28 kinda crept up on me.
It was there, looming, waiting for the moment to pounce on me, but today it has decided to tap me lightly on the shoulder instead and say a whispered "boo!" --- yet I'm not so easily scared this time as I was when I turned 25 and felt the big ~*crisis*~ coming on. Okay, okay, that smirk is a little faulty as I’m a wee bit shaken as I carry a flashlight down that dark hall into the unknown depths of 28-dom. I'm in the twilight of my 20s. I’m edging closer to the big 3-0, and being nonchalant about it is a difficult task as I didn't plan on my life to be so well, beige, and so utterly stalled at this moment.
So what would my younger self think of me today? Well first she's going to think: CAKE! PRESENTS! CAKE! PRESENTS! Next she, while wiping frosting off of her face, is going to think why hasn't this amazing thing, and this fabulous thing, and this awesome thing hasn't happened? I took a deep breath and I blew out the candles, Jen, and wished for this sparkle magic adult shit ages ago, what gives?
Being an romanticist, perfectionist, and an over-analyzer has done a number on me because I expect all corners of my life to be flowery and exact as my thoughts and imagination --- but life isn't like that. Life always spontaneously combusts. Kaboom here. Kaboom there. Life isn't going to be trumpets blaring and me strutting like Joan Smalls down a runway while rocking a rhinestone jacket that throws sparkle and all the right shade all over the place. That was me last Wednesday...in my head. Still that's not me. 'Me' is a little bit more under construction right now.
I think of the words Zora Neale Hurston eased out on the third chapter of her classic novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God: There are years that ask questions, and years that answer. Great line, right? I thought I was done riding on question marks, but I guess I'm still holding onto the reigns. I'm still wondering what the hell I'm doing with myself? What the hell I'm doing with my writing? What decisions do I need to make that will lead me to finally getting the hang of this "adult" thing? When will it be my turn to shine? Will I ever get married? Have kids? Shoot, will I ever get a damn dinner date at a restaurant with linen napkins? Will I finally connect all the dots and 'get happy'? What paths have I already carved out that will aid me in finding these glorious answer filled years? SO MANY QUESTIONS. ABORT. ABORT. FREAKING OUT NOW!
All I know right now (and believe me this took some years to understand this) is that I need to calm down and know that I'm in the process of building myself, learning about myself, finding myself, and that its a-okay to do so.
Still I'm fussy. I'm restless. I'm not satisfied. I'm bitchy. I want all this good stuff to happen right N-O-W, gawd dammit. Well, breaking news at 10, Jen, you can't pinpoint an exact age to where everything in your life is going to fall neatly into place. You can't apply an age bracket to milestones like marriage, children, career, etc, mmkay?
That's the number one mistake I feel I often make. I'm always comparing myself to others and their milestones. Doesn't matter if they are total strangers or they share my bloodline, I'm always trying to see where I measure up --- and well that derails you every.single. fucking.time. Looking at lists like '25 SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICFANTABULOUS ENTREPRENEURS UNDER 25' is daunting. It blares: These Amazing-Better-Than-You'll-Ever-Be People Made Something Of Themselves, And What Are You Doing You Lazy-Netflix-Binging-Lard-Ass-Who-Lives-With-Her-Parents-Still? Those lists, while informative and good for the people who are on them, never motivate me to do better, they always make me feel inadequate and make me wish I had a million dollar idea like that to smile about. It's the same as seeing friends and colleagues who were in the unemployment, directionless trenches like me, and one by one, I see them coming out of them, and I'm left there clawing at the dirt, scrambling to get out. When is it going to be my turn to be on that list and get that glow? When am I going to stop feeling like Toni Colette in Muriel's Wedding, wearing a wedding gown for a fake wedding to my fake fiancé, all exposed, snot slinging, and boo-hoo crying?
I guess I'm watching and waiting (impatiently) for the water to boil, and what I should be doing is walking away and allowing it to boil in peace. It takes time for the water to boil, but when it heats up, boy, does it bubble over, and I just have to accept that in time it will be boiling so much that I'll be wishing for these lukewarm, simmer days. Pretty much I need to stop comparing my "first chapter to someone else's chapter 20". Comparisons and trying to put a time frame on my life is constricting and damaging to the slivers of self-confidence I do have. I'm not the people that I'm comparing myself to. I haven't lived their lives. I haven't embodied their struggles. All I know is the crap I deal with, and the things I know how to do to the best of my abilities.
There are always late bloomers in life and I wish we celebrated them more instead of oohing and ahhing over the young hotshots. Julia Child was 49 when Mastering The Art Of French Cooking was published, and she pretty much changed the whole damn game on how we view chefs and the craft of cooking on television. Some of my literary heroes like Toni Morrison, Junot Diaz, and Dorothy Alison didn't publish their bestsellers till they were in their '40s. 28 is not a end, 28 is a beginning. There are things that look unreachable now, but will be reachable later. I just gotta walk away and be fucking patient.
Still I shouldn't be focused on the future me so much. I need to look at what's going on in the now that will help me glide over pending speed bumps.
There's a jar in my room that I keep scraps of paper in and written on those scraps are things that I have accomplished. I got this idea from somewhere --- must've been Pinterest because its a little bit hokey --- but you're supposed to write down all your accomplishments and all the eventful milestones that you've reached and place them in the jar, looking at the scraps whenever you're feeling like a failed human being, and adding to it when you're an accomplished human being.
Not too many pieces of paper I have in that jar, and most of them include school milestones like finishing college, and writing accomplishments like when I finished the first draft of my first novel last April. Still that jar should be brimming --- not with the big life-changing things --- but also the small victories that I accomplish almost daily, and I should start today, at 28. So, I'm going put in a scrap of paper that reads: 'Today is the day I stopped trying to compare myself to others.' Then I'll place another one that will read: 'Today is the day I accept being a work in progress'. Then another one will read: 'Happy Birthday Jen, you made it to 28, and you're on your way. Get it gurl!'.