How Do You Measure, Measure 7 Months and Then Another 2 Months?

I have the very real prospect of going to Scotland within the next year. 9 months specifically.

Let me tell you why this is a big deal. Because I’ll admit on the face of it, it may not seem like a big deal. It may not even seem like a deal. But trust me, this is at the very least a deal.

Fun fact, “this is at the very least a deal” is the opening line of my Shark Tank pitch for my company, Uber for cheese.

I’ve wanted to go to Scotland since Spring of 2012, but my interest started growing the year before. A friend of mine asked me to make her wedding dress, which in hindsight, feels like an insane thing to ask a twenty-three year old who couldn’t find an actual design job so was subsequently working retail in the gift shop of an historic home.

But when she and I went fabric shopping, the only fabric that grabbed our attention was a bolt of navy and green tartan taffeta that, as luck would have it, was on sale. It was practically waiting for us.

Illustration for Schiaparelli

If you’re not familiar with tartan, imagine plaid but with a much more interesting and complicated history. A history involving magic and romanticism! A history involving nationalism and war! All of that, while still looking very much like plaid.

(There’s also a history of  a plaid, coming from the Gaelic word “plaide,” being a specific garment worn by the Scottish in colder months. But I feel like that’s not necessarily a fact you’ll want to share at parties. For the purposes of this blog post, tartan is typically the name for plaid fabric in the UK. Plaid is what we use in America.)

But my friend, being incredibly proud of her family’s Scottish history, saw it for the tartan it was.

Lucille Ball. Not my friend in her wedding dress, though the two are interchangeable.

Over the next few months, we made a wholly unexpected dress. She looked like royalty. And it had pockets, so she was sensible royalty. And while we purchased the fabric in a “let’s just do it” moment, in the end, I couldn’t imagine her wearing anything else. And officially, tartan was on my mind.

So the next year, when my 19th century dress professor was helping me brainstorm topics for the semester research project, she looked at me and said, “what about tartan?”

Little did she know, I would not only say, “yes,” but I would not be cool about it at all. The next year and a half of graduate research would be devoted to tartan. Tartan and the 19th century. Tartan and punk culture. Tartan production and cultural enchantment.

  1. Tartan is fascinating, guys!
  2. I’ve been informed my definition of fascinating is not always spot on.

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The Desk Job

I don’t know what I pictured 29 looking like when I was younger, but I didn’t picture desk job.

I studied clothing design as an undergrad, so my workspaces typically involved sewing machines, a dress form named Bessie Lou, giant mounds of thread that terrified me when a draft caught them as I was convinced they were psychedelic mice when they entered my periphery, and loudly singing “Poor Unfortunate Souls” with the other students stuck in the sewing lab at 4:00 in the morning. Attending a school whose general education program is best described as ‘aggressive,’ when I had to do homework in the traditional sense, I did have a desk where I could sit, but my finest papers were composed sitting on the floor by my closet. Preferably eating Cooler Ranch Doritos and drinking a diet Dr. Pepper.

When I made the switch to grad school, I had to get creative mostly because my apartment’s “desk” was a small laptop table from Ikea. I drank up library time, but much like undergrad, my best work happened when I was sitting on the floor, surrounded by highlighted articles with titles that included words like “epistemological” and “commodification,” The Office reruns playing on my TV while I look up words like “epistemological” and “commodification.”


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“This Will Fix Everything”: Things You Can Buy That Will Definitely Fix Everything Forever

This week I went to Target to grab garbage bags. As is Target’s habit, I left with more than garbage bags.

For one, I bought a 2017-2018 daily planner.


I thought to myself, “this will fix everything.” And I chucked it in my cart next to a new scented candle and a pack of pens. I’d later grab a pair of loafers too.

And just to clarify, all these things are not garbage bags.

As someone who is flirting with 30, I’ve realized that there’s no magic moment where “adult” happens. Where you remember to get your oil changed and you don’t forget to load the dishwasher and your desk is a clean desk and no coffee spills on your shirt because coffee is for drinking! Where you don’t worry about fruit flies because you took the garbage out and you like drinking water and you only say cool and normal things because you’re just someone who is both normal and also cool!

