I can’t help but feel regret – small doses of it wash over me anytime someone posts details of their new internship or job hire. The congratulations irk my stomach as if I’ve lost some contest with myself. Every time it invokes the same reaction in me. “Why the fuck are you wasting the summer being a cosmetologist?” Well, it makes a lot more money. And well, I’m not in Michigan. And frankly, I needed a goddamn break.
The last year of my life was spent stressing in a newsroom (which, for some reason unbeknownst to me, I seem to love). Experiencing the everyday panic of what front-page story can’t run because of the final missing source, and what photo turned out to be complete and total shit because the editor decided to give the newbie a shot to prove himself – those challenges gave me a rush of importance, that without me in that office delegating the new plan, which seemed to change every half hour, the entire product would end up as some heaping pile of chaos no one would dare attempt to correct in fear of making it worse. I felt that my job was valuable, my sticky-noted and color-coded lists were necessary, I was important, and that the feeling of being relied upon would never go away. It turned out I relied more on my job to give me fulfillment than it relied on me to give it structure.
Now here I am, only a few short months after my job has come to an end, and I feel very close to worthless. Beside the fact that I am taking the year to focus on school, something I haven’t found the time to do in my three years so far enrolled at this school, I think I could be doing more. For once, I can be the student who lazily spends an afternoon in the library sipping a 1,000-calorie beverage, actually learning the material for my African American politics course, rather than being the one demanding answers in the newsroom, quickly jacking up the amount of money I must save in order to afford the Botox injections that will surely be placed in my forehead, say, five years from now. This year I’ll have a secure reporting job, will be involved in several organizations and, hopefully, will keep a GPA law schools will consider. But it’s not enough.
Is this just the model our society has adopted? Nothing is ever good enough and we must strive to achieve almost unattainable goals to feel some sense of self worth? Or schedule a constant life of hectic just to feel as if we’re contributing to the greater good of the planet – “I know, that if I don’t go to all my classes and put in an extra three hours at work today, and then make it to pilates or spinning (or whatever the hell it is I do at 7) before my group meeting at 9, then the earth will blow up by tomorrow morning. Definitely.” That was me, or is me, or is part of me.
A friend at work once joked that I would die by 26, either from stress or overconsumption of rum and Diet Coke. Considering the ingredients of Diet Coke hardly constitute anything that even somewhat closely resembles food (something you should digest), I could solely blame that product and never receive opinions of doubt. Anyway, I don’t think my friend was completely joking. My dream has been to move to New York, work my way up in the communication field, and then, be God (meaning Editor – you see my point). I love to lead, I love people, I appreciate a good story, and as much as I joke, professionalism is my number one. But as focused as I was, or at least as focused as everyone considered me to be, I was breaking down. I couldn’t be a super-editor until I explored what was missing. It turns out that was the ability to relax.
So this summer I basically pulled an “Into the Wild,” minus the whole dying from eating poisonous berries part. I moved to Colorado, took a job as a cosmetologist at an upscale spa, and spend my free time hiking in the mountains, reading and going to every outdoor music event I can possibly attend. I can’t say that I’ve found the answer I was looking for, but I’ve come closer to understanding what I want out of life. It’s not realistic to say you’ll be fine on your own, as long as you put 100 percent into your job, and that’s what I’ve been doing. We need human interaction on a deep level, whether it be a relationship or the friends who become your family over time. So I’ve started to process what I need in my life, what I expect to happen before I die, and for once, it doesn’t involve stressful goals, but those that end with me being happy and satisfied with what I have accomplished, no matter how small it may be. I think this is what one would label a quarter life crisis and hopefully I’m healthy and other people have them too. (I think drinking less caffeine helps as well).
So maybe I won’t be crushing souls with my stilettos as I once put it, but maybe now, I’ll just lightly trot. I think that’s a happy medium.