I haven’t been back on here in a long while. The semester, though being two months from over, has not winded down for a second, and in fact, I think it’s gotten more relentless since the winter.
I’ve had my fair share of crises of faith in the past couple of weeks, doubting why I even bothered going to graduate school and what my teachers and mentors ever saw in me. It’s a fucking tough world out there, for everyone – not just for budding journalists at the vanguard of an industry that constantly erects walls. It’s a tough world for anyone who wants to grow up, look back and say in full confidence that life was good and worth being proud of. I have put myself in this category of rare people, and life has been exceptionally more tumultuous because of it.
But the good news is, I’m entering a new chapter in my life and career, and I’m very excited for the new opportunities that have been presented to me. For a long time, I thought they’d never come.
Looks like New York isn’t quite done with me yet.
There’s been so much talk lately about the twenty-somethings phenomenon, which isn’t so much a phenomenon as it is just a sad, confused and unavoidable part of life. I, myself, have shamelessly joined the ranks of consumers and creators within the discourse because despite what my strait-laced, no-fun, baby-booming parents have to say about our feckless youth, I believe our twenty-somethings is the most most complex and grippingly bastard period of the human lifespan. It’s cool, in every sense of the word. And I’m not just saying that because I’m 22 and self-aggrandizing. I’m hardly that. Have you read my bio? My entire life pivots around a comically self-depercating sense of self. And therefore, appropriately, the way I see myself in my twenties is candid, unrehearsed, unpicturesque, you name it. I am every forlorn adjective you can think of. And it is precisely this degree of candor that gives me clarity in my twenties as I write this now. I tried desperately in my late teens to be the perfect person – the studious, fun-loving, morally sound person, who always had a plan and always got it right. I wanted my twenties to be completely mapped out before I even passed into the 2-0 because I thought I could conquer life in that way. I thought I could commandeer my youth and shape it like I used to when I played that obnoxious board game, Life. Get a degree, spin the wheel and skip ahead to my government job with the serendipitous six-figure salary and a tudor house and a padded retirement plan – and then maybe, depending on the kind of woman I’ve chosen to be, a husband and a kid.
I wish I could say I’ve still got it. But I don’t. If there’s one thing I’ve learned at 22, which is only two years into the whole thing so what do I really know right?, is that you get tired. You get tired of thinking about what your twenties should be like. You get tired of being let down by your expectations and realizing that life is not as malleable as you once thought. You get bogged down by what your twenties is and not what you had hoped it would be. High school was a ludicrously controlled environment and how much you put in was exactly how much you got out. College too. And to be fair, I’m still in school, but I can already feel my life beginning to flail uncontrollably. And when I was younger (HAHA, what?), I had the stamina to catch the scraggly outliers and continue on smiling. But now, after nine years of being on that daily grind, of always being one step ahead of myself, I’m exhausted. And the sad part is, I’m only 22. I’ve barely hit the quarter-mark, and I feel like giving up. (Don’t worry, I won’t, but you know what I mean). I’m consumed on the daily by worry – over whether I should’ve gone out for margaritas last night when I hadn’t finished an assignment, over whether I’ll be able to find a job, over whether the $80K I’ve shelled out for one year at Columbia will amount to anything, over whether I have the reporting and writing chops to actually make it as far as I want to, over whether people find me successful, over whether I find myself successful, over whether I’ll have money to make the rent next month, over whether I’ll ever find a boyfriend or someone to stroke my hair at night while I unload all of my unpleasantries, over whether I’ll ever hit my goal weight, over whether it’s OK to go out on Fridays when my colleagues are still working, over whether it’s acceptable to have multiple sex partners, over whether I’m pregnant, over whether I’ll ever find the financial stability or the youth again to travel, over whether I’ve made the right choices, over whether I even have a choice in the matter, over whether I’ve let anyone down, over whether there’s enough time, over whether I’m happy, over whether I’m proud of myself, over whether I’ve done enough.
And is fun. right? Should I set the world on fire because I’m young? Can I take these few years to not give a fuck and twirl in a pasture of sunflowers, snorting cocaine, swigging whiskey and singing praises to my youth because if not now, when? Can I really just throw life to the wind and enjoy it while it’s here, and I can? I don’t know. I don’t think so. Can I?
The twenty-somethings are cluttered with opposing and competing ideas. We’re torn between our primal youth and our understanding that said youth is transient and so everything we do has consequences in the next chapter. Mostly, the twenty-somethings is a time in life when everything is up in the air. It’s a crazy blur of intoxicated late-nights and hangovers and job applications and account statements. It’s a sad realization that maybe you aren’t what you thought you were. It’s a slap in the face when you discover that you aren’t, in fact, that. It’s a phase you grow out of, but not without its countless casualties – to your faith, your confidence, your pride, your opinions, everything. You are a continuous punching bag to the forces of nature, and frankly, there’s nothing you can do about it. So you worry, and that’s natural. You’re tired because you spend most of your nights restless, listless, dozing in and out of lucid nightmares of dancing to-do lists, of constant rejection, of unrequited love, of the impending doom of your future that has poetically taken the form of a tempestuous cloud with an evil grin and a menacing guffaw. It’s all very stressful, and the most unsettling thing about it is, maybe you can’t do anything about it at all. As much as you thought life was in your own hands, as much as you thought that hard work and fortitude would lay waste to fear and ambiguity, you could be wrong. And that’s scary, that’s terrifying, that’s enough to paralyze me for the rest of my life. So what is it then? What is it about the twenty-somethings that’s so fascinating, that today’s media culture has fixated on it so absurdly – from this recent New Yorker article to Lena Dunham’s “Girls”?
I think it’s the fact we derive fear from fear itself. We’re unnerved by how scary life is. And we don’t have the foresight to prevent ourselves from derailing, while our parents and our predecessors have the hindsight to laugh off the very apprehension that eats at us now. We don’t have the virtue of already knowing. And it’s because this part of life is one huge, cruel paradox. It’s one titanic tug-of-war between two disparate poles. It’s the time when millions of people try to find themselves and what they’re worth, and while many do, the merciless tempest of life and circumstance render that impossible for many more. And no one really knows which end of that spectrum they’ll be on.