Q: Do you ever read self-help? Anything you recommend?
A: I’m a self-help queen, dedicated to continuous improvement. I read books about problems I...
I’ve been twenty-five for about six months now.
Ok, real talk: that’s a terrifying thing to admit. Still, let’s skip all the holy-shit-I’m-so-old and why-the-fuck-is-time-moving-so-fast nonsense. It’s a given at this point, yes?
Twenty-five is one of those ages that hits hard for a lot of folks. It’s the downhill of the twenties, the slope now definitively headed towards 30. In the years leading up to it, you make all kinds of assumptions about what life will be like or what will be happening at this point in your life (or, I certainly did).
While I’m nowhere near wise, and about 500 yards from even being considered “knowledgeable,” I have come to some things I’ve realized after standing solidly in this mid-twenty zone for the past six months, especially when I compare it to what I thought, say, 2 years ago (for writing-conventions sake anyway). Here’s what I would tell 23-year-old-Christina if given the chance
At 23: I
‘m sure better have all this stuff figured out by 25, or I’m screwed.
At 25: You will be lucky if you have one aspect of life figured out between love, career, where you will live for the rest of your life and current world-views. You will also be lucky if the rest of those things are only at the “shambles” level of the shenanigans scale. You will probably be pretty normal if at least one these is at the “omnishambles.”
At 23: I know what I’m looking for in a relationship and in a man now.
At 25: You might have no idea what you want for a while, and that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a nice meal and a drink with someone, having some nice conversation, a kiss goodnight, and leaving it at that. You have a right to step back and create that space for yourself.
More importantly though, your standards will change and so will your tastes.
Now, often people look at that idea and assume it means that at a certain age you start lowering your standards. I really disagree with that (at least at this point in my fairly inexperienced life). My standards have certainly changed since turning 25 (and experiencing a period of singledom longer that lasted longer than my previous record of… 2 months). They have NOT, however, lowered. You simply learn that there is a difference between what you actually need and what you thought you wanted. Can I get over the fact that a man has little interest in Star Trek or sports? Sure, we can probably find other stuff to talk about, or we can learn from each other. Can I date someone that actively dislikes that I am religious? Or that I can’t have long, intellectual conversations about pop culture or politics with? Probably not.
[Also, there will be times where you think Huh. I am… going to die alone with 6 cats. Remember that’s probably not true. Because you have friends who love you. and cats are fun]
At 23: When I closed the chapter on this part of my life, it’s out of it for good.
At 25: Nothing really ends, your relationship with it/the person merely changes. To assume you will never want to try something again (say, teaching, for example) would be putting unnecessary restraints on yourself. To assume that the people you have cared for (either romantically or platonically) should simply be erased from your past is not only silly, but a disservice to your future self. You shouldn’t lose the lessons or the finger prints that molded you into the person you are now.
More importantly, this goes for the next person you will care for too. They will have people that have molded them who will never completely fade from them. That’s okay though. You can find a park bench that fits you two perfectly, and jokes that make you laugh.
At 23: If this relationship/friendship/job ends, it’s because one of us failed.
At 25: If this relationship/friendship/job ends, it’s probably because it was time. If someone “failed,” we likely weren’t ready or right for each other to begin with.
At 23: I’ll make myself an actual dinner when I’m older. Trader Joe’s meals ftw!
At 25: Perhaps you have found yourself in a place that doesn’t really have a kitchen. And you are currently single and living on your own. And so maybe that means you spend a number of meals eating peanut butter and bananas. Enjoy the money saver, and be really appreciative when your friends invite you over for dinner.
Though, you could also probably start cooking more.
1) Heaven serves St. Louis Drive-Inn’s Bento boxes
2) The only hair and skin products I REALLY need can be found at Lanikai beach: salt water and sand.
3) I want to get to a place where I measure my life in adventurous moments.
If you had been at the StorQuest on Sunset about a week ago, it might have seemed like any ordinary weekday mid-morning. The weather was nice, and the building was nearly empty. Had you gone into the basement, however, you would have heard 2 things: AC/DC’s “Shook Me All Night Long,” and the sounds of my sobbing.
