Held Back

I’m not sure if anyone gets held back in school anymore. I feel like nowadays students can go to summer school or do some extra credit to boost their scores and keep themselves from becoming little Ferris Buellers. But once upon a time, if you failed a couple classes in a grade, then you would have to stay back until you were taught a thing or two.

Sometimes, I think life is holding me back a grade.

Why? Because I can’t seem to move forward. And I’m sure at one point, everyone has felt this way. But if you haven’t, it sort of feels like you should have accomplished so much more at this time in your life. It’s a crippling sense of your own personal failure, and it is coupled with the aromatic scent of ramen noodles and spilled beer.

I mean, I am constantly hearing how one decision someone made in their twenties completely changed everything for them. Yes, the moment I decided to live in the wilderness of Alaska is when I realized that I was meant to be a tuba player. 

So, I ask myself: Shouldn’t I be doing something…I don’t know…important? Before I get too numb to the world and start having sleep-deprivating children?

And the troubling part is every other 20-something I know (EXCEPT ME) seems like they’re moving right along in the current called life. They’ve already figured it out. They land a job, move out, and find their soulmate in about a month. And a month later, they’re pregnant. Not that I’m totally envious of all that. (I like sleep way more than I’d like a child right now. But you can eat whatever you want…)

But really, what gives?

And sure, everyone tells you that you shouldn’t rush it. You’ll get there. You’re a late bloomer. You’ll figure it all out. But I can’t help but think that I’ve been waiting my whole life to grow up. And at the same time, I’m still waiting for it to hit me that I already am.

Which is why I’ve come to the very sound hypothesis that I’m being held back a grade in life. For some reason, the universe is confident that I am not ready. And if I think about it, I think whoever is making that decision is right. I’m not ready. I need time to puzzle things out about the rest of my life, even though the calendar says that it’s time that I had everything together.

But more than that, I also feel that I have more to learn. I honestly think that life has been trying to show me, trying to help me understand, what I need to do to pass this grade level, and I’ve been ignoring it. It’s like I have a blindfold on, and I’m lifting my foot up to step over an obstacle, but when my foot hits brick, I realize that I can’t step over the obstacle because it is an entire wall that I need to scale. So, I reach out and feel along the wall and realize that I don’t have the tools for climbing the wall, either. I’m not equipped yet, and I think life knows it. But I’m also not sure when that will happen for me. So, I grow impatient, and I bloody my knuckles from hitting the wall out of frustration.

The point is, I don’t know where I’m going or what I’m doing or even when I’ll get there. That’s for life to decide. But I also need to trust in the process. Because I’ve always been exactly where I’ve needed to be before. And I will get there again, someday. And so, assuredly, will you.

Burn Your Life Down

Do you ever want to burn your life down?

Metaphorically, speaking, of course.

But really. Do you ever want to start over? Raze all of your relationships to the ground, put fire to any friendships in your life, and walk away from it all, in slow motion, as the spark finally hits the gasoline barrel and your life explodes in a swirl of flames that somehow blows your hair away from your face as you casually slip into your Porsche, like in all of the movies?

Yeah, I feel something like that too, every once in a little while.

Because wouldn’t it be easier to start over? Wouldn’t it be easier if you could just pick up and leave? Move to another country where no one knows your name or the fact that you still haven’t grown out of the footie pajamas you wore to elementary school a few times? Wouldn’t it be easier to give up on all of your responsibilities in favor of being slightly selfish, locking yourself in a hotel room and eating good food and drinking better wine?

From this side of the fence, it sure looks like it would be easier. Or maybe it just looks like the entire plot of Eat, Pray, Love. 

But for whatever reason, when I consider my distant future, I get overwhelmed by the fact that there are so many pieces to put together. And it seems like nothing fits. And even worse, it feels like my life has pieces that don’t even go to the same puzzle. What am I supposed to do? Build two puzzles? Build another path in case I change my mind?

Of course, I’m a firm believer that you can’t really “mess” up your life. To admit that a person can mess up his or her life would be to suggest that there is a correct way to live. As profound as it may be, I simply believe that whatever you choose is your choice. And you can’t be anyone but yourself, so you can’t do anything in this life that isn’t right for you. You just have to live your life.

But, why does it feel like I’m going to be disappointing people if I don’t do a specific thing? Why do I feel like I have to everything figured out, retirement plan and all, before I have even considered the next ten years? Why can’t I just burn my life down and start fresh whenever I want to?

There’s a relatively simple answer. No, you shouldn’t burn your life down. (Or anything else, for that matter…)

When I start to feel like this, I realize that it probably isn’t because I want to start over. More like, I don’t know what to do with the resources I’ve been given. Metaphorically speaking again, it’s like I have a hammer and a few nails, but instead of building a house, I just want to throw the tools on a bonfire. It’s like I don’t know how to ask anyone, my friends or family, for help.

