Madison, WI is the capital city of my favorite state, my home for four of the best years of my life and a place where the cheese is good and the beer is plenty. I’ve got a ton of love for it, but as we passed the “Welcome to Wisconsin: America’s Dairyland” sign, I felt an intense dread and an urge to turn the ship around. That’s because it was my very last ride into Madtown in my giant peanut, and in four days I could no longer call myself Magadamia Nut (well, at least not in an official capacity).
While I think all 21 of my coworkers and I were feeling this sense of dread and sadness, we dealt with it as any emotionally mature people would, and approached the end with denial, jokes and a lot of drinking. We were all excited to be back together again, and spent our last days cleaning out our vehicles, handing over the keys and hitting all the best spots in Madison. We went out nearly every night and also had a themed bar crawl where teams either had to match or partners got to dress each other. The result was lots of wild outfits including Rosie in full fisherman’s garb and Nick dressed as himself only with nipple holes cut into his shirt (thus, Nippolas was born). All in all, the last few days were no different than any other time we were together, until Transition Sunday finally arrived.
The whole point of Transition Sunday is to say goodbye to the old class and welcome in the new one. It started with us surprising all of the new peans and wiens as they got off their planes by greeting them at the airport with a chant – our Peanutter chant is a homemade mash-up including peanut-themed parodies of songs like “Shots.” Afterward, we have a big dinner and ceremony with our bosses where we receive awards, watch an end of year video and give advice to the new class. Later in the evening we have a more informal advice giving session followed by drinks on our hotel’s patio.
I’ve often felt like my job is kind of like a bizarre social experiment – “let’s throw three strangers together in a giant nut and make them live, work and hang out together for a year”- and Transition Sunday was no different. While my whole class was intermittently crying, hugging and feeling nostalgic, the bright-eyed newbies mingled with us and undoubtedly wondered what the heck they had gotten themselves into. It’s an odd dynamic, and though I felt slightly bitter and wanted to dislike our replacements, they felt like family right away. As the night wore on and the tears started flowing more freely, the newbs slowly began to show themselves out and us washed-up wiens and alumnuts relocated to a hotel room.
We crowded onto the room’s beds, fluctuating between crying and laughing at ourselves for crying, and eventually people started to give little speeches about the year. Everyone’s piece was a little different, but they all boiled down to pretty much the same thing. Most of us felt insecure when we started out because we were surrounded by 20 talented and all-around awesome people, and it was easy to feel like you were running with a crowd out of your league. However, everyone ended up feeling like they not only fit in, but had made genuine friendships within the group. Everyone has the people that they’re closest with, but our class definitely did end up feeling like a big family and I think all of us will continue to be in each other’s lives moving forward. I think that’s pretty awesome, and knowing I get to hold onto the best part of the year makes not being a “peanut girl” anymore a whole lot easier.
With the end of Transition Sunday and some of my hardest goodbyes to date came the end of what was my life for the past year. Over the last 365 days spent cruising the salty streets of America in my trusty nuts – Shelly and Ro-Shell – I hit a total of 2 countries, 22 states and 45 cities (although that’s only counting cities we stayed in and not the hundreds of smaller towns we worked in). I helped Planters gain over 12 million media impressions, appeared on camera over 20 times and majestically dabbed as Mr. Peanut through streets lined with thousands of parade goers. But the most meaningful parts of the year are harder to quantify: the personal ‘firsts’ I completed, the ice cream cones I consumed, the increase in dope photos/videos I had to share on Instagram and Snapchat and, most importantly, the people I met.
Nearly every day this past year, I would tell my partners that I felt like the Grinch because I had just met or talked with someone that made me feel like my heart was growing again. I have a whole bunch of awesome, life-long friends from my pre-nut days, but what amazed me this year was how open and welcoming people were to me right off the bat and how quickly I was able to form friendships with complete strangers. On top of that, this year taught me that it is totally acceptable to start a conversation with anyone at any time, and I’ve made so many more great connections with people since learning that. I truly could go on and on about all of the amazing people I met (and probably could even write a whole blog post about each one of them) but I will leave it at this: the people I met and interacted with were what made this the amazing year that it was, and miraculously my grinch heart was able to grow enough to make room for each and every one of them.
Other Things I Learned From My 12-Month Road Trip:
- A LOT of Americans are toothless. I honestly didn’t know that was so common before this year.
- “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” or as Extra Salted Elise puts it “Compliment them ‘til the cows come home.” Either way I found this to be entirely true; it’s crazy what you can get just for being kind to people.
- Golden rules for success on the job (s/o to boss man Ed and various other wise entities for these) 1) fake it til you make it 2) ask for forgiveness not permission 3) manage expectations 4) life begins at the end of your comfort zone
- It’s better to be interested than interesting. Talking less and listening more will get you a lot farther with people.
- Thai food is the best food. Especially green curry. Especially especially when it’s from a hole-in-the-wall restaurant.
- Spending money on travel and experiences is more worthwhile than spending it on things like clothes, eating out, etc. Note: spending on ice cream may be an exception.
- People do crazy things while driving. Ex: watching a movie, holding a phone out of their sunroof, opening van door for a good pic while on the highway, abandoning their car at a stoplight to get a good photo of your vehicle, etc.
- No dance move is a bad dance move. You’ll never regret tearing up the dance floor and doing so is a great way to make new friends.
- People are really bad at recommending things to do in their own city. Also, people everywhere think that their city/state has the craziest weather and the best beer.
- Positive is the best way to be, and if you can laugh at the bad things, you’ll be alright.
- People > Places. The people you’re with can make the most boring, rinky-dink town fun. They also can make you feel at home even when you’re thousands of miles from it.
- Every city has at least one cool thing about it and sometimes even two or three if you take the time to find them.
- & a whole bunch more. It’s crazy what you can learn from driving a giant peanut on wheels!
Although it’s very clear that I have already peaked, life must go on and I thought I should tell you what’s next for me. After the nut life ended I set off for more travels in Dublin, Barcelona, Paris and Morocco. I also took a trip to Texas with Elise where I got to spend time with awesome people and re-live my great Texas tour. Other than that I have been hanging out in Kenosha, Milwaukee and Chicago, catching up with friends and family that I missed and just enjoying being at home for the moment. I am officially moving to Chicago on September 1st into a dope 4-bedroom apartment in Wrigleyville with Elise, Nick and Rosie (Extra Salted Elise, Cheesy Nicks and Rose Beef that is). Living in Wrigleyville has always been a dream of mine, so suffice it to say I am pretty stoked. As far as jobs go, I am still on the hunt for one, but I have some solid prospects and finally feel like I have some clue as to what I’d like to do, which I am happy with for now.
Thanks for bearing with me on this super long post, and an even bigger thanks to all of you who have read these throughout the year. When I decided to keep a blog of my year, I intended it to be mainly for myself and thought maybe my mom and grandma would read it occasionally. I was shocked when people started to reach out to me about it and cared enough to kindly (and sometimes not so kindly lol) remind me that I hadn’t posted in awhile. Even though I’ve gained so much from this year, it’s clear that I already had so many amazing and supportive people in my life, and keeping this blog only further showed me that. Even though this darn thing was a huge pain in my butt at times – made worse only by the fact that I completely did it to myself – I am so happy that I decided to do it and extremely grateful to all of you who stuck with me along the way. You guys are the true shellebrities!
My NUTmost thanks to you all! Magadamia Nut, over and out.