Yes, it had finally happen. I had finally achieved that true paramount moment of Twentysomething, crying in front of your storage unit before a big move. Our “stuff”— the life-things we’ve accrued over the years— often seem like they’ll be so easy to throw out. When I first started my relocation, I really did plan on pitching out most of the papers and pictures I had considered to be “sentimental.” What did I need them for? I had my memories. I was moving to paradise. I had already seemingly turned my face fully forward to the future. The past, especially in the past few months, had been tumultuous and occasionally frustrating. Why would I bother dwelling?
Yet, dwell I did. There’s something entirely sobering (in an unfortunately-“Eat, Pray, Love” sort of way) that most of your life now fits into a tiny storage unit. I had spent 24 year s in Southern California, and the past seven of them in Los Angeles. What did I have to show for it? I was (temporarily) unemployed, single, and living in a tiny sublet in the middle of Silverlake that was mostly in still-boxed shambles. As I’ve mentioned in a number of posts before, I had gone from the girl with her life planned out to the detail (Los Angeles for life, marriage in the next 5 years after getting my PhD) to the girl shipping off to an island and deciding if she needed to keep the picture of her and her rebound-ex (she does not). The contents of my life had not only been wrapped and boxed, but now needed to be unpacked and sorted to decide whether or not they were worthwhile.
Now, for the most part, a lot of this process has been intensely gratifying and growing. There’s something about looking back onto your life and seeing how far you’ve come that’s great. However, when combined with the emotional stress and semi-guilt of leaving my family for the first time (which I was choosing to suppress and ignore, which is always a fantastic idea), leaving my friends behind, and the emotional charge of HATING PACKING AND UNPACKING AND REPACKING SO MUCH OH MY GOD, it added up to general dismay.
So, I looked into that dark storage unit, AC/DC blaring on a radio station through the speakers, and just broke down. I sobbed. Not even lady-like, quiet sobbing. No, I was at hyperventilating, am-I-having-a-panic-attack?-level sobbing. I buried my face in the crook of my arm and scurried away from the unit like it was a poisonous snake. My back hit the wall, and I slumped down, still sobbing. What was I doing? Everything and everyONE that I loved, and that actually loved me, that actually put up with my ridiculousness, was here in Southern California. Why was I moving 3,000 miles away to the middle of the Pacific Ocean?!
The guy that runs that StorQuest is a mid-30’s Latino man who served 2 tours in Europe. He’s been generally friendly and helpful, and nicknamed me “Tiny Terror” or just “Terror” as he’s seen me the past few weeks. Apparently when I called the unit I was so intent in my questioning that I “sounded like the baddest, most intense woman in need of storage,” but when he saw me he was amused that I was “so much smaller” than he expected (look, I’ve broken 5 feet finally, okay?).
He walked in, and stopped. “Terror? You okay?”
I shook my head, and took a few breaths. “No. Yes. Yes, I’m fine. I’m fine. It’s just… it’s just a lot I guess.”
He stood at the end of the hallway, giving me my space. “How much longer you have?”
“About a week,” I replied.
“Plenty of time,” he responded immediately. “Look, just take it a step at a time. That’s all you can do.”
I’ve been blessed to have a lot of really smart and amazing people come into my life. Especially in these past few years. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I continually count my blessings.
These past few days have been a flurry of tears, deep talks, and allowing relationships to not end, but change. My beautiful friend Amanda recently wrote about how moving, in a number of ways, can be cleansing. Yes, in some ways it could be a form of “running away” from our problems, but it can also be a way for us to look back and make sure we’re holding on to things that are really important to us. That, in letting them go, we see what they will blossom into.
I’ve spent the last few days (and especially the last 48 hours) worried that, perhaps, I made the decision to move out here too quickly. That in a flurry of “Oh-my-God-it’s-time-to-change,” I didn’t consider all that I was leaving behind. Saying good-bye to my friends and family, that fear became even more present.
On the plane ride over, though, I read something from C.S. Lewis that a friend had quoted (or “truncated,” perhaps) in a note to me:
“The only things we can keep are the things we freely give…what we try to keep for ourselves is just what we are sure to lose.”