Really, when you want to burn your life down, it’s not necessarily that you want to start new. It’s probably because you are trying something new. Remember that your greatest assets are the people that hold out a candle to you so that you can make your way in the dark, not the people who hand you the book of matches.

The New MidLife Crisis

Sadly, we live in a youth-obsessed culture. And yet, we are often being told to grow up. To be a proper adult, we need to be able to afford an apartment payment and student loans, but we are also told to enjoy our freedom as young adults while it lasts, before we have a mortgage payment and children.

Huh?

It seems, that somewhere along the line, we got our signals crossed. This results in many twenty-somethings trying to balance a fully active lifestyle (social life included) while still trying  to juggle the responsibilities of someone twice their age. Think of a toddler playing dress-up in Mommy’s closet, high-heels on her too small feet. Get the picture?

So, what does this all mean? It means that many millienials right now are experiencing a midlife crisis… only about 1/3 of the way into their life. They are questioning their futures, lamenting the end of their lives (if only the lives they lived in college), and making extravagant, selfish purchases.

And do you know what I say? Do it. Have your midlife crisis, and eat some cake, too.

Because your twenties are about two things: making memories and making mistakes. You can’t do either if you are diligently tucking away each cent you make from your job. You should live a little. Just don’t empty your bank account doing it.

Of course, saving or paying for a place to live is smart (especially if your parents aren’t down with you trying to renovate the basement into your “man cave”), but you will begin to resent the money you are making if you do not use it to enrich yourself spiritually and emotionally rather than physically.

Like money, time is meant to be spent, not squandered away. And sadly, once it is gone, it is gone for good. So, spend each of these wisely but generously, and you will have no regrets when your time (and your money) is up.

5 Things That Are the Same in the “Real World”

What can I say? I love living in my fantasy world, which includes copious amounts of books, a large amount of blogging, and tons of tea.

But when I do come up from air and onto “the Facebook,” the number one complaint I hear from my peers is that the “real world” is something they are just now experiencing. From what I can discern, to live in the “real world,” you have to pay your own bills, obtain a job, and balance several activities at once. However, from my perspective, there are many things that seem very familiar and similar about the “real world” compared to the life of a college student. Luckily for recent or soon-to-be graduates, you can take some comfort in the fact that your transition won’t be as turbulent into the “real world” as you would have thought upon completing your degree. For instance, adults will still attend events if there is free food. After all, we’re only human.

But let’s take a look at a few things you can (and already) expect from your life as a young person in today’s “real world.”

1. You’re Exhausted. All of the time. 

-I’m not sure if you thought the sleep fairy would finally visit you once you got a full-time job, but I can assure you that she will remain conspicuously absent. If you’re looking for the bags under your eyes to disappear from all those all-nighters you spent writing last-minute papers, you will need to keep, ah… dreaming.

2. You Will Work Every Day on Something…and Not Finish It.

-With homework, you had to stop working on it at some point to eat or sleep. (Or maybe not if you see number 1). But at a 9-5, there is nothing to do but keep chugging along. You’ll finish your work because you have to (deadlines are a part of the “real world,” too), but you’ll be surprised to see how long you can work on something without making much visible progress. The trick is, and always will be, to keep going, even when everyone else has already stopped.

3. You Can Still Have Some Fun.

-Don’t worry, kids. Just because you are paying your own bills doesn’t mean there isn’t room in the budget to let loose once in awhile. Now that you are an adult, that old saying, “it’s 5:00 somewhere” will actually mean something to you. 

4. You Can Still See Your Friends.

-Of course, it was pretty awesome in college or in high school when your friends lived in the same hall or town as you, but you can always see your friends on your totally open and homework-free weekends. What’s more, you can afford to do something besides rent movies and eat ramen. (Not that that wasn’t the best time of your life, either. It’s just better for your heart if you slow down on the MSG.)

5. You Still Eat Poorly.

-Speaking of ramen, I’m usually trying to jam something down my throat at my desk so that I don’t break the flow of creativity. And rarely is the food sliding down my esophagus as healthy as I would like it to be. However, we all feel a certain nostalgia (and sense of pride) when we mix a few ingredients that wouldn’t normally go together to make a whole new dish. Who could forget my mac and cheese concoction, complete with avocado and pesto? Duh! Yum! Let’s call it resourcefulness instead of what it really is: laziness.

And so, I’m a little skeptical when people talk to me about the difficulties of the “real world.” I say, if you can get a few things done, see a friend every couple of weeks, and eat something for dinner that hasn’t been microwaved, then you can call yourself an adult. If not, well, we’re all in the same lifeboat. You know, women and children first.