up the “let’s black out and dance at the bar and see what guys try to smooch us” monotony, then it still counts.

6. Explore Solo Dolo. Don’t feel embarrassed or weird about doing things that you want to do on your own. As you can tell by the fact that I do the majority of my activities alone these days, I’ve gotten much more comfy with it. I wish I was as into it back then. I remember the first Boston Marathon that I was living in Boston for, I had no one to go check it out with. So I just went. I took the train in and walked around Copley Square and took pictures and felt the palpable energy of the crowd. I definitely cried a little because I was lonely and couldn’t drum up a friend to join me, but it’s a memory I still often think about. It was one of the first few marathons post-bombing and it was a little scary to just rock out on my own after knowing what happened in 2013, but the atmosphere was so positive and uplifting and then I met up with my sister and her co-workers and got trashed on a Monday, making true Bostonians proud. I think I stopped myself a lot in my twenties when it came to doing something on my own because I felt like everyone was judging me for being a loser. I’ve seen itty bitty teens stop in a grocery store, prop up their phone on the shelf and do a TikTok dance. No one is judging you for being solo, and as a matter of fact, we should all be redirecting our judgment to the TikTok generation cause that shit is embarrassing. Grow up and do your weird TikTok dances in the privacy of your own home like I’ve learned to do.


How I’m coping with Netflix pulling a Ticketmaster for the #LoveIsBlind Live Reunion. #LIB #LoveIsBlindReunion #holdmusic #CharleeisUnbothered

♬ original sound – The Salty Ju

5. Don’t be a jelly belly. This is something I’m DEFINITELY still actively working on, but I can always recognize when I’ve fudged up with it pretty quickly after the fact, so self awareness is key. Everyone is in different seasons of their life and that starts to become more and more apparent in your mid to late twenties. You’ll have friends who are single, friends who can’t find their footing with jobs, friends who are living at home (yes the last three are referring to yours truly), friends who are getting married, friends who are having kids, the whole damn spectrum. Don’t be jealous of other people’s milestones. Support them, be happy for them, and hope that eventually your time will come. This is a little bit of a twofer for me personally because not only was I a little bit envious of everyone’s happy celebrations of love or baby or buying a home, but I’ve also typically been toeing the poverty line. And these big ole celebrations cost a lot of money! Showers (baby or bridal), bachelorette weekends, weddings in a different town where travel and hotel are required, that shit definitely adds up quick when you’re going paycheck to paycheck or having to ask your parents for a handout to make rent that month. There were times when I just plain couldn’t justify spending hundreds of dollars on a bach weekend, but there were other times when I probably could’ve made it work but I was being a bitter little betch. That’s on me. There’s a couple of life stage celebrations from my early twenties that I definitely regret missing out on because I was being a brat and didn’t want to be flexible to make it happen or I felt like I couldn’t take time off from a job that I’d just started since I was perpetually job hopping for a solid decade. So the bottom line is prioritize your friends and their special occasions. Show that you’re happy for them and you care about them and that you’re not green with jealousy because when your time rolls around (God willing) you don’t want people being like thanks but no thanks, ya dirtbag.

4. Say YES to all theme parties. I’ve always been a big booty big ole lover of themes and costumes. And as someone who had to abruptly stop celebrating Halloween because she was no longer in a relashe and had aged out of the Halloweekend bar scene, I long for the dress-up days. Shouts to my group of gal pals in Saratoga who were always down for a group activity or a costumed extravaganza. Though I’m very much not a fan of “girl gangs”, preferring to have deeper connections with each of my friends and bonding one on one, giant squads are GREAT for doing silly things. I loved that time in my twenties when any whisper of an occasion could turn into a themed banger. One fall Mercury was coming out of retrograde and my friends organized a galaxy-themed party to celebrate. After I went to Hawaii and wouldn’t stop hanging loose in everyone’s grill piece I planned my own birthday party around a floral shirt and backwards hat I had brought back to the mainland. When I was FRESH out of college I invited friends over on a night when my parents were out of town to watch the Winter Olympics and dress up as a country. So this little tidbit isn’t necessarily a “do better at this, younger Ju” piece of wisdom but more so a “cherish these goofy ass parties because they end and then it’s depressing” note. I can no longer just gather with a bunch of chicks to paint pumpkins, decorate a gingerbread house, or hit the town in Halloween costumes. This is probably also why I cried about the lack of participation from my mom and my sister on my “wigs night out” birthday last year. (Check out my birthday blog if you missed that sob story.) I miss these moments! I don’t miss the inevitable drama that comes with having a large girl group who gets sauced every weekend and talks smack behind each other’s backs. I DO miss rolling deep in Hawaiian shirts and backwards hats and sharing lots of giggles and photoshoots. In retrospect, this is probably why I’ve never had a large circle of friends for very long because I like to stay on the outskirts of the dramz but dip in for the funz. I also can be somewhat of an instigator because I love goss more than life itself (except when it’s about me.) So sue me. Jk pls don’t. Bottom line, every young girl should have a party crew on standby in her twenties.