That’s when it hit me: if I stayed in LA simply to stay close to friends or family, or to a life that I had created (but, perhaps, no longer was what I needed it to be), I would likely end up losing it. The feeling of confusion and desire for something new would likely push me to make choices I would regret; the attempt to find something to hold on to could see me push the things I loved most farther away.
So I closed my eyes and, with a heart filled with joyful love, breathed a sigh of gratitude and good-bye to my life as I had known it. A few minutes later, wheels touched ground in Oahu, and I looked out the window onto a certainly magnificent vista. The first thing that popped into my head? I swear, it was my my mother’s face, smiling, and my father’s voice, saying:
“Welcome home, kiddo.”
Tears welled up in my eyes, and then I smiled too.
Looking around the piles and chaos of my in-transit apartment (and life) three words came to mind:
Urges I Have Successfully Overcome While Packing:
Things I Have Consumed While Packing
Decisions I Have Made About “The Next Place”
I am moving in 2 weeks.
I have no idea to where.
And it’s a little terrifying.
So, I know, it’s been a long bit of time since I’ve written. A quick and dirty update on my life and why it’s been so nuts lately:
1) I recently moved from the rack stockkeeping department (warehouse) of my job to the Export department (office). While I miss the people in my old position, this has been awesome for a number of reasons.
Now, the company I work for is pretty awesome, so if they tell me jump I’m likely to say, “how high?!” That said, I’m happy that they needed me in a department that happens to work out with my lifestyle a little better. :)
2) My family is going through a bit of a time right now. I’m not going to go into it here, but any positive vibes you could send in our general direction would be awesome. Needless to say, it’s definitely made me re-prioritize and reformat a lot of things.
3) The people in my life are awesome. I adore them all very much.
Okay, moving along.
Sometimes, you find yourself at home with very little plans. Maybe because it’s a Tuesday night, or because you’re trying to get some much-needed rest, but you’ll finally make the very adult decision to not go spend money on drinks or a too-fancy-for-its-own-good restaurant.
So, you get home from work and you decide, Hey, I’m a grownass woman. I’ll make myself dinner. And you take a cue from your beautiful bff Stuti, who, last time you went to her apartment in shambles made you eat a delicious salad and pasta she made for you, and make yourself a little mini-feast for dinner (even though you did not run and ergo probably do not deserve it).
(Mini grilled cheese with basil, pasta and spicy sauce, wine)
The thing is, that glass of wine is delicious. You’re pretty tired. And now “Law and Order: SVU” is on, and your cat is snuggling you, so all of a sudden there’s napping.
But then you wake up, and it’s only 8p. You realize that, because you are somewhere in your twenties living on your own, and potentially without a real career, you lack the following things:
Of course, you are not planning on making out with anyone tonight, because you are may be ridiculous but you are still somewhere in the realm of an adult, and you are either a) giving your significant other a much-needed respite from your nonsense or b) not going to go trolling for guys to make out with because dammit, you’re better than that fucking shit.
So, since you want to be comfortable, and because you haven’t done laundry in, let’s say, oh I don’t know, three weeks, you are walking around looking like this:
Awwww yeahh. Let’s dissect this piece of joy from top to bottom (by the way, in what Tina Fey calls a “supreme act of bravery,” I am showing you my face un-photoshopped and looking… like that). Anyway, from top to bottom:
Hair: completely undone and a little bit dry because you really need a hair cut.
Face: Definitely no make-up. Also, if you wear contacts (I can’t), you are definitely wearing glasses instead.
Clothes: “I Want to Go To There” 30 Rock T-Shirt. Coachella Sweatshirt. Shorts. Polka Dot Knee Socks. You are nailing it right now.
A Cat. Because that’s about the level of commitment you can make to caring for another living thing.
Still, you’re wearing clothes, so you may as well do something. Maybe you have a delightful friend who will let you hang out and watch television with them. So you bring the a WINE CUBE, which you just experienced last week, and that you maybe even introduced your significant other to last night.
What’s a wine cube, reader? Oh, friend.
A wine cube is a delightful little invention that keeps those two bottles of wine fresh for four weeks, enabling you to occasionally grab a glass of wine with your dinner. Your friend hasn’t had this. So, like the little box-wine fairy you are, you expose another loved one to this joy and sprinkle classy-single-glass-wine-drinking-experiences throughout the land of the other twenty somethings.
