Sunday, March 6, 2011


In childhood, we all had our monsters. Some were hairy and lived in closets; others were multi-fanged and slept under a bed. We were told as kids that if we ignored them, the monsters would go away, back to whatever tortured chamber of our subconscious they had come from. What grown-ups didn’t tell us was that as we got older, those scary (but at least nighttime-bound) creatures would be replaced by worse ones, specters that would haunt our late teenage-early twenties years day and night, whether we were asleep or awake.

They never warned us about the BSF.

Now, as we enter adulthood, so many of my peers and I are plagued by questions of the future. We were led to believe that if we were polite to grown-ups, followed the rules, worked hard instead of watching TV, and brought home good grades, these questions would practically answer themselves. But I’ve found that the questions of what am I going to do and who will be there with me while I do it can strike at any time…

…And without so much as a blink transform themselves into uncontrollable, drooling monsters the likes of which I have never had to face before. The future has become the BIG SCARY FUTURE.

The BSF. The haunter of any college grad’s nightmares.

You can recognize the BSF by its two heads, the Drooling Head of Love and Marriage and the Sharp-Beaked Head of Career (also known as the What-The-#$%&-Are-You-Doing-With-Your-Life Head).

The scariest part about the BSF is that is cannot be fought off. If you ignore it, you risk turning into a character to be played by Seth Rogen (also starring a 40-year-old Michael Cera). Eventually, you must face this monster with every weapon you’ve acquired over the years. The problem with this is that you have little-to-no way of knowing which weapons will be effective, or if the only way past the BSF is sheer, dumb luck.

In facing the Love/Marriage Head (recognizable by its distinctive gold ring and constant drooling), I’ve gotten every form of advice from “attend more parties” to “grow your hair” to “wear more/less makeup” to “don’t think about it and it will drop into your lap.” So far, the monster keeps roaring in my face, and its breath stinks. So far, I’ve watched many of my friends tame it with varying levels of effort, from “bat my eyelashes and I’m taken” to “this is my sixteenth Shidduch date and at least he’s tolerable.”

As for the Career Head (with its sharp features and under-eye bags), I’m armed with a little more: a few part-time jobs, an internship or two, references from kind people, and a shiny new college degree. However, it seems that the monster has built up a resistance to this type of weaponry, considering that every knight it faces nowadays is armed with exactly the same things, especially in a city like New York.


Our battle with the BSF can wage for months, even years, and between our weekend attempts at meeting new people and our scores of cover letter/resume combos, we still have to live our daily lives, whether we attend school, wait tables, or take advantage of the pause in life progress to try the programs we know we’ll never have time for again once the BSF has been defeated.

There come moments in this day-to-day living where we may decide: forget it, I’ll defy convention. Let’s start our own path, our own way to dodge the BSF. Travel! Start a business! Inherit billions! Become a reality superstar! This discovery is elating. You may feel like you want to shove your new method in the faces of all the other yuppies with their suits and ties, and sing defiant anthems from the rooftops. This is ill-advised.

Whether or not the action is metaphorical, shoving your plans at other people while screeching My Chemical Romance will get you egged.

Whatever you do (especially if your battle with the BSF has, like mine, forced you to take repeated trains to Flatbush), never wait for public transportation in the rain, in Brooklyn, while listening to Radiohead.

I don’t care if you’re the most cheerful, luckiest person alive. Trips to Brooklyn in bad weather accompanied by depressing alternarock will turn you suicidal. And it will take many comforting phone calls, multiple favorite movies, and several types of pie to get you out of that funk.

If you do decide to face the BSF in your every waking hour, whether by job searching full-time or studying for big tests and kissing professor butt, beware. Tackling one head can often weaken your fight against the other. And even if it doesn’t, occasions like this may arise:

If this happens, no one will care how stressed you are or how good your intentions. You have become a jerk, the opposite of the admirable time-organizer/prioritizer I discussed back in December.

I think it’s safe to say that at some point, we’ve all tried almost every one of these approaches to dealing with our impending future. And as Jews, we may feel the added pressure of knowing that we’re expected to answer these questions sooner than we thought. 22 is very, blissfully young. I’ve heard that statement more often than I’ve heard advertisements guarantee satisfaction or my money back. And yet at times I feel like I can see 30 rounding a corner. I can name at least a dozen girls I know who were married before 21, and many more friends of mine who seem to have found their perfect job/mate/apartment/sword to slay the BSF. We seem to have forgotten that we’re still at the beginning of our journey.

On bad days, this thought depresses me, and I have to resort to one of the above methods of distraction (wipes tomato off face and accepts pudding sheepishly). But on better ones, I can remember, with a deep breath and a smile, that worrying about it now will not allow me to tame the BSF any sooner, and I decide to enjoy the time I have (I think that link illustrates my point better than I do, and the song partly inspired this post).

Because no matter what, I’ll have to meet the BSF eventually. Hopefully, I won’t have to fail in too many attempts before I finally stroll, victorious into the sunset. And having typed this, I realize that this sentence alone gives me reason to hope, because despite my fears and nightmares, I still see myself coming away from it happy, having found what I’m looking for, even if it’s only a long while from now.

And that can only mean I haven’t let the BSF beat me yet.


  1. I am glad for the positive note at the end; you were almost getting me down at one point, and I have my own views of this BSF thing that, well, that's a conversation. But anywho, at some point while you are still in that labyrinthine wasteland known as Brooklyn, we should check out the place that has a Time And Relative Dimension In Space bathroom. Let me know when!

  2. Brilliant post. I totally relate.

  3. "We seem to have forgotten that we’re still at the beginning of our journey."
    totally agree...that thought often comforts me when I get into a funk about exactly issues you wrote about...
    Thank you for this post:)

  4. This post contains perhaps the best visual representation of what listening to Radiohead is like that I've ever seen.

  5. Aliza, this is simply brilliant. I love how well you thought this out and how you used the Cracked format. This rocks!

    -Josh Eckmann

  6. Thanks so much, Eck! Any comparison to Cracked is flattering and makes me happy :)


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