It’s time to get vulnerable. Again.
A few weeks ago, I found something I wrote last year on my 23rd birthday:
“Today I’m 23. Last week my first semester of grad school started. In a few months, my friend and I are moving to Atlanta. So many things are changing and I guess that means my gap year of adventures has officially come to a close.
I took a year off after college without a real aim in mind. I knew my broad goal was grad school and mass comm but I had absolutely no direction beyond that. I was tired. I was tired of living in a town I felt I didn’t belong to anymore, I was tired of the disappointments I had faced, the anxieties I’d fought, the heartbreaks I’d felt. Undergrad took a lot out of me.
And now I’m standing on the other side of this year looking back in complete surprise. I moved home August 2015 feeling like I didn’t have a place, lonelier than ever. And then things started happening. I’ve been to Maui, Boston, Dallas, Barcelona, Orlando, all over Peru, D.C., Chicago. Some of those places I even conquered alone. A year ago that idea seemed ludicrous.
Today I’m 23. I’m sitting in my new school’s library, thinking about all of this instead of planning out my research methods for all of my papers (school hasn’t even been in for two weeks, grad school is terrifying). Today I’m 23, and I’m starting to understand that life is short, life is fast, and life is always changing.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared of all that’s coming next. My life is 100% not what I thought it would be when I started undergrad five years ago. And to think how wrong I was about everything I was so sure about, everything I thought was so certain– it makes me think about what another five years will look like, how much I’ll laugh about everything I thought was so certain now.
So yeah. Today I’m 23. My gap year is over, but maybe the adventures aren’t. Here’s to another year of life leading me who knows where.”
Ironically, I wrote that before everything changed. Again.
For several very legitimate, logical, and understandable reasons, we didn’t end up moving to the city last year. I’m still at home, two years after graduating from college. And with every passing day, being in the suburbs, hanging out with my parents, and, quite frankly, still being single, are becoming increasingly harder to swallow.
I read what I wrote on my 23rd birthday and it hurts. It hurts in a way I’ve never really experienced before. It hurts in a way that only emptiness can cause. I had so much hope for this past year. I was so sure that things were going to start changing.
And admittedly, in some ways, they have.
I’ve made a few really great friends at school, I started freelancing, I’ve maintained a 4.15 GPA during my first year of graduate classes, and I’m working for President Jimmy Carter at the Carter Center, a dream I’ve always carried with me but only recently felt I was worthy of achieving.
And through all of the allegedly big things that have happened this year, I still feel like I’m coming up short. I think of the people I know living in their trendy Atlanta apartments or planning their weddings and it robs me of the joy I should be permitting myself to feel over my accomplishments. I’ve tried so hard to grow from the last time I discussed this topic, and this time it’s not so much the Instagram-worthy lives that I’m comparing with my own. It just feels impossible to celebrate when there are two things, two seemingly simple things that practically everyone else has figured out, that for some reason I am apparently not allowed to have. More than anything, I want independence and love; all of the academic and career success I have ever achieved just don’t seem to be filling the gaping holes that those two desires have left me permanently waiting for.
And that is infuriating. Because what I still don’t have should not diminish from what I have now, from the way my cup is already overflowing. The gifts I have now, the opportunities I have been afforded and the blessings that I have collected are not less than those that I still lack. Their worth remains the same, even if I am aching for other blessings to finally, finally fall in my lap.
I can’t keep saying that “one day I’ll be happy. One day I’ll have it all. One day all of this heartache will be behind me.” That’s crap. There will be heartache in twenty years just like there’s heartache now and there was heartache when I was fifteen and felt like the world was ending over every slightest inconvenience.
Just like there are beautiful blessings now, and there were beautiful blessings when I was a hormonal teenager, there will be beautiful blessings in twenty years, and in five, and tomorrow.
Happiness can’t be reached, it can’t be scheduled, it can’t be anticipated because it’s happening now. Happiness is a possibility every day and it will always be a possibility. Happiness can’t be planned because it is already intricately intertwined with the hurt and pain and frustration and fear and anger of every single day.
There’s no pretty bow to wrap this all up, which always seems to be the case with my rants. Maybe things will look brighter tomorrow, but odds are that they will look about the same as they always do. Maybe the trick will be for me to try and change how I respond to that fact instead of closing my eyes and wishing it wasn’t so.
Like always, thanks for sticking with me.