You don’t yell, “SAMPLES!” at the grocery store when you see there are cheese samples up for grabs. To my credit, it is cheese.

I know that there won’t be a magic moment where all those pieces suddenly click into place, but some days I have to wonder….can’t one of those things click? Preferably the coffee one? I’m ruining shirts.

I’m also old enough to know that these things don’t matter and everything is fine, but they sure could be finer. And sometimes you need tools that facilitate the fixing of everything. To not make you a type A personality per say, but someone who can fake type A. Someone who cheats on the personality test.

My new planner is going to do the job. It’s going to help me remember errands and bills and tire-rotating and writing and research and probably just general world-saving.

This isn’t like those other things I bought thinking they would fix everything, or at least some things. This planner is going to fix it all.

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Lessons from the First Day of Work: That One Time Meredith was Earnest

I pride myself on being mostly confident.

And this is a real point of pride for me because there was once a point in my life where I was aggressively lacking in confidence. My insecurity raged with the fire of a thousand Flaming Hot Cheetos, but because of the insecurity’s inherent insecurity, that rage mostly just looked like bad allergies.

I’ve come a long way and accomplished a lot of things, but it always astonishes me how that insecurity can all come storming back when life decides to pivot.

I don’t think you can even call what happened today a pivot. More like a glance slightly to your left.

We’ll get back to that.

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Nothing like a good Metaphor Cake: Explaining my Day Job

It’s hard to pinpoint when exactly I got my wake up call. Was it realizing that after a 15 work hour day, I’d spent 20 minutes standing in my kitchen, eating tortilla chips and cold queso, watching celebrity Instagram stories because I had no energy to do anything else? By the way, Busy Phillips is taking a workout class that involves a trampoline. She’s also drinking a special coffee that involves putting actual butter into it, but I don’t want to get into it.

Here she’s explaining the rush on Elmers Glue that stores are experiencing due to the popularity of “slime.” I don’t know.

Was it being so distracted, I was caught by a sales associate smelling an empty vase at Target because I thought it was a scented candle? And that trip to Target was my “fun” thing for the week?

It could have been the night I only had the mental capacity to debate if I should unfollow a bulldog’s instagram account because I was worried I followed too many dogs’ accounts, and what did that say about me?

As you can see, it’s just been a really really cool month for me.

When did I get the wake up call that my work-life balance was less “balance” and more just….work. A lot of work.

I’m not complaining because jobs are cool. Jobs are super cool! Jobs let me pay off my loans, buy food, AND buy a shirt with a badger on it saying, “Don’t tell me what to do!” The badger is holding flowers, by the way. I feel like that’s an important point.

But a long week is a long week. And a long two weeks are even longer. A long four weeks? We don’t talk about that.

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The Greatest Story [I’ve] Ever Told

I so rarely have a really great story.

Most of my stories are about:

  • Running through airports
  • People at the library
  • People at the coffee shop
  • People at the grocery store
  • I cooked a thing

But there’s one story that I swear by. It’s the story of how I got my job.

It was December 2013, the month my loan provider started expecting me to answer for my decision to go live in New York for two years. I still didn’t have a job. I really needed a job. Where were all the jobs? Job? JOB!! JOOOOOOB!

After 6 months of applying for jobs, 6 months of inching through cover letters because there is nothing worse than writing cover letters, 6 months of silence and wondering if something was wrong with me when in fact online job applications are a broken system, I broadened my search. “I’d love a job in my industry, or a job adjacent to my industry, or a job that looks like my industry if you squint, or a job that is not at all in my industry.”

I applied to a software company on the advice of a family friend. And lo and behold, they were the only company to contact me for a phone interview.

Obviously they had excellent taste, and it definitely wasn’t some oversight in HR.

Being my first, only, and endlessly treasured nibble, I leaped at the chance to interview, but the emails arranging the interview were increasingly and suspiciously intense.

