I had a moment of clarity the other night. I was in my tiny room of blank beige walls, with everything from stockings to cans of spray paint speckled across the floor. Two candles were lit, and my college lamp sat on the carpet, illuminating one small corner. I was scrunched up on my frameless bed, eating ice cream and drinking Bigelow tea while watching an episode of Grace and Frankie, the mildly amusing Netflix original series. It was then that I had a moment of perspective, as if looking in at myself from another point in time. This is what living in my adult-life twenties feels like. I am here, and I am in it.
I can relate to a lot of what Hunter mentioned in her last piece. I probably sound selfish in saying this, though, since I have a job that I’m very grateful for and for which I spent days of last winter and spring working towards. And here I am, with the job I hoped and dreamed for, and I have never felt so discontent. It is not that my job is dissatisfactory or that my co-workers are unkind, but rather that I expected my job to instill creative and holistic meaning into my life for this one year, and it has not done that. Shame on me.
Normally the straight-A student and the one to initiate group projects, I have never felt so scattered and unhelpful. My skills for maintaining a planner have somehow escaped me; I’ve been terrible about keeping up with friends; my room has not looked clean more than once since I moved in to my new apartment; I owe my brother over $100 for an Uber cleaning bill after letting loose a little too much on a night of bar hopping. In some ways I feel like the Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin characters of the aforementioned show: I feel lost and confused and like nobody can shake me out of this mindset except for myself. But the one glaring difference is that Grace and Frankie had one moment of their lives that shifted everything: a dinner in which their two husbands (longtime business partners) declared they had been having a 20-year affair and were now leaving their wives for each other. I, on the other hand, have no such closeted gay husband or an event in which the rug was torn out from under me. I am simply going from school to full-time employment, a normal “transition” period. I have no clean excuse for feeling this panic.
It might have something to do with my month in Germany prior to beginning my job. I was a counselor at an international children’s camp and experienced my fair share of high and low points within that setting. But I became so close with so many of the children and other counselors, learned so much about other countries as well as myself, that I was fully attached to the camp culture, and had a hard time being severed from it. So maybe it was the rapid shift from Chaco sandals to suede wedges, from 11-year-old conversations and water fights to design thinking workshops and networking with Detroit’s great minds. Maybe I am still experiencing culture shock.
Or maybe it is that a contemporary college education does not appropriately prepare students for life on the other side. Clearly from reading any one post on this blog, none of us stepped down from the Commencement ceremony stage and glided atop a fluffy cloud of postgrad bliss.
Or it could be that I have written very little for myself since this summer, and I am now being shown how crucial a part of my creative being that has become. Or maybe it is a combination of all of these theories.
I came back from my month in Germany on a Thursday afternoon, with an accumulated seven hours of sleep for the past 36. That, along with the jet lag, made me a dysfunctional member of society. I attempted to wash my clothes and ended up leaving soaking wet clothing scattered in the kitchen. I kept standing in the middle of rooms with my mom behind me asking, “Annie, what are you doing in here?”. I spilled two cups of water. I think a small part of that dazed and hazardous me has stuck around, never shaken back to a functional state.
But here’s the thing: since I started writing this piece and put it aside for a few weeks, things have gotten better. Not perfect, but better. The moments of panic have diminished, and I seem to have more of lashing-outs from my water-spilling self rather than it being a constant presence. My job, for better or for worse, is becoming my new normal, and I am opening up to the fact that I am far from alone in this city. My housemates (who I barely knew before moving in with them) have enriched and enlivened my experience in Detroit exponentially. My parents are a short drive away, and I am not ashamed to rely on them for advice, support and old furniture. My brothers are also back in the area, and our weekly sibling dinners have meant more to me than I think they realize.
It is currently mid-autumn. I have lived in my apartment for two months, and I have figured out several running routes in my neighborhood. I have not brought myself to submit any of my material from my last semester of college. I found a good place to have my eyebrows done for a good price, and I listen to more Top 40 radio than I should. I (like Hunter) am eating too much ice cream lately, my love life is as nonexistent as always, and I occasionally chat with my neighbors outside of my driveway.
The wind is turning cooler, and my goal is to move forward through this year’s changes with as positive an attitude as I can muster. Living in my 20s is not glamorous or set on the path to success, but it is fine and full of wonderful people, and for now that is all I ask.