The second half of 2016 was a whirlwind. After graduating and leaving Boise, Kevin and I drove across the country (again) to leave Meeko at my sister’s apartment so we could fly out of Boston airport to Iceland and Paris.
Thanks to cheap flights, that monthly discount on Airbnb, and a limited food budget (mostly baguettes), Kevin and I stayed in Paris for a month. This was Kevin’s first international trip, so it felt really special to share something that has been so important with him.
We spent most of our time going to museums and gardens, with bakery stops in between.
I still owe Kevin back for the trip (because you know I didn’t have that kind of money saved up on a graduate student salary!), but between my graduating and him starting his own MFA program this fall, we agreed it was worth the risk while we had the free time.
After Paris we drove back across the country and stopped in Laramie to find a place to live. We snagged a still-being-renovated apartment with a fenced yard which Meeko was very excited about. The apartment is one of four in a renovated, hundred year old house. Two of our windows have breaks in the glass. The bathroom was built on what used to be a deck. But, it is almost twice the size of our Boise apartment… for the same price. While I’d hoped to find a place in a newer building for the sake of cheaper heat, Kevin and I stuck to our budget and signed a 10 month lease. The whole time we were apartment hunting in Laramie, we stayed in another Airbnb in Northern Colorado where our host made us delicious breakfast every morning. Meeko made friends with the black lab, and overcame her fear of the deck.
At the end of the summer, we spent a month living in Nampa with his mom while I commuted to Boise to teach two summer camps for a new startup. After that, it was off to Laramie, officially! I put my budget organizing and decorating skills to use and hit up Craigslist, yard sales, and the local oddity/flea market, Bart’s. (If you are ever driving on I-80 and need a place to stop and walk around, go check out Bart’s! You never know what you’re going to find there. Except wagon wheels, there’s always wagon wheels.)
The best find was a brown couch with an embroidered scene of horses running across the plains. Too perfect.
It took a while to get settled in Laramie, and I am still figuring out the best way to cobble together multiple streams of income while I build up my new business. But, the cost of living is pretty low out here. I don’t go out to do much other than events with the University of Wyoming’s MFA program. A few years ago I might not have liked that, but right now, it is kind of perfect. I spend seven days a week working on projects from home, writing, consulting, building up my websites, and constantly looking to that future I hope to have.
Kevin is loving his program, I’m enjoying how much I can focus on work here, and Meeko is eating all the snow she can. On to 2017!
Where did we get this idea from, that we should be happy at our jobs?
“As long as you’re happy in your job….”
“When you’re happy with your job, it won’t feel like work….”
How often have you heard someone say things like this to you? This idea of a job bringing happiness, continuous joy to the extent that the pure emotion overrides any lack of income, free time, or control is silly, and I think we all need to stop saying it.
“But I am happy in my job!” That one person will say. No, I say. The dictionary may say that joy, contentedness, satisfaction are all synonyms for happiness, but I disagree. Some of us are lucky and privileged enough to find work in fields we are passionate about, but even then, there is no guarantee for joy. What is this weird pressure to find happiness from working for someone/something else? And if we are not happy in our jobs, then it is our fault– we are lazy, we are over-qualified, we are under-qualified, we are overpaid and compensate with over-indulging, or we are under-paid and must take on another job to balance the other.
What if we stopped creating this unreasonable pressure to “be happy” at our jobs? In fact, what if we stopped asking about happiness altogether?
I think the word has taken on larger definitions than the dictionary can hold. I think the word, and the pursuit of the emotion it promises leads so many of us to wonder….. “Why aren’t I happier?” I do not believe humans are meant to “feel happy” one hundred percent of the time. Even if nothing is catastrophically wrong with our lives, this does not equate to happiness all day.
Instead of inquiring about happiness, I choose to focus on joy. I think a good job would be one where we experience moments of joy on every shift. More than that, such a job would ideally make us feel that we are the best human being for that job, that something about our person, our character, and our experience would make us specially qualified and needed at that particular job.