I hadn’t had any post-graduate job interviews, but I had previously interviewed for internships, summer jobs, and grad school. People mostly talked like people, but these emails seemed as if this company was actually the government, and there was a secret team of assassins deployed when people waste their time in the interview process.

And no, I’m not being dramatic.

Make sure your phone interview will not be interrupted. Make sure your signal will not be dropped. When they call, pick up the phone quickly. Be prepared with your standardized test scores and GPA starting with high school (“I was told those wouldn’t matter after college!”), and going through your most recent education (“I was told no one cared about GPA after graduation!”). Tell us when you’re available to call, but it’s best if we call at 1:00 or 4:00. (Weirdly specific, team!)

But, guys…job. I’ll follow the rules.

I arranged with HR-Tracy, as I called her in my head, to interview on a Tuesday at 1:00 Central Time, 2:00 where I was.

I was in North Carolina. I was living with my parents and being aggressively unemployed, broken up by small bouts of dog-sitting for family friends. And it just so happens, I was dog-sitting on this Tuesday.

Gadget, a squeak of a dog, belonged to a family friend from church. Church-family-friend did pretty well for himself, so his house was, to the eyes of an unemployed textile historian, pretty impressive.

It was nestled on the side of a hill that it shared with four or five other houses. At the base of the hill, there was a large flat stretch of grass- I would later learn that field was used as a runway for their two seater airplane and the field was speckled with these giant bulbous hay bales.

This is Gadget. Also a hay bale.

I would never learn the origin or purpose of these hay bales in the field. I wasn’t on a farm. I’ve seen those. I’ve seen a lot of those. The only other option is aliens. I was, after all, watching Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura on the couch of this man who actually made something of his life for most of the morning of my interview.

The house I was manning was the closest to the base of the hill, while still having enough space for a view: grassy fields, hay bales, a distant but pretty populated two lane road, and then the rolling green hills you find in the foot hills of the Appalachians on the opposite side of the road. The back of the house had a long, winding patio where you could sit and appreciate your surroundings.

this lake will become important

It was quiet and peaceful and late Fall, so the air was crisp from the rain that fell the day before. This, I decided looking down to make sure the dog is still alive as it seemed like it had been comatose for at least two hours, is where I would conduct the interview.

I was sitting at the outdoor table, wearing a navy cable knit sweater, and navy and maroon plaid silk pajamas pants, the pants from a set that I got for Christmas the year before.

Let’s remember that it was roughly 1:30 in the afternoon. I just finished an episode of Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura, eating the homemade Chex Mix from another family’s kitchen, and I was still wearing pajamas.

In hindsight, I think that says so much, and by “so much” I mean it says “unemployment.” At the time, I sat on the patio, looking out over the saturated green, distinctly thinking, “This shall be what I wear when I am a writer, living in a hideaway of my own. Sipping coffee, wearing silk pajamas, and writing my books. Real writers don’t wear flannel polka dots.”

…what?

  1. They probably do. And FYI, past-Meredith, you currently own a matching set of flannel gingerbread man pajamas that you love because they keep you warmer than any other pair you own, a fact that’s important because of where this interview will eventually take you.
  2. It’s okay to write wearing pajamas of any kind. I’m doing it now. It’s less okay to write wearing pajamas at 1:30 in the afternoon. Or do most things wearing pajamas at 1:30 in the afternoon.

In preparing for the interview, I tracked down even my most obscure test scores. I took notes on the company. I took notes on my grades, my previous jobs, and my major school assignments. I took notes on the CEO of the company. I took notes on Wisconsin. I had a pencil and paper in case I needed more notes. I had tissues set out in case I sneezed. I had water set out in case I was parched.

The dog continued to be alive, yet comatose on the patio beside me.

I was ready for the 2:00 interview. Just try and shake me, Interview-Efficiency-Assasin-Army.

“OKAY!”- Interview-Efficiency-Assasin-Army

At literally 1:59 p.m., Gadget, the same dog that had been sleeping in a tiny black mound for at this point two and a half hours, lifts his head, sees something (I’m still not sure what), and as fast as his tiny little chihuahua legs will take him, goes flying towards the two lane road.

