Yesterday I stayed at home for most of the day. I read a chapter of American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I went for a run, did two loads of laundry. After dinner I went to my grandma’s and we had tea and brownies. I told her about how my priority for the next 2-3 years is to travel and be young. I am going by hobbit years, after all, which says that your youth is over at 33. Really, though, youth never ends when you make it a point to keep having fun and learning and trying new things. Seriously though, I am still in my young adulthood and that is what I am focused on right now. I want to do the things now that would be harder to do later. I want to focus on reclaiming my youth so that my youth is not a complete loss. I still have time.
When I talk about the losses of my youth I’m talking about everything I missed out on because of being afraid to really live. When I look at my twenties they seem barren and sad. Not barren, but the things they are full of are all the wrong things: toxic obsession, doubt, insecurities, confusing and aimless wandering, laziness, failures, needing outside validation. It’s been hard to move forward because of the fear of being 80, looking back at my twenties and thinking, “yeah, not a fun time.” It used to break my heart when I’d hear people say how crazy awesome and wild their twenties were, but it doesn’t anymore because I’ve reached a state of acceptance. Something that helps me is a story I read on the Humans of New York Facebook page a long time ago. There was a picture of a happy old lady who said that she didn’t really start to live until she was about 32. I liked her. That’s the kind of story I can live with. I will tell people, when they ask about my past, that I didn’t really start to live until I was 30, and that yeah, I took some risks, like living in Spain for a summer and moving to Chicago for a couple of years, but in both places I was agoraphobic, obsessive, guarded, bitter. But I’m going to be a new person now, like a phoenix rising from the ashes.
The show Master of None has been helping me look at my story as more positive and normal, too. Especially helpful was a scene where Aziz Ansari’s character takes his girlfriend’s grandma out for dinner. His girlfriend’s grandma has amazing stories and Aziz tells her he has basically no amazing stories yet but he remains hopeful that there is still time. Also, his girlfriend is 30 and in the final episode announces that she’s moving to another country because there is only a small frame of time left to do something crazy like that. As for Aziz he decides to move to Italy to take a cooking class and the final scene is of him on a plane.
I’ve also found comfort in looking at the stories of a few of my celebrity heroes. JK Rowling is one of them. In an interview she said she wasn’t good at being young and that middle age is “[her] time”. Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love, talks over and over about how her twenties was a shitstorm and look what she did: she made her pain and destruction into something beautiful. She wrote a beautiful memoir and now she is a role model for millions of women for how to fight for your happiness and take agency over your life. Portia DeRossi spent her twenties hating herself with anorexia and didn’t get treatment until around 30. Now she appears thriving and happily married.
Also helpful to me has been Mary Oliver. Mary Oliver is a lesbian poet who dealt with loss by finding solace and healing in nature. She is also very whimsical and even though she is about 80 she has a child’s spirit. It wouldn’t be a shock to find out she still climbs trees. A theme of her poetry is that life is a mystery and full of unanswered questions. Last spring in Chicago I would walk a half mile to the beach to read her poetry. I’d sit on the rocks with my knees pulled up against my chest and listen to the waves crash on them while reflecting on the idea that maybe it’s okay to not have all of the answers. Also, life is a disaster but also filled with magic. You can rise above the disaster with whimsy and love and noticing the miracles that are all around you no matter where you are. This is a quote of hers I copied to help set my intentions for the rest of my life:
“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”