When someone asks, “Are you happy?” I want to clarify. In this moment? This hour? Eating this ice cream cone? Sure. But luckily, thankfully, I have this super-complex brain that allows me to feel more than one emotion at a time. I can have a good day, get momentarily mad when a driver cuts me off on the highway, feel an appropriate emotional response to it, and then feel “neutral” for the rest of my drive home. Not being happy, or not feeling happy does not automatically mean a person is experiencing a negative emotion. Can you actually imagine feeling true happiness ALL DAY? It would be exhausting!
“A lifetime of happiness? No man can bear it: it would be hell on earth.” -George Bernard
Feeling content, sure. Feeling grateful, sure. Feeling thoughtful, sure. Feeling open to moments of joy throughout the day, absolutely.
Moments of joy, not happiness. This is the reality, and I do not see anything wrong or lesser in that description. As writer Eric Wilson wrote, “To desire only happiness in a world undoubtedly tragic is to become inauthentic”.
When I was little, my parents were very involved with making sure I had a love of reading. I even completed the Hooked on Phonics program (and yes, it worked for me.)
One morning Kevin and I went down a rabbit hole of our genealogy after he revealed he was related to Davy Crockett’s brother, and I revealed I was related to Pocahontas/Matoaka– not the Disney one, the real person. (Sidenote, this really shouldn’t be hard to believe. 17+ generations back, and with families having ten+ children, there are probably quite a number of people who are just as related to Pocahontas as I am.) As I dug through my file box for the stapled packet tracing my family back to Jamestown, Virginia, I found a file of my old reading incentives.
Reading incentives? Yes. With my sister and I reading ravenously, sometimes it was hard to remember who had read which book. We started keeping track with long lists of which books we had read. The incentive was pennies for each book, as noted by the “$3! Good job!” notes from my Mom at the bottom of the pages. These few dollars meant the world to my sister and I, and we’d often save up together to pool our money for trinkets, or carnival games at the Ocean City boardwalk.
I don’t know how after all of my moves and organizing and donating that these few pages from the late nineties made it to my file box, but I am glad they did. I like my use of milky pens, showing off my cursive, and of course, struggling to assign a genre to the Beanie Baby catalogue. (My mom wrote in non-fiction).
I did find my genealogy pages shortly afterwards. Kevin and I discovered that our families were in Virginia at the same time but in different counties, and that Davy Crockett spoke against Andrew Jackson and the Indian Removal Act, which Kevin was very relieved about. But, in Crockett’s memoir he claims some violent acts against Natives. History is never straightforward, it seems. Even in our memoirs.
When aspects of our life are not fulfilling, we seek out other ways to fill the void. This is not always a negative thing, and certainly I am the first to admit that despite grad school, dog ownership, relationships, sickness or health, I enjoy watching things move on a screen. TV shows and movies are highly enjoyable to me, but it took my nearly 25 years to realize the vicious cycle of free time vs work, and how so many of us are addicted to certain habits in order to “relax and have fun.”
When I think about the forty+ hour work week, I wonder what the long term benefits are of only having two of every seven days to call our own. When I hear people talking about their fantasy retirement, I wonder “what about the 30, 40, 50 years until then??”
Meeko gives up on her day whenever she finds a good spot to nap in
I don’t want to think of my free time in terms of years, weeks, or even days. Free time is every half hour of my day that I’m not working for someone else. Five o’clock is no longer the hour when I give up on my day.
Over a year ago, I was writing only a few hours a week. Sure, I did research on publishing and literary journals, but deep down I knew I could be trying harder. Every day that guilt sat at the bottom of my stomach, pulling me into self-doubt and making me question whether I could call myself a writer at all.
My long-term motivation comes from completing projects and completing to-do lists. Short-term motivation comes from imagining how I will feel after accomplishing a small task. It is certain that I will not achieve any of my goals if I do not begin with simply finishing the short story or essay at hand. My planner holds my time commitments for the week so that my brain doesn’t spend energy remembering appointments.
It is a privilege that the hardships in my life are faceable, and fixable for the most part. I am grateful that I can choose to work on my writing goals this evening, after a shift at my temp job.
There is no age limit where we should give up on our dreams. It is a privilege that we can use our free time to achieve our goals, so let’s get to work.
