When I was a child I thought I might be a teacher or a veterinarian, a psychologist or a writer. I wanted to work with animals. I wanted to teach others how to read. I wanted to explore the world. I wanted to write books and help people feel less alone. I wanted to be all of these things at once or maybe, if I was lucky, just one of them. Then I got a little bit older and a little bit older and most of those dreams died for one reason or another. Practicality was an issue, I guess.
I remember being 13 and talking on the telephone to my best friend. He lived in a log cabin and I lived on a farm. We asked each other when we might die and we both agreed we couldn’t picture living past 26. What happens after you’re 26? We weren’t sure. We were reading books like The Bell Jar and Girl, Interrupted and White Oleander and similar literature that made us feel a little more human on days when the rural landscape of our homes felt like it could swallow us up.
My dad was dying of cancer and always in the hospital so my mom would leave me alone a lot to go be with him so I didn’t have to deal With All That. My best friend and I were a 20-minute drive from each other, which doesn’t seem like too much, but when you’re 13 without the ability to drive 20 minutes feels the same as three time zones away. We had a lot of phone calls.
Now we’re older, older than 26, but I’m not sure if I’ve figured out how to be this really great person. You know, the kind of person that people are like, “Damn, she’s so cool.” I’ve never won a contest. I’ve never won anything, actually. I lost the 5th grade spelling bee. I’ve never been skydiving. I don’t know how to swim. I wish I rode my bike more. Wait, I don’t even own a bike. I hate taking selfies. I forgot to Skype my mom yesterday. I don’t understand why there are so many think pieces over guacamole.
It’s not a matter of not knowing who I am but rather still feeling a bit ambivalent about things – big life things like, should I live in this city? Should I settle down or keep traveling? Some things I do know for sure – like I know that I’ll never be in a folk band or release a chapbook of poetry. I know I’ll never live in my hometown again and that I have a great aversion towards Hawaiian pizza.
I guess life is just this weird thing. It’s like you’re 18 and you feel weightless and untouchable and like this sort of freedom could last forever but then one morning you wake up and you’re almost 30, staring down at the bottom of your coffee cup, wondering if any of it happened at all.
It’s cliché to say but life is really short – too short – it’s something you don’t really think about until someone you know dies or you’re reminded of your own mortality that sends you into a state of shock. You remember that nothing is permanent, certainly not life, so you think you’ll take up a painting class or visit your uncle you haven’t seen in 10 years – all of these things that you think could make life a bit more memorable.
But soon, as it always happens, you get back into your old routine. You forget about the canvas sitting in your closet or you forget to call your uncle. You keep living life and waking up and working and doing whatever it is you do. And that’s okay, of course, it’s just what we all do as humans, but sometimes I wish those moments that remind us just how alive we really are lasted a bit longer. We’re all so numb it seems.
I wish I could call my sister and say, “What’s your problem? You’re the only sister I have. Stop being such a colossal shit head.” These things, of course, I can’t and won’t say to her, mostly because you probably shouldn’t swear at people you love when you’re trying to convince them of something.
It’s hard being a people some days because the things you want or need are sometimes completely out of your control. There are no instruction manuals for relationships or how to properly manage adulthood or any of the things that can be so very confusing.
I’m 29 now. I’m a writer. I’m a traveler. Those are the things I tell people and yet still…