Even though my friends are all around my age, it is becoming more clear every day that I am at a chaotically different juncture in my life than all of them. I have friends getting accepted to Ph. D. programs and earning master’s degrees. I have married friends and friends starting or raising families. I have friends buying homes and building companies and traveling the world.
Me? No so much. I spend approximately 50% of every second convinced I’ve finally figured it all out and the other half of that same second Dawson’s Creek crying silently to myself because I know I’m actually a huge disaster.
I’m mildly certain that every person walks this same tightrope, balancing crippling insecurity and blind confidence on opposite ends of the same flimsy stick. My relationship with myself may be more fickle than a Massachusetts winter but it is absolutely not unique to me.
What feels unique (and may also not be, because most people don’t publish their insecurities on the Internet) is that, while my highly successful friends are often unsure of themselves, they’re also excellent at identifying the root of that insecurity and pulling it out of the dirt then planting something pretty in its place. I’m more of a “watch the weeds grow while accidentally pulling up the roses” person.
When I have a problem, I either ignore it or pretend to solve it. On the rare occasion that I face it head on, I immediately make sure everyone anywhere near me hears the valiant details because managing small adult inconveniences deserves a pat on the back, just like every swing in little league deserves a trophy.
And what worries me is that I know I’m not doing the best at being a grown-up, but I’m also not motivated to change that. Cognitive dissonance at its most obnoxious.
This isn’t the first time in my life that I’ve realized I preach a terrifyingly inconsistent philosophy than I practice. For example, almost exactly four years ago I published something called “How to be Happy in your Early 20s.” This post was born maybe two weeks after I ended a really dumb relationship with an unimpressive, mean guy. I’d also just (in a fortuitous turn of unrelated events) been offered, and accepted, the job that ultimately moved me to California. My proverbial shit was metaphorically coming together.
Now, the cool thing is that today, four years and a few weeks later, everything on that list still seems like a good guide to general happiness. Aside from the real missed opportunity with parallel structure in the first sentence my four-year-old ideas on “how to happiness” still seem to apply to a slightly older, definitely chubbier me. Thumbs up, younger self!
However, although that list still holds true (except maybe the bit about getting a cat, since both of mine are dead weight with no purpose who I unfortunately am too devoted to to even consider giving away), it was absolutely class A bullshit at the time.
With age comes wisdom so it’s not headline news that, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less stupid. What’s interesting is that I was so stupid four years ago that I didn’t realize I had actually figured out what I needed to do to be happy… I just wasn’t doing it.
Maybe I should be less harsh with my past self, but the evidence is profoundly against me: I’ve ignored every item on that list pretty consistently for the last 48 months… sort of like how I’m currently ignoring the fact that I know I need to handle life better, but I’m just… not.
The spray-painted silver lining on this cloud of smoke is that I’m positive I’m better at life now than I was four years go. I might not currently killing it but I’m on my way to the slaughterhouse, or something. Not sure I could say that about myself at 23, and maybe I still won’t be able to say it at 31, but at least I know that four more years down the road I’ll be used to the fucked up balancing act and will, hopefully, have learned to elegantly juggle.