What do you want to be when you grow up? a four year old asked me. He was mimicking, as that’s something we ask and suggest to them every day. His options are vast: ninja today, astronaut tomorrow. Some of the girls veer towards princess. Most people don’t become princesses, I say. But Grace Kelly did! That’s not what you’re supposed to remember about her.
She was kind! Remember: she was kind.
They ask me back, maybe because I’m small, or because I look young, or maybe because they can see the general realm of confusion that permeates through my skin. Who knows? It’s a question I still get, only as I get older, the question becomes more embarrassing, and even harder to answer.
It’s been a wacky few weeks, full of head bugs and witches and busy schedules and snow and sun and fighting and making up and slipping on spinach and now a blatant disregard for comma use. But there’s been one topic of conversation that has come up over and over. It’s this thing a lot of people like to call the Quarter Life Crisis. I’m renaming it to the Mid-Twenties Slump.
The Mid-Twenties Slump is more about being scared. I’m scared to give up on my dreams: the ones that still seem to change from day to day, the ones that I’m not even sure are real, because the people that I love the most are still struggling to accomplish theirs, and I’m scared of how I will look to them if I agree to a job in an office, filing papers and answering telephones and leaving the idea of publishing a novel or starting a ceramics business in the past. I’m also scared to pursue my dreams: because they keep changing, because they make no money, because what if I fail and I finally realize that I’m not as good at all those things I was told I was good at as a kid.
The Mid-Twenties Slump is when you realize that you’re no longer a recent graduate, and that the line markers that were set up for you as a kid, as a young adult, as a recent graduate, have yet to be achieved. It’s when you realize that other people are passing right by you and you’re treading water in the same place, with the same job, with the same problems that you can’t seem to fix.
The Mid-Twenties Slump is when you start asking yourself how important is it to have a job that you love, and why? When you actually start worrying about health insurance and benefits and realizing that you still don’t completely understand how a 401k works. It’s when you realize that you’re working a job that you will never be able to retire from because you are never able to save more than a hundred dollars a month; that you will always have to live in an apartment or house with multiple roommates in order to make rent; that you haven’t taken a real vacation since you were in college; that you will never make 35k a year. It’s when you start questioning your worth, and then wondering why humans mark their value in the amount of money they bring home each year.
The Mid-Twenties Slump is not strictly relegated to those in their mid-twenties.
The things that I’m passionate about, that many of the people I love are passionate about, are not things that our society tends to place value on. Making art is not as important as being able to sell things to the general public. It’s hard for me to understand how anyone can be passionate about marketing, or you know, passionate about selling a particular brand of floss. Why is it that manipulation is often more valued than creating beautiful things?
Then again, maybe I just don’t understand. Because people are passionate about everything. Some people find punching numbers exhilarating or the font used on an advertisement just right. Others want nothing more than to plate the perfectly cooked steak every single order. And some see the beauty in cleaning and organizing, in meticulously kept files, in bunsen burners and beakers.
I just happen to find the glaze on a ceramic bowl mesmerizing. I like sad songs you can’t dance to and headstands after a long day. And I, no matter how many times I lose sight of it, will always find joy in watching and listening to people, searching for the middle of every story, the meat with the bones still in.
The Mid-Twenties Slump is the frustration of not having the answers. Then again, even grownups don’t have all the answers.