So off you go. You throw on some boots and you’re out the door.
And it’s joyous. You are young, you can drink wine and laugh with your best friend, and not care that you look ridiculous. What more can you ask for?
During my first year of teaching, I wrote out “A Teacher’s Thanks,” for all the things I was thankful for as a young teacher. The second year (last year), I didn’t write anything. Not because I wasn’t thankful, but just because I was so focused on trying to survive I wasn’t writing or reflecting at all. Just attempting to exist. It probably would have said “Thanks from a Tired Teacher.”
A few days ago, though, when I sat down to write a gratitude post, I realized that I have absolutely no idea how to label myself anymore, and that was a little upsetting. I know it sounds strange, since we’re supposed to ~defy labels~, but I’ve always had some kind of identifier: I was a teacher, I was a TFA corps member, I was a USC Trojan. I’ve always had some kind of job or activity that defined who I was, a part of something of which I was so passionate that it essentially encompassed my being. This time last year, however, my label had left me stale.
One of the reasons I left teaching was to try and stop gain some of that sense of joy and passion back in my life. Teaching had been the label I had given myself, but instead of defining a passion as it once had, it had become something so consuming that I got lost. I needed space to focus and figure out what was coming next, because the current job was not giving me what I hoped. I think I’ve started to do that. I’ve made a lot of changes in my life that, while tough, have been (I think) for the better.
That said, and something I didn’t realize would be a direct consequence, was that when you take a step back to reevaluate your life, you have to go through a period of not knowing what the fuck you are doing.
That is terrifying, especially to someone who gets daily joy from the 10 minutes she spends updating up her Google Calendar, and has had an infograph-style 5 year plan hanging in her office. The fact is that, in order to really reshape my life and figure out my future, it’s going to involve not knowing exactly what I want or how to get there, and essentially making my life a little bit shambles for now. I’ve been so goal-oriented for, you know, the past 16 or so years of my life, that suddenly being unsure of the goal is a little rough.
Don’t get me wrong— I know that I’m incredibly fortunate. I have a stable, well-paying job. Though it may not be the focus of what I had planned, I like said job. I have amazing people in my life that provide an unparalleled amount of love/generosity/kindness/laughter, and a cute (albeit rambunctious) cat. I am in no way complaining here.
Still, the assumption that because I found a job and a place to live would mean that I’d be “figured out” was a silly one on my part. Instead, it’s just reminded me of what I
want need to find next. While it’s apt, I don’t want to get caught up in SIMPLY being another Twenty Something. Don’t get me wrong, I clearly love the phrase, and a lot of what it entails, but what I’m less caring on being able to name myself as I am being able to name my passion. I want to find that passion, group, cause, or whatever that’s going to get me excited to be a part of something again. Maybe it’s outside of work— I don’t know anymore, but I think that’s okay, so I can take the time to find out. So, with that…
(Belated) Thanks From A Girl In Transition
- For the standard, but never-taken-for-granted things: amazing parents, an inspiration of a brother, great family (blood and the ones I’ve made into my own friend-families), a wonderful guy, a job, and a roof over my head. These consistent cogs of stability, laughter, patience and love literally keep the not-so-stable machine of my life humming happily. Every day, I am blessed.
- For running. As a non-standard thank you, I really can’t say this enough. Thank you for the wonderful, repetitive motion that keeps me sane, happy, and (relatively) in shape. It’s funny, but it’s difficult to put into words how important it is to me. Oh, and epic thanks for some amazing people I get to start sharing it with, and the ones I’m proud of for starting!!
- For Teach For America. Surprising, perhaps, given what I said above, but absolutely true. When I was doing interviews last month for TFA, prospects asked me if I enjoyed my corps experience. Not only did I genuinely get to say yes, but I also realized how much it has really changed my life. It led me to running. It introduced me to a group of kids that still inspire me. I’ve met my closest friends through Teach For America. I’ve learned how to reflect on thoughts and actions, which I truly think has made me more mature and more “together.” It helped me learn about what kind of person I was. It made me more patient, more caring, and more confident. Because I was able to stand in front of those kids every day and not fall apart, I really feel like there’s no challenge I can’t face if I don’t want to. That is an infinitely valuable feeling to develop, and I’m truly thankful I was given the experience to create that.