In response to the great support I received from my earlier post on the micro living movement and my increasing interest in living small, I thought I would dive into a popular aspect of this movement: repurposing things.
Resourceful is a characteristic I’ve prided myself in, and whether you call it scrappy, creative, or just cheap, it has certainly helped me out in all of my moving adventures. I think there are two sides to being resourceful in terms of physical, material things. The first is seeing potential in an item. The second is seeing how an action from you can change the item.
Seeing what else an item could be, what properties it has, or what changes you can bring to it increases it’s usefulness. Maybe you have a friend who re-paints old furniture pieces, or glues sequins onto T-shirts. I see this as a form of resourcefullness, and repurposing. You have an option to go buy a brand new shirt that reflects a trend, or you have an option to add (or take away) from a shirt you already have. Of course, to do this takes time, which is a privilege, so we all pick and choose what we do ourselves and what we buy from people or companies who can do it faster and cheaper.
With the boom of websites like Etsy and Saturday markets, people are certainly getting their craft on. I remember when my mom bought me a hot glue gun a few years ago, and I laughed, remembering her projects of gluing Ric-Rac onto curtains or googly eyes onto cards. Well the joke was on me because I have used that glue gun for more home projects than I could have ever imagined. In the past few months, two pairs of shoes started “talking” (separating from the sole) and I glued them right back together. I also fixed my glasses case, saving me from a purchase I would have been very unexcited about.
This may all seem quite small scale, or perhaps you are thinking that owning a glue gun is a bit too feminine for your taste. I strongly advise you get over that because a glue gun is as useful as duct tape and a staple gun (my personal favorites for fixing stuff back together. Just ask Kevin, I staple-gunned the fabric falling off the ceiling of his car. Home improvement, car improvement, done.)
In San Francisco I got really into estate sales. The ultimate repurposing from people who generally had high quality things. I found three hard suitcases at one of them, realizing their potential immediately. The guy running the estate sale jokingly asked if I was “late for a train,” when I walked up to pay for them. As in, people haven’t used hard suitcases since the days of waiting at the train station with your parasol and a handkerchief. Well sir, would you be laughing now when one suitcase has become a table, another a foot rest while I write, and the third… Well actually the third is just a hat box, because how could I not have a hat box for $5??
Buried beneath all of these suggestions, I know there is a fear of becoming a hoarder of things that you “might use one day.” The truth is, the ability you have to hang onto potentially useful things is directly tied to how much actual space you have within your home. For me, a smaller space forces me to complete projects quickly, and prevents me from having a build up of projects, which will only cause me more stress. It can be a fine line to walk, but that is something every household has to figure out for themselves. I wouldn’t wish for anyone to turn into the infamous “dumpster divers” from the show Portlandia. Watch what I’m talking about here: Portlandia Dumpster Divers
In integrating my things and Kevin’s things, I reluctantly realized that my large wooden table (a great find on craigslist from a schoolteacher who was moving) could not fit under the loft bed with all of it’s leaves in. I stood in front of that table, hands on my hips and asked, “what am I going to do with you?” Unscrew the rounded extensions of the table and turn them into wall shelves, that’s what.
In my English 102 class that I teach, I encouraged my students to question everything about the world around them. Why does something have to be the way it is, just because that’s the way it’s been? Of course, it’s difficult to question something when you don’t even know there’s an alternative. This was exactly the case for me before I stumbled upon the micro living movement. As a homework assignment, I asked my students to pretend that they had the power to add one required class to the entire University’s curriculum. Something everyone would have to take. I encouraged them to be as selfish in their own interests as they wanted, and not be afraid to have fun. We were all surprised at the amount of of students, men and women, who argued for a survival class, a basic construction class, or something similarly hands-on.
There is so much information out there about using tools, repurposing materials, and even just painting something a different color. Question the things you are used to, especially within your home. The questioning itself will be freeing, but the exhilaration that comes from fixing or changing something is truly special. We should all be less afraid to pick up a tool and do something. Not just for the sake of fighting gender roles, not with the intent of never buying something ‘nice’ again, and not in the hope of feeling like a superior human being to others. Try it because it’s fun, because it’s rewarding, and it challenges the idea that every new issue within your home requires the purchase of a brand new thing.
