Here I am, almost three weeks post-birthday, wondering what the fuck my life is supposed to mean at this point. I graduated last January from college, fresh from my years yearning for any and all knowledge of English, with no career prospects in my major. No networking connections. No job offers given to me, and no replies from the hundreds of employers that I spent countless hours crafting cover letters for.
Is this what post-grad life is supposed to be like? A year of saving pennies into savings accounts, only to spend them on Taco Bell when my PB and J sandwiches aren’t cutting it, on Sudafed when my immune system is failing me due to my instant noodle and caffeine-spiked diet, on concerts I can’t afford so I sacrifice other comforts for the thrill of taking risks in my dwindling youth?
I don’t know how to be brave enough to start my new path. For the longest time, we’re all taught what to do next and where to go. Go to Pre-School, go to Kindergarten and to every grade after. That is the path: straight A’s; honors; reading not-for-fun books; homework and chores and the responsibilities we avoid as children with whole lives ahead of us; study for your SAT’s and learn every word; apply to your dream college and five more safety schools until you make that decision.
Then you’re left without a path, and have to pretend like you’ve known all along what that path was. English major, take my classes, make ‘connections’, make lifelong friends, land that job on graduation day, and make enough money to live in my own house.
Then, as the cliché states: life happens. Where did my motivation go? My drive? My will has been broken by the reality that I’m flawed, more than I ever thought I could be.
My writing is shit, and so are my job prospects. Cover letters are boring. So is my resume. When will that real job come, the one with the financial security I’d hoped it would bring, with the happiness that only a dream could afford to give me?
A Facebook picture of my recent successes is worth a thousand words to my acquaintances and relatives, except for the words I’ve rehearsed in my head before I see them.
“No I don’t have a job in English, editing, or publishing like I thought I would at this point. No, I don’t want to just settle and be a teacher…but we’ll see where life takes me.”
“My job is great! Yes, I make enough to get me by. Ya know, that Lunchables diet.”
“Yup, still live in Long Beach. No, not New York. Maybe one day.”
“My boyfriend is doing great, hopefully will get a job in engineering and be the breadwinner, haha. Maybe then I’ll be able to pursue my writing.”
“The next step? I guess…just trying to figure out what that next step is.”
“Well, Karen, maybe I spend all my money on concerts, festivals, and food because I’m avoiding answering these questions posed by social media ‘friends’ that claim to be concerned about my well-being, but instead are more intent on pushing their expectations onto me about how my life should or shouldn’t be. Suck it.”
College taught me binge drinking was an acceptable way of dealing with the pain of adulthood.
This seems a little self-explanatory, but I still pretend I’m in college the way I can slick back drinks at a frat party that I self-invite myself to these days. Shots are not just for doctors anymore – we can inflict pain and numbness all on our own!
Didn’t all of the great writers have some sort of addiction to alcohol or drugs? Am I walking in the footsteps of the greats who have spun words into beauty after getting shitfaced on bourbon in their little writing dens? Or am I just another post-grad with no purpose who finds that all her friends are still in college and living a carefree, buzzed always lifestyle?
The answer to this question is simple: I need to stop drinking. Except for wine. Or a glass of beer when I’m out for dinner. Or a shot on my birthday…yeah, that sounds like a good, adult compromise.
Maybe this is the part where I learn something: my new, adult life is full of compromises.
Should I go buy some healthy groceries and get my life on track, or order a pizza and wallow in sadness? Why not spend half my money on mostly healthy food choices, and the other half on pizza. See? Compromise.
I don’t think the compromises will ever stop. If I really want to get deep here, life isn’t going to stop for me to make choices or compromises or decisions. It’s going to keep going whether I’m ready or not, and when I reach these milestones, like every birthday leading to the big 30, I’m going to have to reevaluate everything.
I have to remember my past and let all my heartbreaks, my tears, my successes, all inform my future. Every year, I’m going to remember the climb I still need to make to reach each goal I’ve set for myself – writing daily, job applications, networking, staying in touch. Every setback will be a challenge. And every year, without fail, I’m going to be better when I look back and see how far I’ve come, how much I’ve overcome, and how much better of a climber I am because of it all.
In short: I’m ready to be 23. To be a real adult is a whole other mountain to climb.