Over the course of the next five seconds, my brain crunched the numbers, and came up with the following: “Theregoesthedog,Ibethe’sfine,butthosearedefinitelycarsandhe’sasmalldogGADGET! GADGEEET!!!”

I grab my phone, and go sprinting after the dog, still in my pajamas, but no shoes on my feet. Gadget and I make it a collective 50 feet before my phone starts to ring.

Because of course it does.

I am not a person who is in shape. I prefer a steady mosey, or even a purposeful stomp to running, so 50 feet later, I am already winded and know that I can’t keep this pace. Luckily, having the leg-length of a human woman and not a tiny dog, I already caught up to Gadget who had now decided to happily prance through this muddy field, his previous mission since forgotten.

The phone is still ringing. I looked down at the phone. I looked at the dog who is almost cartoonishly hopping above the dewy grass. If I keep this dog within 10 feet of me, close enough to interfere if Gadget got any crazy ideas, I think I can pull this off. I answer the phone.

Almost three years later, I know the type of person the company choses to conduct phone interviews. They’re typically very lovely people. At the time, all I heard from Marissa, my phone interviewer, was an aggressive geniality that aspires to phone-based efficiency and absolutely no dead zones. No dead zones.

I’m only now realizing it wasn’t aggressive at all, but it just wasn’t quite on my “STOP MOVING, DOG!” level because I was now winding my way through a grassy field that on closer inspection was mostly mud from the rain the day before.

A recreation of the route Gadget and I took:

Just a really great map drawn by a professional cartographer.

For the next 45 minutes, Marissa asked me about my previous positions. What I did. What I learned. How I think a job doing historical research for some costume designers translates into writing technical notes for customers consuming our software.

Spoiler: It doesn’t, but Marissa didn’t need to know that.

And for the next 45 minutes, Gadget continued to prance, and I continued to hover, roughly ten feet behind him, trying and failing to dodge the mud.

It was when Marissa asked me if I would be willing to travel that Gadget discovered we had been circumventing a fairly sizable lake. And he promptly tried to prance directly into it.

It was late Fall, almost Winter. I just saved this dog from running into the road. I was not about to let him go swimming when it’s mid forties outside.

I was able to scoop him with one arm, but didn’t get a good enough grip to put our field trip to an end. I was, however, able to redirect him away from his impromptu pool party/potential-puppy suicide.

Marissa and I began discussing company culture, and Gadget was, surprise, still prancing and dancing and, if we’re being really honest, laughing at me, and as she was telling me “we have a slide! We have fun!” I look up to discover Gadget and I have wandered from a sprawling residential field into a construction equipment parking lot.

I would have been less surprised if we wandered into Narnia.

I have never been more acutely aware of my place in a space than the moment a man came slowly strolling out of the open garage to see a small pipsqueak-dog, standing no taller than a foot dancing around his construction equipment, while a 25 year old wearing pajamas (at this point it was 3:00 in the afternoon) and muddy feet, speaking on the phone about  employee retention, mouths, “I’M SO SORRY!” jogs up behind the dog and tries to scoop him up with her free arm, almost dropping him only once thanks to a well-timed squirm. The man looked confused. I didn’t blame him.

I finally get a grip on Gadget, and of course that’s when the interview starts to wrap up. I should hear something in two weeks. If they think I’m a better fit for a different position, I may have to take tests for that position as well.

“Yes, that’s fine. Thanks so much. Ok. Please just let me get off this phone.” Now that I could tell the interview-heavy-lifting was over, my sentences were getting shorter, my death grip on Gadget tighter.

I was finally and blessedly allowed to hang up the phone, and on the vastly-less circuitous route back to the house, I saw that Gadget’s lake also had a very small pier.

The dog still in my arms, I sat down and I sighed. I sighed twice. I took a selfie with the dog, and then I sighed again. I am a member of my generation, after all.

I was certain that I bombed this interview. I was not getting this job, and it was at that point, my one and only chance at being a card-carrying job-haver. Later that night, when I met my grandparents, my aunt and my uncle for dinner at Ruby Tuesdays, with a plate full of salad and ham cubes that only the Ruby Tuesday salad bar can provide, I would tell them I wasn’t going to get the job, and I would cry.

