My boogers would freeze inside of my nose. That’s how cold it was this winter. I’d be making the four-minute walk from my car to my office and I’d feel the prickle in my nostrils and I’d think, “Must be extra-cold today.” Because that was the only way to measure how cold it was in 2014. My frozen boogers.
I moved to Ohio just over seven months ago. I flew from Venice to Chicago to Columbus in a day. The Days Inn I stayed at had Yelp reviews with helpful buzzwords like “used bandaid” and “prostitutes.” I’m not sure if it was excitement, adrenaline, or jet lag that helped me fall asleep and wake up four hours later, ready for my first day of full-time employment.
During my 55-minute commute today, I thought again about how weird it was I ended up here. In college, I was certain I’d end up teaching in Chicago Public Schools, happy and poor and fulfilled. Instead, I stare at a computer and shape no one’s lives…and I really, really like it here.
What’s that overused tagline again? Expect the unexpected?
1. You will lose touch with fixtures in your life
Are you allowed to cry when you realize things aren’t working out between you and your college…not-committed-but-still-a-thing-sometimes person? Because I did. The boy and I had been on-and-off for, oh God was it really two years? I was certain that if he hadn’t been placed in Europe for his first work rotation, he would be my boyfriend. Sometimes, I’d reach maximum delusion and tell people in Ohio that he pretty much was my boyfriend (this was based on two months of non-stop Snapchatting and almost no other intermittent communication). Did I drag it on because I missed college? Because it felt nice having a boy pay attention to me in a city where almost no one else would? Because I missed his deep obsession with the worst television show CBS has every produced, The Big Bang Theory?
Almost certainly it was one of the two former. Which is why, within a few weeks, I drank a few beers, reread He’s Just Not That Into You, and sent a final Snap of nothing but the carpet and the caption, “Please leave me alone.”
2. You will realize that rent, no matter how cheap, is an insane way to spend money
I can tell you what $1000 in rent gets you in Chicago, and I can tell you what it gets in Ohio. In Chicago, where everyone I know lives, it gets you a passable one-bedroom with no parking. In Ohio, it gets you a one bedroom with a pool, covered parking, access to a private movie theater, unlimited tanning, and the like. You will brag about these amenities to your friends and the only one they’ll be jealous of is the parking. You also will not go to the pool very often, and you will decide you don’t have enough time to keep tanning.
3. You will go to obscene lengths to make friends
It had been an amazing season for Sets and the City. Our little bar-league volleyball team had come back from a three-win season to play in the Tournament of Champions. We were down by two points in Game Three of the first elimination round.
I took my spot at service. I tried to visualize what the perfect serve would feel like, arching just over the net, plunking down right in the middle of the opposing team, not a fist swung to stop its progress into the sand.
“Twenty-two, twenty-four, service!”
My fist smacked the ball, the ball hit the net and fell lamely back into our side of the court. The other team started clapping and jumping around.
Oh. Right. I was really, really bad at sports. I’d never made a team that held try-outs in my life.
But I didn’t want to say no to anything in Columbus. There’s a club for young professionals in the Central Ohio areas? That’s me! A book club for middle-aged women that meets at local bars? Close enough, sign me up! A volleyball team with coworkers in a suburb thirty minutes from my apartment? Absolutely!
Post-grad life is a lot like college in that you sign up for everything and try making new friends everywhere. There’s just a lot less time to attend an Underwater Hockey info session so things get complicated.
For the record, everyone on the volleyball team forgave me and eventually attended my Halloween party.
4. You will do literally nothing for literally a whole weekend
This is different from the weekend before when you also did nothing, but went to brunch on Saturday with a girl you sort-of know and all of her weird grad school girlfriends. This is considered a roaring social success.
My first Fourth of July, I laid on an air mattress and watched Parks and Rec on Netflix. This is not considered a roaring social success.
5. You will meet someone you actually like
All of the adults have boyfriends. All of them. It gave me endless anxiety. And how exactly are you supposed to meet someone when everyone is already coupled up? So I made an OkCupid profile, thinking that at the very least I could go on some bad dates for some really good stories.
But the first date I went on was with my incredible now-boyfriend, so I didn’t even end up with any really good stories.
6. You will figure it all out
I have money in my bank account but I miss being a drive away from my parents.
I’ve learned how to make a doctor appointment but I sometimes cry in the bathroom at work.
I love my home-grown Ohio boyfriend but I talk to my best friend twice a week.
In ten years, I know I’ll look back on this time of my life and laugh. Laugh about how I didn’t know how to enroll in my 401(k) and laugh that I paid so much money for an apartment I never slept in and laugh that I ever worried so much about finding meaning in my life when I was only 22.
I mean, I have to figure it out eventually.