I’m staring out the window of the train like I do every morning. Maybe I’m hungover. Maybe I took a melatonin the night before and haven’t snapped out of it yet. Maybe my head hurts, and I’m closing my eyes underneath my sunglasses, wishing I had on an eye mask instead. Or maybe there is no sun because it’s raining, and I can see the individual beads of water trailing down the pane, and for once it feels like an appropriate time to be sad, because that’s what people do in movie montages when they miss someone; stare out of windows while it’s raining.
What’s certain is that I didn’t get out of bed until long after my third snooze alarm went off, and even though I haven’t put on makeup, or washed my hair, or showered, or some combination of the three, I’m still late. And I’m going to be even later because I can’t find some crucial possession at the very last minute. And while I technically can’t leave without my CTA card or my keys, I just refuse to without my headphones because I find public transportation to be unbearable without them. And sometimes life too.
I work from nine to five, well, not nine because I’m later than late, and then I go to class, or see my therapist, or take my laptop somewhere and write, or watch TV. Some other kind of work, even if it’s just making the effort to entertain myself. And then I go to sleep and wake up and do it all over again.
I’m fourteen and I’m trying to find my way down to the ground so I can sit because all I can see is TV static, except I’m in the school gym, not my living room, and I feel so light-headed that I’m pretty sure I’m going to faint, except I don’t, and I wonder if I’ll ever be in shape or get used to running suicides or not feel so awkward playing basketball or just trying to fit in with the other girls on my team.
I am seventeen and staring at the front door of the restaurant waiting for someone to come in. I’ve eaten two cups of pasta fagiole and three pieces of bread and have paced up and down behind the counter at least ten times. I’ve antagonized all my co-workers with phrases like “no mames güey” and “chupa mi verga”, and now there is nothing else to do, and it’s a Friday night and everyone else I know is doing something with their friends, and I wish my life was different. That I didn’t spend so much time feeling so alone.
I am twenty and everyone is trying to convince me to go out, except I am still anxious about whatever I did while I was drunk the night before, and I haven’t learned to say no to anyone, or admit that I’m upset and that alcohol definitely isn’t going help. I miss the bubbly, outgoing girl I used to be before I started questioning all my friendships. I don’t wonder if all the drinking and not sleeping and living in a house with fifty other people and not being able to go to a grocery store is causing the stress. I’m just terrified at the thought that everyone might like me because I always say yes and talk too loud and make everyone take shots. Because I’m the only one who knows that’s not really who I am.
I’m twenty-one, and I’ve graduated a year early to start my dream job, but all my friends are still at school, and the few who aren’t live in another suburb, with their parents just like I do, and I’m the youngest person in the office, so interacting with anyone my age is a rare occurrence. I don’t understand why I’m not happier now that I’ve “made it”, and I have no clue what to do next, or with the rest of my life, or even how to earn enough money to move out on my own. No one told me it would be like this while they were telling me how well I was doing in school, and I’m blindsided. I’m just waiting for something, for anything, to happen.
I’m twenty-four and my co-workers are all talking about the restaurant they’re going to tonight, and I’m jealous they didn’t invite me, except I don’t blame them, because I live in the suburbs and someone is waiting for me at home and it’s exhausting and stressful to make sure I don’t miss the train, then sit there drunk, trying not to fall asleep on the way home. So I usually just skip it anyway. I’m looking forward to another of my friend’s shows this weekend, except I’m jealous of that too. How she’s made friends with all her cast mates. How funny and cool they seemed. How captivating they were onstage.
I’m twenty-five and this isn’t working, and I’ve known for a long time that it hasn’t been, but I can’t imagine life after this. On the other hand, I also can’t take this stress much longer, and I know that any day, any minute, I’m just going to break, that I’m going to admit that I’m bored, that I’m not happy, that this isn’t the life that I want, but I still haven’t done anything about it because as bad as it is, I’m afraid that what will come after could be so much worse.
I’m twenty-six and in my elevator, and I grab onto the handrail because I’m starting to see the TV static for the first time in years, and my heart is racing, and I tell myself this can’t be happening right now, because they’re in my lobby, and I have to go let them inside, and it will be so embarrassing if I end up on the floor of this elevator. I’ve never met anyone who made me feel like I was going to pass out, and I know I am in so much trouble because I’m getting used to having them in my life and letting them care about me and listening to what they dreamed about last night and all their most personal stories like it’s no big deal, except it absolutely is; it’s what’s getting me through the day right now, the one thing I can consistently look forward to, and there is no way this is going to end well for me. But I’ve decided to milk it for as long as I can, so I take a few deep breaths until my vision comes back, and open the door as if nothing’s the matter.
I’m staring out the window of the train like I do every morning. Maybe I’m hungover. Maybe I took a melatonin to catch up from all the fun I’ve been having, the comedy classes, the drag shows, the late nights writing, or fighting over what music video to watch next while we all drink gin and tequila. Maybe my head hurts, and I’m closing my eyes underneath my sunglasses wishing I had on an eye mask instead. One of the three in my nightstand next to the bed I made this morning that is waiting for me to jump into it when I get home to my apartment. To sprawl out my arms and legs underneath my gravity blanket and revel in having the whole bed to myself.
Or maybe there is no sun because it’s raining, and I can see the individual beads of water trailing down the pane, and I do what people do in movie montages when they miss someone; stare out of windows while it’s raining. But I miss them when it’s sunny too, and when the weather is just kind of blah, and I’ve learned that any time is an appropriate time to be sad. That it’s okay to feel unsatisfied with the ordinary when you’ve experienced something extraordinary. It’s okay to prefer fainting to being bored to death.
What’s certain is that I didn’t get out of bed until long after my third snooze alarm went off, and I’ve mastered the art of the KStew just-rolled-out-of-bed look, and I’m still late, because the watch I bought myself tells me so. And I’m going to be even later because I can’t find some crucial possession at the very last minute. And while I technically can’t leave without my CTA card or my keys, I’ve got a great book in my leather backpack that I’m obsessed with, and a journal, and a calendar full of exciting plans to look forward to.
I work from nine to five, well, not nine because I’m later than late, and then I get to go to one of, if not the best, comedy school in the country, or see my therapist and talk about all the progress I’ve made, or take my laptop somewhere to write, somewhere they know me and will probably give me a drink on the house, or watch TV. Some other kind of work, even if it’s just making the effort to entertain myself. And then I get to go to sleep and wake up and do it all over again – live the life I’ve wanted for so long, knowing that with patience and a little effort, it will only get better from here.