I would cry into my ham cubes.

But as Gadget and I got up from the pier, the dog immediately trotting in the direction of the house, because of course he did, and I saw my pristine notes, tissues, pencils, and water still sitting where I left them an hour ago, shoes sitting beside my chair, I could only think, “well, there you go.”

After stuffing my muddy feet into my shoes because I knew enough not to walk in someone else’s house with muddy feet I grabbed a handful of Chex Mix and found an episode of Ancient Aliens. I sat back down and I watched TV.

Did you guys know that there are underwater structures that were definitely constructed by ancient aliens? The science is there.

Much like the ancient aliens, I’m a big believer in sticking the landing. When I’m working on a project, I can stumble. I can mess things up. I can take a long time and ask a lot of questions. I can get stuck trying to catch a dog on a phone interview. None of that matters because I know that I’ll also put in the time and the effort and the energy to get something right. I’ll stick the landing.

I type this from my bed in Wisconsin because I evidently stuck the landing and I got the job. And I realize now that slow-speed chasing a dog through a field while remembering what originally interested me about Scottish folk culture as a thesis topic and gauging the distance to the road and assessing Gadget’s mischievous gleam in his eye was really great practice for my job.

I have to make choices, and I have to prioritize on the fly. I have to chase down some weirdos, and sometimes I wish I was dressed more professionally.

I guess the takeaway here is: just worry about sticking the landing, and if you don’t land just so, I bet your landing is still on the way. Your flip is just a really long one. Till then, stuff your muddy feet in your shoes, get some Chex Mix and find some horrible TV show on History Channel. You’ll be amazed what you can learn about the Denver airport actually being a front for the Illuminati. Or something like that.

Just don’t cry into your ham cubes. They don’t need the extra sodium.

Business Books: How I will Make my Millions


There’s this thing at my job where you can get reimbursed for books that contribute to your professional development. It’s a pretty wide genre. You can get books by Malcolm Gladwell or Atul Gawande, both widely recognized as great writers. The “professional development” genre also includes what I call “business books.” Books to teach you better habits. Book to teach you how to have more effective conversations. Books to teach you about saying yes to opportunities. And even books to teach you how to win friends and influence people. Because it’s not creepy to need a book for that!

And these books are popular! Crazy popular! And as someone who wants to write a book some day, I thought maybe I could try my hand at starting a business book. Some of my ideas:

  • The 14 Habits of Normally Effective People
  • The 15th Habit I Made Up to Sell This Book
  • The 16th through 27th Habits of the Most Normally Effective People
  • The 30 Other Habits that are Also Fine
  • Don’t Lean In (It’s Bad for Your Back): But You Should Still Do All That Leadership Stuff
  • Regular Conversations: Tools for Talking When You’re Ok With Regretting What Comes out of Your Mouth Sometimes, but Everything is Mostly Fine
  • Getting to Yes: Negotiations and Taking What You Want While Other People Are Distracted By Your Singing Voice
  • Getting to Yes II: Get Soft Serve Instead!
  • Loud: The Power of Yelling and Waving Your Arms Around in a World That Will Be a Little Bit Scared of You
  • How to Win Friends Based On Lessons From This  Book Because You’re Not Very Good At Listening and Thinking of Others And That’s Really All It Takes

Being very honest, I’ll tell you I’ve never read any of the actual business books. I’ve picked them up, but something about a book essentially teaching me “just do it better” or “consider being less bad”, has prevented me from ever putting the money down. I’m stubborn. What can I say, I could use a book about being a highly effective business book reader.

If you’ve read these books, and get something out of them, more power to you. You are probably more open minded than I, and chances are, you’re doing it better. But keep in mind, leaning in is fine, but it requires core exercises, a fact you’ll learn in my sequel to the aforementioned Don’t Lean In, titled the following: If You Have Time to Lean, You Have Time to Buy This Book.

Coming 2054.