What I did over my summer vacation is freaking worship Kristin Newman. If you haven’t read her book, What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding, then you need to do so immediately.
Kristin Newman, former writer for That 70’s Show and How I Met Your Mother, writes a memoir that is hilarious and beautiful, insightful and inspiring. The book begins with Newman graduating college with her longtime boyfriend and following their longtime plans. Eventually she realizes that they aren’t meant to be and their lives are going in different directions. At thirty, she finds herself single for the first time ever. Thirty and single–two words that strike fear in the hearts of women everywhere. Kristin Newman makes this prospect sound downright exhilarating .
The rest of the memoir follows Kristin actively not settling down and breaking hearts around the world, one country at a time. Argentina, Brazil, New Zealand, Iceland, Paris—these are just a few of the places her solo travels take her. In each country she finds a little piece of herself, a truth, a confidence, a strength, a weakness.
As a girl in my twenties, it’s refreshing to read a book that advocates a different lifestyle. One where I shouldn’t be freaking out over marriage and children at the ripe old age of twenty-two. Score one for the Single Girl. Though her book does emphasize a certain relationship status, it’s so much more than a tribute to singlehood. It’s a story of wanderlust, of travel, of finding yourself. It’s a story of hope for people who are still trying to figure out this thing called life.
This last part especially resonated with me. I graduated college in May 2014 with no understanding of how truly terrifying postgraduate life is. As a post grad suddenly you’re thrown into this new life, whether it’s working a big girl job in a different city, filling out job applications at home, or going back to school all together—and it’s fucking scary. In college you knew who you are, who your friends are, where your passions lie. After graduation, you question everything you’ve ever known. Do you really want to nanny the rest of your life? Will working that 9-5 entry-level job actually fulfill your lifelong dreams? And why the hell did you go to school for your creative, yet useless, major in the first place? Suddenly you are a slave to the real world and you don’t know how you got here.
Suffice as to say, I was feeling pretty lost after graduating. I didn’t have a boyfriend, a job, or even a room of my own in my parents’ house. Then I read What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding. Kristin Newman gave me direction through reading about all of her misdirections. She made it okay to not have it all together, to still be figuring it out. She inspired me to take chances, to stop being so afraid of disappointment and failure.
And so after finishing her memoir, I did just that: I started taking chances. I took my first solo road trip to a writing conference in New York. I drove nine and a half hours in a borrowed car, on borrowed courage, with nothing but Siri and a single mix tape to keep me company. I spent a night in Pennsylvania with my mother’s college roommate, and a week in Chautauqua, New York, all the while asking myself What Would Kristin Do. I was forced to put my writing out there, to be judged by professionals and amateur writers alike, beyond the safety of my undergrad classroom. More importantly, I was forced to make friends, to walk into a room by myself and be comfortable doing so. Like Kristin, I learned some important things about myself on this trip. Like one mix tape will drive you crazy after nine plus hours of driving. Like how to be content just sitting on a porch, feeling the sunshine on my face. I learned that drinking with writers may be the trippiest experience, sans drugs, of my life. I learned that connecting with people doesn’t have an age limit. I learned that I could do something alone and be happy doing it.
And then after my first solo adventure, I embarked on another one. I left my home state of North Carolina to live in Denver, Colorado, to study at the Denver Publishing Institute. Like my first adventure, spending a month in Colorado taught me how to be on my own. How to use public transportation in a city, how to read a map, and how to throw away that map when the time came. I learned that not all experiences have to mean something, or result in something, that just having the experience is enough.
Suddenly, I’d become the “girl who knew how to take a deep breath, suck it up, and walk into a room by herself.” And liked it. Reading this book gave me the courage to live outside my comfort zone, to be inspired to take risks, to not be afraid to veer from the life plan. Everyone should read this awesome, hilarious, and slightly raunchy book. You won’t regret it.