I’d love to hear what things you have repurposed in your apartment or home– feel free to share in the comments! Thanks for reading.
Micro living. If you haven’t heard this term yet, it is a movement against unnecessarily large homes and unmanageable mortgages and for creating an optimal life/work balance in a teeny tiny space. Or, as one participant in the documentary “Tiny: A Story About Living Small” said, the outside of your living space should draw you in, and the inside should draw you out.
The truth is I hadn’t heard much about this movement until I moved to the West coast. It’s more than just poorer people, like myself, only having small spaces as options. Wealth has nothing to do with it, though in a way it does. People of all backgrounds and financial standing are fighting against a created US ideal: that the size of your house indicates the success of your life.
In high school and part of middle school, I lived in a mansion. A pretty legit mansion in Buffalo, New York, in a planned suburb. It had three different “living rooms,” one for the actual TV and couches, one for an extensive dining table that I don’t ever remember being full, and one for less comfortable furniture that everyone was encouraged to stay out of. What was it all for? I don’t blame my family for getting sucked into the norms of most US families, moving up in life and feeling a desire to display this moving up to the world through increasingly larger square footage. I’m also not saying that micro living or being a tiny house dweller automatically makes one a better person. I am saying that it is a different way of thinking, one totally different from the values I was brought up with, and I find myself increasingly intrigued by the principles behind the movement.
Until about a year ago, I never questioned that someday I would have a mortgage on a cute house with 3-4 bedrooms and a yard. I also never questioned that I would spend most of my life paying off that mortgage to some extent.
Moving to Boise, I had a very strict budget. I was adamant that I would not allow myself to take out any more student loans. I would just have to make it work here. The apartment I eventually found through the help of an awesome friend in my grad school program is 444 square feet total.
I remember when my mom and sister visited for the first time. My mom’s first reaction, “I cannot believe you actually live here.” There are three rooms, all connected like a really long hallway. Moving here I realized I didn’t need any more space, at all. Limited space meant I had to go outside and walk my dog every day. It meant adventuring, hiking, limited grocery “stocks.” All of this worked for my budget. I can’t buy anymore than will fit in my apartment, and it turned out, that’s all I really needed.
With Kevin moving in, I had to rearrange the layout of my place. But once again, I found myself surprised how a few changes created even more space in what was supposed to be this tiny apartment. Kevin and I bought a wooden loft bed from a local builder in Boise (his website is here) which created a whole other writing space for us to share.
There is so much information online about this tiny house movement, and the more I read about it, I know this is right for me. I haven’t decided if I’d want to build a place on wheels, or build a more permanent cabin. In the same documentary mentioned above, there was a family of four with a dog. The couple explained how they originally lived in a tiny house on wheels with their dog. Once they were ready to have kids they built a 500 square foot house on their land, and now use the first tiny home as their work space. My arms felt tingly and my heart jumped. People are really doing this, I thought. By removing the enormous burden of house debt/mortgage from my future, I wonder what other possibilities might open up.
In the meantime, for practice, I plan on continuing to live in tiny rented spaces, and making improvements as needed. Below are some pictures of the small improvements Kevin and I made in order to fit two writers and a dog into 444 square feet.
This is my second go at this, at living with the person I am dating. We aren’t married, we might be eventually, but there’s no promise and there’s no ticking clock on it. Just cohabiting and splitting the rent.
I remember my first time around moving in with someone, and though I felt supported by my family and friends on the decision, I still felt unsure of what expectations to have of myself. I especially did not know how else to really “test” the future of the relationship besides the next step of moving in together. “How else can you really get to know someone?” people would say. It’s true, and we all know it’s true. Even our closest friends may not know all of our strangest habits, the rituals we perform in the secrecy of our room, apartment, or otherwise private living space.
So without making this a diary of my actual current relationship, I thought it would be interesting to collect some of the major questions or concerns I would express to anyone looking at this next step. Twenty-one year old me would have loved to read a list like this, but of course, I didn’t even think of googling it. These are conclusions I’ve come to, and in no way do I think I am done learning all the lessons there are to learn from dating, cohabiting, and truly sharing a life with a person. If this is helpful in any way to someone, I would be incredibly happy. If you are reading this just out of curiosity on my viewpoints on cohabiting, then you are most welcome here as well.
