There may be something inherently heartbreaking about being 22. In fact, I don’t know anyone in their early twenties who’s truly happy.
The last time I was this lost and out of place, I was thirteen or fourteen, just teetering on the edge of teenager-hood, confused to death about how to be any semblance of a put-together girl. At at the same time I was secretly repulsed by all the effort and fakeness they embodied. Now I feel the same way, but about adulthood. I am really sick of feeling like a freak every time I walk into a department store with my backpack and my grubby sneakers. I am sick of not knowing the etiquette for emails and phone calls to other businesses or nonprofits. But I do not at all want to be those people or know those thing. I wish there was a middle ground, where people who just wanted to be themselves could go and graze like forgotten cows.
Maria today theorized that we young people are in such crisis because we’ve got too many choices. We can go to Africa and build houses. We can become investment bankers and drink $4 lattes. We can live in the desert and sell cacti to tourists. We can literally pick and choose our own destiny. But the terrible thing is that we also have no choices, we are stuck because of our own incapacitation, our inability to think clearly or plan ahead or be anything like rational adults who know how to _make_ choices in the first place. And so we do what is in front of us like the scared little adultlettes we are, and then we realize our stuckness and are scared to the core.
I miss my friends. I miss curling up like little kittens on our apartment sofa. I miss sharing headphones with Amanda on the train and listening to Simon and Garfunkel. I miss drinking wine and lighting candles and listening to Ryan Adams with Eliina until the candles burned out and we closed our heavy-lidded eyes. I miss walking to Patrick’s house, showing up at his door on my way home from a guitar lesson and just hanging out. I miss everything, everyone, with such a deep empty ache that it crops up at unexpected times like a cold shadow, turning me for a moment into a spiteful irrational creature. Like today I saw a woman wearing a leg brace crossing the street. She was dressed all trendy with chunky silver bracelets and tight black pants, but her leg was in a brace. The first thought that came to my mind was that it probably evened out in the end. She couldn’t use her leg right, but I bet her best friends lived in town.
And the kicker, of course, is that life isn’t all that bad right now. But you know what that means? It just adds another layer of guilt onto the pile, that we have it okay and we don’t appreciate it when there’s all those people out there who don’t even _have_ all the things we have.
And us nonprofity types are actively working to give people choices and the freedom to leave their neighborhood and become a part of the business world and all that. …..A tiny netherworld voice in my head whispers, “But if they were…. wouldn’t they be just as miserable as we are?”
The wedding story is also taking a long time to finish. In the meantime, here’s an update…. Went home for Memorial Day weekend and saw the family, ate much ravioli and pie courtesy of my Italian grandmother, walked along the river with Deanna, and basically just enjoyed being somewhere laid-back and small-townish.
Yesterday I helped my friend Anna move into her new apartment in Columbia Heights — preventing my brand-new arm muscles from imminent atrophy for yet another week… and then David called and said he was in Sterling, Virginia. Anna generously drove me all the way there, almost an hour away into the green emptiness that is Northern Virginia. Then David and I drove to a nearby diner and caught up on, oh, the last two years.
This morning I rode my bike to work: 35 minutes in the gray-blue fog on tidy bike trails in Arlington, then 10 minutes on D.C. sidewalks. A beautiful trip over the Potomac river to start the day.
The wedding story got very long so it’s been moved to the megaphone.
I’m back from the wedding and couldn’t have had a better time. Details soon.
Tomorrow I’m headed to Chicago for Amanda’s wedding. Crazy, huh? After a year of planning, it’s finally here, this coming Saturday. I just got my dress back from the tailor today. It’s still a little tight. But who needs to take deep breaths? Other than that, I’m set, and tomorrow the fun begins.
My office building’s elevators are the oldest in the city. They are creaky, jerky, slow and sometimes possessed. Today I wanted to go get a milkshake with Shayna, Maria and Vim. We got in the elevator and after a few minutes realized that we hadn’t gone anywhere. I pressed the “door open” button. Nothing happened. Suddenly our worst elevator fear was coming true.
Vim called for help on the hopelessly old-looking emergency phone with the frayed cord. Luckily someone answered. The person sounded bored, took our names, and called our office to tell our boss Jason that his employees were stuck.
Upon learning that we were stuck, Jason herded the other five staff members out into the hallway, where they proceeded to taunt us and laugh at us through the elevator doors while we waited for maintenance to arrive. Meanwhile we yelled for Keanu Reeves to save us, sang “I’ll send an SOS to the world” and sat on the elevator floor mulling our fate. Fifteen minutes later, two amused maintenance people pried the doors open. One of them joked to Jason that he should dock our pay since we’d been out of the office so long.
