Saturday, July 27, 2013
So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I'm still trying to figure out how that could be. -Stephen Chbosky
Today I sat in an Irish pub in D.C.'s Chinatown. I had just come in out of the rain, my previously curled hair disheveled and touched with an annoying frizziness. Apparently I need to invest in an umbrella that can fit in my cute but somewhat impractical cross-body purse. I sat down at the bar, alone, and asked the bartender for a Guinness and a menu, please. While I waited for my drink to be poured, I twisted my hair back out of my face and took in my surroundings.
I've never been to Ireland, but the inside of that pub is what I imagine that Ireland is like. It was dark, crowded with knickknacks and Gaelic phrases. The beers on the taps in front of me ran to international favorites, with the typical Irish brews highlighting the group. My beer and menu were placed in front of me, and as I perused my options, a thought occurred to me.
This is my life now. This is my life, and for the first time since the days of stressful collegiate bliss that marked the last time that I was truly out of my hometown, I have more answers than questions. I can sit at a bar, drink beer and write all day long if I want to (or more likely, if I have the money to). I can go home at a reasonable hour, and make dinner, or I can stay out all night. I'm sure my mother would tell you that I did these things at home anyway, but somehow, it's not quite the same.
When you're young, a teenager or maybe a college student, the answers to all of life's problems seem so easy. Of course you can single-handedly hold down a job, go out every night, and save the world. There is good, and there is bad, and all of the world should simply fall in line. Bills will get paid, the dishes will get done, and your friends will be your friends until the end of time. When you're young, all things seem possible.
Somehow, when you reach the other side, when your bubble pops and that black and white world is washed in gray, there are no answers. Suddenly, you can't find a job, and you're back to waiting tables or cashiering or doing whatever you can to make a few bucks. There is no glamorous apartment and nightlife waiting, because you had to move back in with your parents. And you try to be grateful, but it's hard, because this was not in the plan. Save the world? Ha! It's exhausting just trying to save yourself!
The hardest truth to accept is that sometimes your friends, those people that you laughed with, and cried with, and jumped over life's hurdles with, aren't going to be your friends until the end of time. You start to realize that it takes a certain type of connection to create lasting friendships. As sad as that undoubtedly is, the silver lining is that you learn, at long last, to appreciate the friends that do stay in your life. And after that bubble of youth and naivety has exploded as fairy tales do when faced with reality, you find yourself searching, sometimes in vain, to find the possibilities in front of you.
The years between high school and twenty-five are exciting, sad, and excruciating. They are some of the best years of your life and some of your darkest. They're saying (whoever "they" are) that people are now experiencing "quarter-life crises." Ask anyone between the ages of 23 and 30, and they'll tell you that it's true. If it hasn't happened to them, it's happened to someone they know. Come to think of it, they might tell you that they can feel it coming on. Because these days, treading water in an unsteady job market can drive the most sane person crazy. Not to mention the fear of being alone!
I would like to think that I've finally found a place where I can relax. I feel as though I have been wound so tightly for the last three years that I don't know how to handle it when things finally start to work out. But today, sitting in a dark bar, pen in hand, I realized that I am finally figuring out who I am supposed to be. And maybe I'll be able to save the world after all.