Questions to ask or consider of your partner and yourself:
Does your partner ever annoy you? This may seem harsh, but this is the reality. It is unlikely your significant other will ever not annoy you. Whatever or whenever it is, you should have an actual conversation about it. If it’s something big, then make sure you have enough time and a low energy space to talk things over. It may be something small, for example, I hate whistling. Absolutely cannot stand it, makes me cringe, makes me eyes tense up. This is usually a shorter conversation I have, but I make it clear. I know it’s illogical, I know it doesn’t bother other people, but it really bothers me. Most people do okay changing behavior to not whistling around me.
Do you have fun in the same way your partner does? This is an obvious place to start, and an important thing to consider. What is a Friday night to you? How much time do you need to decompress after work, and does this require you to be alone? Depending on how much time you are already spending on a weekly basis with your partner, you may not even know each other’s habits by the hour like this. It’s a worthwhile conversation to have, not just to compare lifestyles (and lifestyle goals—is your goal to have more time for going out to dinner, or is this not a priority?) but to see if your idea of shared time together matches up with your partner’s.
Can you both finish an argument? Somewhere I read how important it is for someone to be good in an argument. By this, I don’t mean the art of arguing, or being able to manipulate words into a win. I mean: Can you keep being an active listener even in the most upsetting argument? No one is perfect, but analyzing how you individually argue and how your relationship arguments tend to go will be crucial in creating boundaries within a shared living space. Do you usually need an hour or two alone to cool down from an argument? How will you handle this when every room you have is also your partner’s room? If it feels awkward to talk about worst-case scenarios like this, perhaps a shared living arrangement will not be the best arrangement. Unless you are moving into a castle that could temporarily be split in two.
Expectations of domesticity. Gender roles aside, someone will be making dinner. Someone will also be cleaning dishes. Honestly I wouldn’t recommend any couple move into a place without a dishwasher. It’s just a set up for dish-arguments, and nobody wants those. Get a dishwasher, divide the chores, done. I think the food arguments– who buys groceries, who cooks, who clears the table– end up being defined by schedules. When you and your partner are on different schedules, it’s easy to make assumptions about what “could” be completed by the time you get home. No matter how you want to divide things up, you’re going to have to talk about it. There may be agreements in writing, or even a little whiteboard on the fridge where you can trade off making dinner. Something that has taken me a long time to learn is that no matter how small, petty, or awkward I think the conversation is going to be, both parties (myself and my partner) tend to benefit when the conversation happens before and not after tensions flare.
Along the same topic, another line I’ve often heard is to pick your battles. I mentioned how I hate whistling above. I can fully own that this is a small thing I make big by being completely incredibly unreasonably enraged by it. (Ahhh!!!) If I also ‘hate’ ten other small behavioral things my partner does, I will have to pick which one or two I truly cannot deal with. I’ve found if you throw too many rules (also known as expectations) on a partner, they will not only feel overwhelmed but will also feel unmotivated to change because my numerous requests will begin to feel unreasonable and un-tiered. Whistling I hate, towels on the floor I hate, but T-shirts folded “incorrectly”? I can live with that. Hangers going in different directions in the closet? I can live with that.
Finally, a point that may seem so obvious it’s not worth mentioning… Rent money and worst case scenarios. Getting that two bedroom two bath, or renting that small house with a yard may seem do-able when both partners pitch in a part of their paycheck. But what happens if someone wants out. To list all the numerous ways that money, yearly salaries, and rent can effect the power dynamics within a relationship could easily take up a few pages. Instead I’ll leave it at this: Consider what you both will do if it’s not working.
Decide on a plan now. Decide who ‘really’ owns the couch, who would stay and who would find a new place. Being on the extremely strict grad student budget, I knew there was no way I could be comfortable taking on the extra financial responsibility of a two-bedroom apartment. I would be unable to make the rent myself should the worst case scenario happen, and I would be very unhappy in an environment where I was forced to get a Craigslist roommate when I would prefer solitude.
