Do you feel antsy yet? Can you feel yourself getting older? Are you where you thought you would be?
I know the change real well and it starts to happen around 24. People go “quarter-life” and you feel almost nothing but “yeah, yeah, whatever” and “well, at least it’s not the word millenial” and then you start feeling different. Different meaning smarter, more stable, and deeply, deeply, philosophically panicked. I’m talking the real sweat. I’m talking the whole “I’ve finally realized I’m alive” and the whole “I’ve finally realized I die” and then, the desire to make use of that time in the best way you can.
When I was 21, all I wanted to do was grip onto the cliff and hold on for dear life. All I wanted was the basics: food, air, some solid ground. I’d take any hand that reached out for me. Shitty job, small apartment, tiny paycheck, toes in the water, feeling it all out. Your basic survival story. My Boy Scout badge grew with each small accomplishment: Cool it, mom! I can pay my bills now! I pay em every month! I remember to buy shampoo! I’m just your standard Errand Runner, looking to get home in time to make dinner.
At [21, 22, 23] I was learning how to be a real and functioning human being. I was learning how to balance a fucking checkbook, to stretch out a dollar, to keep my electric and gas running. I was learning how to budget and what to do with brussels sprouts and finding out how I wanted to love and how I wanted to have sex and laundry settings. I was finally throwing out old mascara but still wearing my college clothing. I worked hard to stay alive, to keep my head above the water, to buy a cold beer and feel full in a ratty t-shirt. I was searching to balance fear and contentment with just a little splash of secure.
Honestly, I didn’t ask for much. Nobody expects you to go forth confidently to your dreams at 22, no matter what they say at graduation.
Then, at 25, I found myself no longer at the edge. This surprised me, because I had been doing it for so long, but I guess I had used my body weight to hoist myself up onto steady ground. I’m alive.
It’s not perfect: I’m not rich, I’m still struggling to pay bills, and I could fall back to the edge at any moment, but I’ve relaxed a bit— fell into the rhythm of a frantic heartbeat and the uknown. I know that if I lose my apartment, I can find another one. I know to save money in case if I lose my job. I budget. I even treat myself, sometimes.
But all that relative, minute sense of safety does is make me hungry for more. I stay up late at night, wondering if I am doing my life right. Am I going to regret this? What am I missing out on? And of course, that elusive asshole of a question:
I started writing this poem at 7am one morning after my girlfriend left for work. We had been fighting about her trouble expressing feelings and I was reflecting on how hard it must be to do her job. As I started writing, she texted to say she was getting her friend Stacy as a patient. We went through the grief of that loss and my massive spring tour at the same time, all while moving in together and sneaking in dates in DC and South Padre. I’m just so grateful for her. I just needed to say that. Upworthy shared this on their site but I wanted to share it here too. I’ve had some really sweet emails from other nurses about how they have a hard time expressing feelings and since I express enough for the two of us, I’m happy to be useful in some way. So many thanks to folks who do the good work. Also, yay black holes.
I’m not crying in a corner right now, I swear.
Well that makes one of us, I guess.