It’s a good day to be a palindromic age.
I was supposed to be over milestones by now. My sociology professors would tell me that it’s human nature to seek meaning in that which is inherently meaningless. The passing of days, the rotation of the earth…we are desperate to imbue these natural phenomena with some sort of greater purpose, so that we are not driven mad with nihilism.
My sociology professors would say that, but then, I’ve always believed I could transcend human nature through pure rationality. It’s a little arrogant, I admit.
I think I expected to be happier, by now. If you asked the sixteen-year-old me what future she envisioned for her barely more mature self, she would probably have answered: a small but cozy apartment, a tight clique of friends with similar interests and disparate personalities, weekends strolling to the bookstore and picking up a guilty pleasure read on a whim, or else checking out that latest art gallery installation. She wouldn’t have imagined days when it was difficult to get out of bed, or nights when it was difficult to stop crying. She wouldn’t have thought of weeks and weekends of barely enough sleep to survive, pushing through to finish just one more project for just one more class that she couldn’t care less about if she tried.
We never really do imagine that, when we think of the future.
I think the sixteen-year-old me would have been intimidated if she met the person I am today. Intimidated and maybe even cowed, by the aloofness, the unforgiving idolization of intellect, and the imitation of maturity. She would be a little disdainful, too, because even at sixteen I would have recognized the jadedness that I now call second nature for the fraud it was. Is.
At sixteen, I made a document of a hundred and one things I wanted to do in a thousand and one days. Learn Japanese. Learn ASL. Learn how to play Bridge. Get a driver’s license. Not procrastinate for a whole week. Hold someone’s hand. Write a comic strip. Get a tattoo.
The list is painful to read. Not because most of the things were never accomplished—that I resigned myself to long ago—but because I was once naive enough to believe that the things I cared about at sixteen would be the same things I cared about at nineteen. I guess the adults were right about this one.
About a month later, I wrote a list of one hundred facts about myself as an exercise for a diary entry. I guess I was feeling introspective that winter.
The self-recrimination that wafts through those particular pages is practically toxic.
Part of me wants to reach through the years to that (stereotypically) angry and bitter teenager and tell her that everything will be okay. The other part of me wants to laugh at my hypocrisy, because things aren’t okay, not when okay is defined by two pills, taken once daily, do not mix with alcohol.
But you know, things aren’t bad, either. They’re not a teenager’s idle daydreams, but they’re okay. And sometimes, even when I don’t have an iron-fisted control over everything in my life, things turn out alright. Eventually.
I guess that’s the thing I’m trying to teach myself, these days.