Living by myself without roommates has been an amazing experience. I really enjoyed painting my apartment, figuring out the furniture, and being in total control of organizing my kitchen. But for me, for right now in life, the many perks that come with being in an equal partnership (I call it my 50/50) I can ‘live’ with giving up some of that control in exchange for someone who understands when I want to sit on the couch listening to the same song for three hours straight, who doesn’t care if I take twenty minute showers, who will read drafts of my stories, walk Meeko when I work late, and even, sometimes, make me dinner.
During my first year of grad school, I took a lot of notes. I realized that in many of my classes, professors had suggestions for things I (specifically) should be reading.
This felt different from the random person who is all like, “you haven’t read X, omg, you are a horrible uncultured person, but just kiddinggg but seriously, drop whatever you’re doing, call off work, and go read X.” Okay, I get it.
Here’s the thing. Have you been in a library lately? There are a ton of books. More than I could ever read in my lifetime. That is the reality, I cannot read everything. For most of my life I read things that interested me, following certain authors, or discovering interesting looking covers in the library (a spaceship on the cover?? I’d better find out what happens!) Now I am switching over to reading things that will help my writing, through content, craft, or inspiration.
We all secretly like to be judgmental, mainly because it’s more fun that way. So, I thought I’d share my summer reading list. I made this list solely for myself, based on suggestions from professors for the types of stories *I* want to be writing, as well as books I’ve been meaning to read because I think they will inspire my writing somehow. Below are a mix of novels and short story collections. Some are just authors I’ve been encouraged to check out and I haven’t decided what works of theirs to read yet. There are also a few fiction craft books in there (as in, ‘how to write fiction’ type books). If you have suggestions for magical realism, minimalist, strange, genre bending, dystopian, and/or feminist stories, I would love to hear about them!
“Red Moon” Ben Percy
“Refresh, Refresh” Ben Percy
“The lie that tells the truth” John Dufresne
“Is life like this? A guide to writing your first novel in 6 months” John Dufresne
“Bird by Bird” Anne Lamott
“Willful Creatures” Aimee Bender
“The Color Master: stories” Aimee Bender
The Complete Collection of Calvin and Hobbes
“Reservation Blues” Sherman Alexie
“Indian Killer” Sherman Alexie
“The Way to Rainy Mountain” N. Scott Momaday
“House Made of Dawn” N. Scott Momaday (re-reading)
“Suddenly, A knock on the door” Etgar Karet
“Reasons to live” Amy Hempel
“Jesus’ Son” Denis Johnson
“The Power and the Glory” Graham Greene
“The Road” Cormac Mccarthy
Oh, and a lovely middle school student I tutor suggested I check out the YA series “Divergent” even though we agreed it seemed like a rip off of the Hunger Games. Got to stay up to date on my youth culture though!
After finishing my first year of grad school at Boise State (two more to go!) I can say many things about going back to school. One of which is that your blog posts may vary incredibly. I disappeared a bit this Spring semester blog-wise, but I’m determined to keep going. I realized only in the last week or so of school that I had not done something social (as in, not related to my program) the whole semester, and I hadn’t called anyone for fun besides my sister. Talk about living under a rock… Now I am ready to share more about my first year here.
I taught two classes of English 102, which is research writing, and I didn’t die. Professors have an option to theme their 102 classes, so I picked “pop culture.” If you’re going to have to read all their papers, they might as well be interesting, right? A lot of them really surprised me with their creativity, and I felt much more myself even in my teacher-character. I battled with weird classroom arrangements, incorporating a textbook, and a wide variety of actual writing skills. Could someone please let the engineering majors know that they will have to write again? That English 101 and 102 are not the last papers they’ll have to write? How do they think they are going to get grant money for the giant robots they want to build?
I also made a big effort to teach my students film critique as a research skill, which resulted in a class period watching part of a documentary on Star Trek fans and having my students take apart the directorial choices, editing, narration, etc. The classes are normally full at twenty-five students, but I somehow ended up with nineteen and four (!!!). The four person class was a crazy experience, but they all jumped right in and held themselves to such a high accountability. Their presentations and papers were far better than my nineteen person class. This has given me a lot of thought on the research showing the best way to learn is one-on-one.