-For meals for one, so that I don’t have to eat the same thing all week, thank you.
-For a weird, new-found confidence in my body. Not that I’m thinking I’m a super model or anything, but all this running has finally given me enough positivity to look in a mirror and say “huh, not too shabby!” without wanting to punch myself in the face afterwards (though I kinda want to punch myself as I write this, I’ll hold it together). It also has given me the confidence to wear kinda-skinny corduroys, which has increased my fashion styling abilities by 10 pts.
- For red wine. Seriously, where has this been all of my 21+ life? It’s good for my heart, it’s less fattening than beer, and it makes me look classy as fuck when I order it? #nailingit (and epic thanks to my beautiful wine-guru-girlfriends for helping me ease into it from super-girly drinks).
-For my Bings. He is a consistent source of companionship, meowing, snuggles, and headaches. He makes me laugh, ensures that I don’t die alone, and reminds me that even when my life is in shambles, I can (kinda) care for another living creature. Though he currently likes my neighbor AND my boyfriend more than he likes me, I know that he will soon realize that, you know, I FEED YOU, CAT. I FEED YOU. LOVE ME, DAMMIT*ahem*
- For the non-family adults in my life who provide a lot of love and mentorship via the internet and in person. Former professors, parents-of-friends, and just people that have come into my life: you all help me look at the bigger picture. Thanks for doing that when you really have no obligation to.
- For technology. Look, you might be a huge curmudgeon about the internet, and wonder when The Facebook and The Twitter and The Tumblr will finally kill us all, but I’m fucking pumped about it. I have a community of runners world-wide who inspire me, just through tech. I get to stay in touch with people with whom it would be difficult to see. I get to share memories and news with my family easily. I get cool hairstyles and am readily updated on everything from the #occupy movement to the latest entertainment scandal. My friends and I can exchange pictures of ridiculous things with each other in seconds. My mom knows I’m not dead because she follows me on Twitter. All of these things are awesome.
- For living in a time and place where not just me, but a whole community of my peers are in transition too. It makes the world feel a smidgen less lonely.
O God. Please bless this Trader Joe’s frozen meal that I am eating. Your merciful bounty is absolutely appreciated as I enjoy this totally delicious meal at $6.99, while not feeling too guilty that I am scarfing it down over the kitchen sink at 8:45p, because TJ’s is “classy” and “way better than that shit from Pavillions.”
Loving Yahweh, please help me to know that it’s okay that my life is in shambles. When I look at the 4-week pile of laundry that is 1 part work clothes, 1 part barely-used workout gear, and 1-part slutty club wear, I may not feel adult. I may feel ashamed when I find the random Claire’s feather earring among the pile, or the business card of that douchey lawyer that tried to hit on me whose info I absolutely took in exchange for a tequila shot. Help me to remember that I am (You-willing) only around a quarter way through my life (as long as this drinking doesn’t catch up with me), and that grown-up, matching-socks-and-not-so-much-Forever-21-dresses-laundry can wait until later.
And, when I am tempted to miss the morning meeting, O Lord, because I am in an intense text discussion with either my boyfriend (“okay, but what do YOU want for dinner?”), that guy-I’m-seeing-but-don’t-really-know-where-we-stand (because I’m STILL TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHERE WE STAND), my best friend (about what a nuisance her ex is being), or my mom (as I beg for Vegas money), that part of this transitional phase is learning to make good choices. So, I will put my phone on vibrate, and stick it screen-upwards in my purse, while I act adult in the morning meeting. Please, Father, grant me patience as I slowly pick my Costco croissant apart while I hear each vibration of my phone and wonder what people are saying.
Also, God, please grant me stealth-like qualities as I slip out with my phone “to the bathroom” so that I can actually read all the text messages that came in the last 10 minutes.
O God, grant me serenity about boys. I know that science, Glamour, and the random all-girl health class I took in middle school have taught me that boys are about two years emotionally less developed than I am. I get that. I really do. But ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS SHIT?! Because, honestly, I can’t with them. I really can’t with them. The amount of time, effort, nonsense, and concealer-money I put into this shit is absolutely ridiculous. I mean, if I had the wherewithal or forthright thinking to actually keep a budget sheet, it would probably show me that 50% of my budget is spent on boys; whether it’s looking hot for them, or covering Burning Man tickets because I will, on occasion, date boys that do not know how to manage themselves and ergo convince me to pay for things we don’t need.