3. Go on actual dates (So you’re not 31 going on your very first date with a boy). UGH this one is rough because the apps pretty much ruined dating over the past ten years. I remember when Tinder came out I was a junior in college and thought it was HIGH-larious to download and ask random boys how many pushups they could do. I never actually took it seriously and I used to just get drunk and surf through, much like I would get sauced and smooch boys at the bar then tell them to have a nice life. I guess that doesn’t constitute dating. Who knew. So, after being the kind of girl no guys looked at romantically in high school, moving onto a hookup culture college, and then having the apps take over didn’t really set up a dating environment for me. I didn’t go on a proper date until I was 26 and at that point I had already been working with the guy and texting him every second of every day for about 3 months, so it wasn’t really what we would call dating because I think by the end of the night we were both already all in. And then by the time we broke up for good after years of on and off, I was already in my thirties and had never dated. I’m very set in my ways at this point and forcing myself to do small talk with strangers to find a life mate is enough to make me want to saw both of my arms off with a butter knife. So, young, fun, hard crop-top wearin, 22 year old Ju: GO ON DATES. Learn how to socialize with men in a normal way and I don’t mean by exploring their tongue with your tongue after a tequila shot and then scampering into the night keeping your virginity firmly intact well into your twenties. Maybe if I had seen what was out there in the low pressure days, I wouldn’t be so turned off by the notion of networking to find a huz in my older years.

2. Figure out what you enjoy and keep it as a hobby, apart from work. We’re getting to the end of the list and these last two are very recent realizations. As you might’ve assumed after reading #8, I was dead set on finding a job that I was passionate about and really truly loved. I always figured, you spend the majority of your life working, 40 hours a week from 20-65, you should probably enjoy that job. I spent MANY years chasing that. And then after two whole years of unemployment, a desperate thirst for ANY job happened and I decided it was time to throw in the towel on that far-fetched dream. Sure, there are people that love their job. But I could argue that they’re the minority. Most people do a job to make the money to live the life they want. All of the jobs that I had that I truly loved, paid me in actual dirt. Like if they could’ve gotten away with turning my position into an unpaid internship, they would’ve. I literally couldn’t afford an apartment on their salaries and as an extra junk punch, they were also in an industry that likes to lay off employees every few months just to keep things spicy. Now I work for the state, I’ve got job security, ample time off, and I’m not asking my parents to help me pay rent every month (yet…the way inflation is going, I’m not ruling it out.)

Moral of the story: a job is a job, and it’s probably going to suck. Learn to deal with the suck to afford the things you want and do the things you love as a hobby to stay sane. I love writing these little blogs, I love making little stupid social media videos, I love walking around cute little towns and taking pictures like an amateur iPhone photographer. A few weeks ago I stayed up past my bedtime, completely schnackered writing hot takes on what celebrities wore to the Met Ball and then woke up the next morning to edit it and finish that monster blog to meet my own deadline of posting it by 9am. Do I get paid to do that? Absolutely not. And honestly, if I did, I probably wouldn’t love it so much. It would become a job and therefore it would lose its luster and become another boring task to complete. Do you see a pattern here? Work is stupid. Figure that out MUCH quicker and find the things you love, then put your energy into that in your free time. And if you stop loving it, find something new to love. Cause that’s the only way I’ve learned how to justify spending hours of your life doing a boring job. Also, PERHAPS the hobby will open doors for new opportunities or cool people to meet! (Still waiting for that to happen as I actively join every writing Zoom class or group that I can afford. Will report back in another 10 years if there’s progress.)