“How often do people get stuck like that?” Maria asked the maintenance people. One of them shook his head. “You’re part of the club now,” he said.
Euchre, explained in the Washington Post: “Euchre’s resurgence rests in the game’s rules, which are simple but still provide for a fair degree of skill. Bizarre rituals such as putting cards behind your ears and making barn noises are coupled with the sophisticated strategy and sharp mind that winning requires.”
Sarah invited me to play euchre with her and some friends last night, but I was way too tired from a trip I took to Atlanta over the weekend. Otherwise I definitely would’ve gone.
Memories of euchre: Trying to learn how to play senior year of high school, during A.P. exam days. Not succeeding. All the cool kids knew how to play… During sophomore year of college, laying out the dorm literary magazine with Jonathan and Amanda, bonding over the fact that none of us knew how to play euchre … In New York during my internship quarter junior year, finally learning to play euchre with the boys who lived down the hall in our building … In Copenhagen junior year, re-learning euchre during an overnight ferry ride to the island of Børnholm for a bike trip, and playing with Eric, David, and David’s friend in a beautiful flat in Helsingør.
I actually don’t remember the rules at all now, so I’ll have to learn again. Again.
Merriam-Webster’s word-of-the-day today: peregrination \peh-ruh-gruh-NAY-shun\ noun : an excursion especially on foot or to a foreign country : journey
Times I was confused at work today, in chronological order:
-When my boss was walking around wearing only the head of a turtle costume. He then set the head on the cabinet next to my desk. It stared at me.
-When I was looking for the powdered coffee creamer and found the canister stuck in the kitchen window, propping it open, because it was 80 degrees in the office.
-When I heard “DAMN YOU ALL!” from my boss’s office. I thought we’d done something horrible, like crashed some vital system. No. We’d asked him to keep his windows open because of the heat situation. Some bees had flown in.
Adulthood begins at 26, researchers say. Thank God. That means I’m not as inept as I thought. I’ve got four years before I have to know what I’m doing.
Last Friday I went to a conference with my boss, Jason, on business philanthropy. It was held at a nice Hilton hotel (one with many fountains and miles of unassuming but elegant carpet) and it featured the U.S. secretary of commerce as keynote speaker. This was very much a business-y adult event, even though many people from nonprofits were there.
Women wore what seemed to be a uniform — a black suit with a pastel top underneath. Was the Hilton handing that outfit out at the door? I just could not pull off the adult look. My skirt was too casual and flowery, my hair didn’t have any kind of style, and I just couldn’t walk comfortably in my high-heeled sandals. I also could not help but be annoyed at all of the cheery small talk. I can only smile so long before my face hurts.
I went straight from there to a meeting of other AmeriCorps VISTA members. I walked in and immediately — relief. Everyone was slouched in their chairs wearing t-shirts and jeans, looking skeptically at the people talking. My crowd.
A story about the book sale I worked on, in the Washington Post.
The debate in my office right now…
–It’s just a dopey little love story.
–But it’s like he’s in love with the chickens and he’s in love with her!
Topic: A children’s book called Chickens, Chickens, Chickens.
“It’s like a parade of crap.” — Shayna, as four us wheeled dollies piled with boxes of unwanted books down the hall
“I’m very lazy as a journalist. I will do journalism for money and I won’t do it well. I’ll just knock it out. I don’t consider it sincere. When it’s sincere, it’s got to be really sincere. I can’t understand people who can accept to do a 5000-word very sincere piece just simply prompted by an editor in the middle of a working schedule. I can’t get my head around that. Either I’ll write 500 words — somebody calls me up and I’ll just turn that around quickly and it’ll be glib and stupid or else it’s the books.” — Alain de Botton
As much as I whined about the used book sale my office was holding, it really wasn’t bad. It fact it felt really really good sometimes to be doing physical work with a measurable result. Once the books were packed, or sorted, or displayed or sold — instant gratification.
Today was the last day, so we packed up the thousands of unsold books. Some were picked up by other nonprofits, but some had to be thrown away. We all hated this. It really really offended our literary hearts. But we had no means of transporting them or storing them, and the nonprofit we were planning to donate them to had backed out.
Amanda, our work-study student, actually went around saving all the copies of Shakespeare. We felt like the leftover books were all wounded birds caught in an oil slick. Shayna: “I tried to save as many as I could.”