The Quarter-Century Milestone

I turned 25 on July 10, 2012.

25.

There was a meme going around Facebook not too long ago that had a drawing of an adult on it with a caption that read, “When I was in high school, I expected to have my shit together by now”. I could not agree more. As I write this, I sit in my Foundations of Educational Technology class, a prerequisite course for a Special Education teaching credential. The professor is showing the class how to create a Google site. Bless his heart – he’s doing a great job, but aside from some great teacher websites for sending out text messages and posting virtual copies of homework, I mentally check out every class because I already know how to do everything he is showing us. I do what he wants us to do, but I finish all the steps in 3.6 seconds and then surf the web for any enraging political news or funny Daria quotes. The point isn’t to talk about how savvy with technology I am, but if you caught the words ‘teaching credential’, I’m taking 4 summer courses at 25. I’m still a student at 25. One BA, one MA, and one TESOL certificate later, I’m back in school to get a teaching credential. No, it’s not unusual for a lot of 20-somethings these days, but my BA was supposed to be “enough”, and I got that when I was 21.

By 25 I thought I’d be living in my own apartment with a full-time job. I didn’t know exactly what I would be doing when I first imagined my life beyond next Tuesday, but I never expected this to be the track I’d chug along on, to the tune of Casey Jr. slowly driving me from the fragments of sanity I had to begin with. (What? You don’t sometimes feel like you are trapped in tiny bared circus cage bound for another destination of shameless circus goers?) See, I always knew I wanted to do something with writing and photography, writing first and then photography later. I’m one of those few people who knew what I wanted to do when I was in high school and took steps to make that happen in college. But something happened along the way; college prepared me intellectually and expanded my creative abilities, but it did not prepare me for the harsh reality lurking outside my comfort zone of meal plans and dorm bathroom cleaning services. How does an introvert go about making a living off of creative writing and photography when they panic at the thought of shameless self-promotion to total strangers? It still makes me uncomfortable to tell people about myself, not that I’m not proud of everything I’ve done. but because people who talk about themselves are seen as self-centered and uncaring, to some.

They say you are supposed to go through an identity crisis when you are in your hormone-fueled, rampant teenage years…or at least that’s what Erik Erikson said in the 1950’s. I can’t remember a time when I was more certain about who I was and about what I wanted to do but, what was never clear to me – be it because of a lacking support system or contacts – was how to get there. I thought college would tell me; no. Write, send out your stuff, and hope you get published they said. Okay, but what else do I do in the meantime, I said. Figure it out, they said. I often think about what I would do differently in terms of my schooling and I think I would have learned a trade prior to earning my BA degree. I could have taken ultrasound pictures of women’s’ uteri while taking night classes and reveling in my independence.  I would not have gone to a private school and done everything in my power not to take out student loans – what we’re “supposed to do”.

But I’m not there and skipping out on going to college at 18 was not an option for me. I’m also one of those future planners who values education, so while the teaching profession won’t make me a millionaire, hopefully I’ll write something that millions of people will pay to read. This feeling of being trapped in between my decision making abilities is only compounded by the fact that I am buried under a mountain of student loan debt and still live at home…with my parents and younger brother, who is about to embark on his own college journey the end of next month.

No; the post-college 20-something years are definitely when your identity crisis appears and it doesn’t come gently. It’s like a festering wound, expect you don’t know how you were wounded and you certainly don’t know how to treat it. And it smells. Really bad. The hollowness that was once easily replaced by endless drunken nights and spontaneous trips to Las Vegas cannot be filled by such simple means anymore. You suddenly value substance and you yearn for some sense of accomplishment, instead of being reminded of how much you think you suck; instead of being reminded that your parents did things much more efficiently with their lives as you look around at the world saying to yourself, “I did everything I was supposed to do, so why is everything still shitty?” This is our turning point, the point where we say enough is enough or wuss-out and crawl back into our shells of adolescence.

I’m sad most days – like, fuck-the-world-I’m-deleting-my-Facebook, sad – and no amount of “it will get better” can take away what I feel right at this moment. I desperately miss the creative days of my writing workshops, when I would pay to sit around with crazy, slightly alcoholic writers and talk about metaphors and structure. But under-grad and grad school have been long over, and it’s a cold day in hell when I actually sit down or Skype with a fellow writer to do what we did so well together; create fucking art. No; we are too busy now, growing increasingly isolated as technology increasingly connects every microscopic vein of our existence. So, why don’t you get out there and do something, you say? You are correct, and I do. It’s just not enough. Work and school demand so much time, and it just makes me realize how good I actually had it, not when I was an undergrad, but when I lived in Ireland, as a graduate student.

In an effort to keep things in perspective, I have to remind myself about all the amazing and unique things that happened during my 24th year:

  • First girls-only trip to Las Vegas.
  • Visited New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island in one summer.
  • Moved to a small coastal town called Schull in West Cork, Ireland and earned my TESOL Cert.
  • Graduated with my Masters in Screenwriting from the National University of Ireland, Galway.
  • Took a spontaneous trip with good friends to the Salton Sea, California, where I took some amazing pictures.
  • Joined Meetup.com and got over my fear of walking into a room of people I didn’t know.
  • Photographed an awesome Cold War Russian submarine, WWII planes, and an abandoned dairy farm, a la zombie apocalypse.
  • Helped bury a dog and cried at the sight of four grown men crying.
  • Randomly got a scholarship to take pre-req credentialing courses at Cal Poly Pomona.
  • Visited Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Took an amazing air boat ride of the swamps and saw an alligator in the wild for the first time.
  • Meet an online guild friend for the first time in person after knowing each other for three years.

My goal is to live my 25th year as I lived my 24th and keep the good times in perspective. I’ll be damned if I stop being cynical to feed some people’s hippie-happy notion that the world is great. (The world is not great, there are just great parts about it.) I don’t fit into a box and I’d rather not be forced to. Let me be me, and I’ll let you be you.

And clearly, they do not understand the writing-genius that is “Daria”.

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