Truthfully, I wish things were different. I wish I were different. I guess we all sort of wish that in one way or another – she wants a little more of this, he wants a little less of that. But the changes I wish I could implement don’t relate to the small quirks of my personality, the somewhat lackluster wave of my hair or the way my laugh sounds when I’m tired. It’s bigger than that. I wish I knew my purpose. I wish, even just for one day, to feel like I utterly and completely belonged in a certain moment doing a certain thing. I wish I could replace my sense of studiousness with a sense of wonder. I wish I sat on the back of a moped in Thailand or somewhere on the sand in Kenya or on a monument in Macchu Picchu rather than behind my desk every single day.
I’ve always been nomadic. But I wish roamed towards the places that are full of culture instead of the places that are full of monetary opportunity.
I’m only 22. I hear it from adults all the time – how lucky I am to be in my youth, and how much choice I have in what lies ahead of me. And in all seriousness, I know they’re right. I know I have plenty of time to make the changes that I wish to see in my own life. I could walk into my cubicle-filled office on Monday morning, throw my excel spreadsheets into the air and never look back. I’d sure as hell bet I could catch an Uber from Market Street to the Philadelphia airport. The global opportunities are endless.
But society has a funny way of operating. It steers us towards professional development, and it has such a focus on monetary wealth. Don’t get me wrong – education is wonderful. We should never stop learning, as our world has so much to offer and we have so much to know. But we’ve come to a point in time where school is synonymous with education. Textbook is synonymous with lesson and job is synonymous with success. We are taught the theory behind life rather than the practice of experiencing it. Who says that college degree is a better educational experience than a yearlong sabbatical in Yemen? Could we even point Yemen out on a map? Do we know what type of foods they eat there, or how their society regards women, or how you greet someone in Yemen when you enter their home?
I’m starting to ramble, so I’ll get to the point. I’m not going to leave my office job in my office cubicle. I’m not going to tell my boss that it is in fact me who steals his iced tea out of the fridge every week. I’m not going to light my paycheck on fire or shave my head and move to a remote jungle in Belize. But I am going to make a promise to myself that things won’t be this way forever.
Like I said, I’m only 22. I have to pay my dues and save up some hard-earned dough, because my grandmom tells me that’s “just the world we live in” and because I like eating things other than ramen noodles. My life right now is full of adult-like decisions that feel much too mature for someone who was in college three months ago. I’m trying to adjust and I’m trying to decide, and truthfully, I spend most of my time trying to convince myself that it’s all going to be okay. That eventually I won’t cry when I see pictures of the boy who broke my heart and that I really will visit my best friend next month. That it’s okay for me to drink a bottle of wine on a Wednesday, because I cooked something outside of a microwave oven and because I’ve had a long day.
So this is it; this is my promise. I promise that sometimes, it will be too overwhelming. Sometimes I’ll lie on my bathroom floor crying, wondering whether or not I’ll ever find someone who will love me through and through. I’ll get fired, get re-hired, and probably get fired again. I’ll move to a place where I don’t know a single soul and I’ll feel awkward as hell trying to meet people. I’ll stay late at work for a week straight, wondering why I’m giving my life to a computer screen. I’ll get too drunk and throw up in my own hair, then cry to my best friend about how easy things were when we were five. I’ll lose loved ones. I’ll gain guardian angels.
I promise myself that I will make a list of every place in this world I want to visit, every thing in this life that I want to do and every way I can bring myself a piece of happiness. Each time one of these overwhelming moments consumes me, I promise to check something off my list. I will go skydiving; I will plan a trip to Carnival in Panama; I will give money to a homeless person or buy myself a new book. For every trial and tribulation that comes with the stress of societal life, I will do something to keep myself grounded. I will remind myself of the more important things. I will not forget my purpose or my happiness.
I’m only 22. I promise to live for myself.