For my next two years in my grad program, I’ll be working at Boise State’s Writing Center doing just that– working individually with students from all majors and levels on their writing assignments, getting to the root of their writing problems (or fears), and making every minute count. I’m really excited to learn more about the theory behind individual learning, and coupled with my growing tutoring and college admissions consulting business, I can put the theories I learn into action very quickly!
I applied to two National Humanities Seminars and was waitlisted to both (but ultimately not selected). I attended my first official writers conference in Seattle and learned that I feel overwhelmed around thousands of people (duh). I applied and luckily was selected to participate in a week long course design program at Boise State and have started to plan out my first Intro to Fiction Writing class I’ll be teaching next year.
But now, I am officially on summer vacation, which, like most
Jackie-vacations means working multiple jobs, Netflix, and writing as much as I can. I even made myself a reading list, just like the high school days. My summer jobs are: Temp Test Administrator for Pearson testing company, tutoring English for local middle school students, and beginning my season of college application consulting.
I will barely make rent.
I will eat a lot of pizza.
I will keep writing.
Some people are already done at twenty five. They’ve done what they wanted to do, travelled to that one country, birthed X amount of babies (I mean that in the nicest way), and now they are just on cruise control until the inevitable mid life crisis. Hint: Don’t go get a silver BMW Z4. They don’t do well in the snow.
Everyone asks, “How does it feel? Do you feel old? Are you sad?” Admittedly, it is a weird age. Everything from 22-24 felt un-defined. Something about the number twenty five feels very definite to me. I can feel it’s sincerity when I walk, standing up tall. At twenty five, I am comfortable with my opinions, and even more comfortable that, if history does indeed repeat itself, many of these opinions will change drastically over the next five years.
Of course, some may not. I still don’t drink. I think this works for me. I’m weird enough, I get depressed enough, and being a writer/artist has enough ups and downs to last me many a Sunday morning. That’s a distant Johnny Cash song reference. I don’t know if it works or not.
My sister thinks I’ve got my life all figured out. I would liken my current state more to the end of my freshman year of college. It’s that moment when you realize all the things you still don’t know. I’m embracing my new identity as a writer. I tell people, “yeah, I’m a writer” and then I do not swish my hair over my eyes. I do not. The next step is figuring out what to say when people ask the follow up question, “So what do you write about?” Characters who make bad decisions? The concept of home? Journey stories? Stories with beginnings that are way too long? I need an elevator speech. It’s on my to-do list.
In my rush to figure myself out, find a way to live with depression/anxiety, AND pursue being a writer, I realized that I often lose days to my many to-do lists. This is a good thing and a bad thing. I’ve only got a set amount of years here on planet earth and I’m trying to make the most of them. At the same time, I don’t want the things I look forward to and enjoy to always be in the near future. I am experimenting with this in Boise. Not living in the moment, but sometimes stopping the racing, planning thoughts.
Today I went on another hike in the foothills and only allowed myself to think about things I saw. I was not allowed to worry about the new short story I’m trying to write. I was not allowed to feel guilty about not getting a new cell phone plan yet. As a result I thought of all kinds of new things I’d like to explore in writing. I also realized I get hyper-aware of the sound peoples shoes make as they crunch over gravel, soil, and asphalt. Shoes, you guys. Shoes.
It’s crazy weird how suddenly a phase of our life can end. I thought I could see my future very clearly, and now, just by being in Idaho, I see other paths like roots stretching out before me. All I have to do is keep going, keep trying, and of course, keep writing. I want to make you all proud out there. I want you to read my fiction or my essays (or my poetry?) and feel something. Even if that something is, “wow this is dumb. She’s actually going to school for this?” As I tell my English 101 students, it is okay to totally disagree with me.
In conclusion, at twenty five one should be full of opinions, but bursting with the curiosity to know oneself even more. Then, figure out what you can do for the world that won’t have you craving reality TV and binge eating at the end of the day. It’s a work in progress.