1. Give a new place AT LEAST a year before moving away. You know how hard it is to stay living in a place when you have no friends and you still have to use a GPS pretty much every time you drive somewhere? Supes hard. It’s WAY easier to just skedaddle back to the place you know where you still have a few friends to grab drinks with at your regular spot and it’s comfy and feels like home. I’ve got a real flight mode tradition when something stinks and it usually kicks in around 8 months. A year really isn’t a long time if you think about it, it flies by. But when something is awful, it feels like forever. So whenever I’ve hated a job or hated being lonely and uncomfortable where I was living, I’d kick it into gear at that 8 month mark that I needed to make a change. Realistically, if a job stinks after 3 months it’s not going to get better. Living somewhere new on the other hand is quite the opposite. It takes FOR-EV-ER to put down roots in a new place. And I’ve never really had the patience for that because a year or more is a long time to feel out of place somewhere. When I lived in Boston, month 8 rolled around and I hated my job, could barely afford my apartment, and had a couple of friends living there that were mostly busy doing their own thing or in different life stages than me. So I made the decision to split and head back to my comfort of Saratoga. The *minute* I made that decision and got the ball rolling, I started to become friendlier with my co-workers, even hanging out with one outside of work. That was the first time I realized it really takes a LONG time for people to warm up and things to start happening when you’re the new girl in town. Luckily, I didn’t have to remind myself of that lesson when I moved to New Jersey, because once you march through the hellfire that is switching everything (car, license, insurance, etc.) over to a different state, you’re not as tempted to move back home so quickly. But it is important to note that I didn’t make a real new friend until well into my second year of living here. And I am proud to say that I use the GPS less and less and have really started to build a life for myself here. It just takes WAY longer than my impatient ass can handle.

BONUS: Go to therapy sooner. I’m only adding in this last little chirp to my younger self because I talked about writing this blog to my therapist this week. It was my first in-person appointment in a whole year and I could’ve kicked back on that couch and talked to my homegirl Jill all damn day. Unfortunately, she’s a professional and she told me to get the hell out at the 50 minute mark. But before my rambling was cut short, I shared with her that it’s some real rich shit that I think I’m in any place to be writing a blog that gives my younger self advice when I’m zooming with her weekly crying about how I’m so lonely and stuck looking back and romanticizing the past and never feeling happy, etc. etc. And J-Money said, “Don’t you think that seeing me every week and talking about these feelings and thoughts that you have and trying to be better and work through them is exactly WHY you’re in a position to talk to your younger self?” BOOM. And that’s why you go to therapy, folks. To feel like a superior human being. Just kidding, that’s not the *only* reason, but I cannot praise therapy enough. I think every single person should be required to go. I wouldn’t be exclaiming that we need a new plague every time I have an interaction with an insufferable human if we were all in therapy talking about our traumas, working through big feelings and learning how to stop being a*holes. So, I wish I went the second I stepped off campus. I wish I had the Jillybean with me through ALL the job hopping and moving all over the Northeast and the changing of friend groups. Because having her as my constant for the last five years has been amazing, but I would’ve loved even more years with her. EVERYONE could benefit from therapy, and staying consistent with it, especially in your twenties which is such a weird time of finding yourself and feeling lost and confused. A sentiment my therapist was able to confirm for me as she had many patients around my age at the time I started seeing her. Feeling heard and seen and having someone want to learn about all of your experiences and feelings and be there for you to work through them is a powerful thing in some pretty crucial life development years. Even if that means paying them for that service. MONEY WELL SPENT! Ok now I’ve rambled too much about therapy and this is why I need a 50 minute cutoff.

So there you have it. I started writing this 32 year old to 22 year old real talk blog around my birthday but as it turns out, it all started flowing out of me when I took a road trip back to Saratoga, which was where I lived for the majority of ages 18 to 30 (with stints in Syracuse and Boston mixed in.) While I was on my way back to one significant place from my past, I passed by another on the Marist College Class of 2023’s graduation day. And as I came up on Exit 18 for New Paltz/Poughkeepsie under overcast skies spitting rain, it felt like I could literally blink and put myself right back on that final grey drive over the Mid-Hudson bridge into adulthood. Also rain AGAIN? Really? Is it a 10 year God smites the grads thing? Hope the administration wrote a similar blog to themselves from 10 years ago and their advice was to move the ceremony inside at the first whisper of inclement weather. Anyway, back to me painting the scenery of my meta light bulb moment. As I drove past Po-Town feeling incredibly nostalgic, scream-singing Taylor Swift and tearing up a little bit, just like I was a decade ago as I peeled out after the most sopping wet and disappointing day, it hit me. I may have thoughts and words of wisdom for 10 years ago Ju, but the truth is I still don’t really have it figured out and you know what? I don’t know if anyone actually does. Hindsight’s always going to be 20/20 and all we can do is seize every experience, feel all our feels and learn from our mistakes. And of course…go to therapy and try to be the best version of ourselves.