Sunday, May 18, 2014
There are some things you will never do. It doesn't matter. There is no rush.
You said I’d be terrifying at 30.
A badass version of me was hard to imagine at 24, when I knew I’d stay strutting in my Converse, polite-talking my way through everything forever. But I wanted to believe you could be right, so I waited through those awkward 20s, hoping every turn would turn me there.
I ticked off “Saturn Return” in 2011. I told myself the cosmos was to blame for the breakup and the death and my every-day-a-new-indecision ways. If that year was my upending, that meant I had smooth sailing, steady sequences waiting for me after. This is just a stop you make, I told myself. Just wait three years.
But 30 held its own upheavals. Only a month in, The Oregonian laid me off. I don’t think all the crying and gulping for breath held any real brainwaves that night, but I do remember staring out at nothing thinking this is not how 30 goes for me. This is the year I’m supposed to become terrifyingly good.
The bosses changed their minds, took back the axe and the severance package, too. But it never felt like rewind for me. If I was terrifying, it was because I was hurt and scared that the thing I had spent my whole life becoming would not exist any more. At least not for me.
I spent most of the year stubborn and mean. The layoffs gave way to musical chairs at work. The polite-talking sneaker wearer I used to be found a desk somewhere away from me. I accused everyone of being out to get me. I scrutinized my paycheck, marked every moment beyond hour 40.
“I swear all my other year-end reviews said I was a pleasure,” I told my new boss. “I know you haven’t seen me be a pleasure. But I was a pleasure before.”
I moved out of the apartment where I had spent most of my 20s. I took up with three cats and the most exquisite girl. I wrote the stories I wanted to write. I spent many Saturday nights reading.
I put one foot in front of the other. I stopped spending every moment thinking of the future. I spent some part of every workday working on the three stories I really cared about. I finally realized that great writing has little to do with being a phenom. It is not divine intervention or being in the mood for the best of clauses. It is hard work, showing up and going through the motions when your brain feels like numbing through a marathon of Bejeweled.
Eventually everything settled. I stopped waking up in the middle of the night unsure of myself. I took up running. I bought that woman a ring. My Big Speech dissolved to nonsense in the moment (I do believe I said “We had a nice Thanksgiving”), but she said yes.
That is, as the year wound its way it way to 31, I started to feel -- just slightly -- like an adult. And that’s terrifying. For me, if not for you.