God, that’s probably an exaggeration. I think it’s closer to 15%. My bad.
But, really now, I’m a grown-ass woman. I pay most of my bills on time. I have degrees, maybe even a graduate degree. I work out occasionally (if you count dancing-at-the-clubs and sporadically-trying-Pilates). I try to buy nice stuff at the Banana Republic sale shelf, Forever 21, and H&M. I make good conversation, I am passionate about the world, and have an interest in craft brew beers. I care about being a good kisser, and will watch all four Die Hard films with someone. I shouldn’t have to go on this many horribly awkward first-coffee-dates with a guy that can barely speak to me.
When one does speak to me, I would also appreciate if it could work out sometimes. Can’t we all just be HONEST with each other? I get that you may not be ready to be with me, but can you tell me that before I tell my mom about you?
I am over guys that act cool, then text me “sorry bro :(” when they bail because they are “still into that chick from hs debate team,” or “need to spend more time on their blog.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS SHIT?!
I MEAN, I JUST WANT TO MAKE OUT AND HOLD HANDS WITH SOMEONE THAT IS NICE, SMART, FUNNY, AND TELLS ME THAT I’M PRETTY AND COOL SOMETIMES. WHY IS THAT SO HARD TO FIND?!
God, grant me patience.
Also, grant me the wisdom to feel unfettered joy when I am blessed and lucky enough to find a guy that is funny, nice, smart, and a good kisser. That guy is really awesome. He probably deserves more trust and care than I am willing to give in this moment.
O Lord, help me find joy in the small things. I am pretty psyched when I find out that there’s a Gap sale, or that when I say, “Give me boops!” my cat snuggles into my nose. I hope You are psyched as well. Really, though, I’ll try and remember more that I’m pretty lucky. Those moments when I’m riding in the back of hummer limo for my best friend’s birthday, laughing hysterically at what is happening, or just sitting on a girlfriend’s couch watching Parks and Recreation while drinking Cupcake wine are essential and perfect. I don’t know what I did to deserve them. Thanks for those.
Oh, also, please grant me patience and wisdom while I try and figure out what the fuck I want to do with my life. I had dreams. I have many degrees. I had a passion. Why is that so hard to turn into a career? Please, try and make the economy less shitty so that I can actually pursue something of the career I had in mind. Also, if You could keep an eye on me while I work a corporate job to pay the bills, work as a hostess in a seedy kareoke bar that I tell my parents is a “five-star establishment” so I can go on auditions, or troll Craigslist as I apply for unemployment, the sentiment is really, really appreciated.
O LORD, please, give patience to my parents. They love me more than I deserve. They are more caring, invested, loving, and patient than I have earned any right to merit. I know I don’t call as much as I should. Please, let them know that I still love them. That I know they did everything for me. That, whether it’s a quiet moment in my car or a split-second while I order a drink at the bar, I know that I would be nothing without their patience, guidance, and love.
God, please, just let me know that I’m not alone. I know I’m in a weird place in my life. When you’re wrapped in Target throw-blankets drinking straight from the bottle of Trader Joe’s Zinfandel (remember, it’s classy), it’s hard to know that every generation feels that they are in a silver second of change, where everything can be different. I know that I’m living a little on the cusp right now.
So, while I can’t help but feel the twinge of embarrassment, disgust, and envy when I see a Facebook friend get engaged, please tell me that it’s okay that I’m in this really weird place where nothing feels set and everything is tenuous. I know it could all go away in a second.
But that’s a blessing in its own right, isn’t it? That I have the ability to go with the flow and try something out if I want to. I don’t think that my parents had that. So, if anything, give me the wisdom, love, patience, and trust to enjoy that as much as I can, while I can.
So, this post came to me while I was running. It does not all pertain to me, and a lot of it is the combination of my experience AND that of my friends. Either way, this goes out to being in a really awkward place in our lives— no matter where that may be. <3