My twenties are over half over. Sands in the hourglass fall toward thirty. I don’t know what my life will be, like it should have already announced itself but its running late. All the uncertainty inherent to my mid-twenties swarms my thought process. But things are as simple as they will ever be. I took a two hour nap yesterday. My time outside of work is divided as I see fit. I don’t have to negotiate my time or finances with anyone outside of myself. Twenty-six (or two days away from it) is selfish and reckless and uncertain and ambition and asks me “what are you doing with this life?” as it charges toward me in the nearing hours.
People strive to be this finished product– to be a polished and complete thing. We are whole. Always whole, but the work of personhood is never done. Life can be both beautiful and traumatic. To be alive is to experience a certain degree of trauma. The price of continuing to survive is loss. And the thing is, when we don’t tend to our wounds, we bleed over people who never cut us. Other people are the collateral damage for ignoring our own problems, and nobody is my bullshit whisperer. It isn’t the responsibility of anyone else to withstand my troubles. So, in my many fractured ways, I work on myself daily. I scrutinize my behaviors and responses and dig and dig until I hit the root. I follow A LOT of therapists on instagram. I see a therapist. I routinely ask myself what is serving me and what isn’t. I take anti-anxiety medication. I exercise. It’s emotionally exhausting, psychologically taxing to be so committed to my healing.
The work is never clean and often embarrassing. But of the very little I know about life, it is this: you cannot avoid the work and live your best life. Procrastination bites us all in the ass in the end. I have to take ownership of my mistakes. I have to take the hard stuff on the chin now and be brave enough to walk away when my worth isn’t recognized. The work is repeatedly looking our demons in the face, calling them by name, and choosing our power over theirs. It sucks. But I don’t want a splenda life. I want honey. The only way to get the real thing, the richest, truest thing is to be the real thing.
I am pushing and pushing and pushing. I feel like I’m not moving: financially, personally, professionally. Life is a monstrous ocean where I barely tread water. I try to swim, but it feels like drowning. Work leapfrogs from one dead-end job to another, knowing where I excel but unsure how to maximize that as my primary source of income. So I write. I bury myself in words. The days pass in paragraphs, and I hope it amounts to something. I don’t give up. I keep going. I want to move, but I’m unsure how or when is the best time. The thing about your mid-twenties is that it is the best time but it never tells me that.
I want to return to school. My mind is a ravenous beast salivating at the concept of more knowledge. Education is expensive. Financial security is something I want. I’ve worked multiple jobs, spent months working 7 days a week without seeing loved ones. I cannot say it’s worth it. My head confronts me: “Can you put a price on your potential, Marisa?” I ask myself, “is it more costly to forever be haunted by who you could have been”. The answer is returning to school– to invest in myself and my future. I believe my future self will thank me most for that, and she deserves it.
Personally, my peer group is partnering off. I am not ready to settle down. I am an untamable force hoping there’s a companion to behold this wild and not shackle it. Yet, to say that I never worry about remaining perpetually single would be a lie. I contemplate is my flavor is too bold to pair with anyone else. The app game is trash– there– I said it! It’s amusing, but we’re all half-heartedly swiping, playing these reindeer games and hoping we don’t get catfished. Dating choreography is more strategy than heart. I’m immature enough that it amuses me. I crave freedom, but ache for the certainty of a partnership in the future. Freedom and certainty do not go hand in hand. I’m trying to win a game that doesn’t exist, attempting to plan a future that may not be.
Now is the becoming. Now are the unremarkable days that will amount to something if I make them. It’s an accumulation of efforts. These are the years where my mouth is full of gravel, hands are bloody as I reach for something. I have to keep reaching even if my hand is swatted away sometimes.
The becoming is a gory, unglamorous process. Butterflies are hideous creatures in metamorphosis. Coal undergoes tremendous pressure to become a diamond. For most of their gestation, fetuses are unrecognizable and birth is a bloody affair. Nature tells us that becoming is an ugly process, whether we choose to listen or not. Nature teaches us that the become is intended to change, not preserve us. Challenge, not polish. I feel like I’m doing nothing: hours at my desk, hours of writing, naps, times I went out when I could have stayed in, the dinners with friends and phone calls to my mom. But they’re all tiny details adding up to a big life. Even if I’m crawling there, I won’t stop until I arrive there. Every gesture is a grain of sand in the hourglass. Sometimes, each grain is heavier than concrete. Other times, it passes by so quickly I do not notice, but in my sand deposits, I hear my future self coming. She’s roaring and stampeding and she is proud. I just don’t know when she’ll arrive yet.