When people ask you how things are going you tell them “Fine. Everything’s fine.” Because it is. You’ve settled into a nice career, you love your roommate, and you’ve been eating well. Those five pounds you gained in the winter are gone and now you just stare at your flat stomach in the mirror, hoping it will unleash some secret about being happy. Grab the fat and revel in how little there is. Stare at it for a long time until you feel like you have rolls again. Go to bed.
Watch everyone around you get into relationships that make sense. These people aren’t disposable idiots you’ll laugh about over brunch the next day. They’re sweet, attractive, and responsible. Simply put, they’re marriage material. You can’t say anything bad about them even if you wanted to. (You don’t want to, do you?) Feel a warm sense of relief that your friends are no longer dating losers and then feel an immediate surge of panic. This is Serious. These are Serious Relationships. These are the weddings you’ll attend at 29 or 30-years-old and give toasts to. These are the people who will take your friends away from you. Like most things, it’s bittersweet. You try not to think too much about it and just smile. Smile wider. Smile tighter. Smile till your face breaks in half then pick up the pieces and apologize for making such a mess.
You had problems. You did. You had habits that prevented you from being loved. You spent too much time in altered states, so you scaled back. Now you only drink two glasses of white wine at dinner and smoke pot on Sundays. You think this will fix everything, you think that by making these positive changes everything will magically be better for you. You’ll be at peace.
That didn’t happen though. Well, it did a little bit, I guess. You are happier without the junk. This is an undisputed fact. You feel better, you look better. Everything is just better. But it wasn’t a miracle cure. When Saturday afternoons roll around, you still fill yourself with dread. You still busy yourself with mundane activities to distract yourself from the fact that you’re alone, that you’ve failed to connect with another human being. If you did, you would have your Saturday afternoons booked. You would be able to be 100% happy about your friends and their Serious Relationships. You would be able to feel less anxiety. “Don’t stress. You’ve made it. You’re already here. Somebody loves you. Shhh, no more nightmares about Saturday afternoons, okay? Someone will take it from here.”
You’re bored. All of the pieces of your life puzzle have come together except for That One. The most important one. Or maybe it just seems like the most important one because you don’t have it. No, screw it. It’s the most important one. I’m sorry, it is. Finding someone to chill out with for the rest of your life is more important than your steady job and good eating habits. Maybe if things were crappy, maybe if you hadn’t stopped drinking so much and gotten fat, you would have other terrible things to distract you.
That kind of thinking is disgusting, isn’t it? It’s the absolute worst! But those thoughts cross your mind when you spend your thousandth night in, when you feel the pressure of an invisible clock working against you. You’re starting to get antsy now. The fear of scooping up your own shit at the age of ninety is becoming palpable. Hurry, hurry.
You date but you’re underwhelmed by everyone. You know in the first five minutes whether or not it will work. Five minutes. You take people home sometimes anyway and you hold them so tight. You pretend that you love them and you create your own fantasy. “In this fantasy, I don’t want to get rid of you in the morning. And action!” You get sad when they leave and you don’t even know why. You used to always know why you felt something but it’s becoming less clear these days. This, somehow, seems like the scariest thing to you. This idea that you’re losing touch with yourself and forgetting the reasons why is terrifying. Because at the end of the day, you only have yourself. If you don’t know yourself, you know no one.