Ross and I just finished moving in to our new condo. This is very exciting, because a) we’re grown-ass adults and it’s a necessary step for our marriage and b) we can now binge-watch Supernatural without my mom walking by and stating that she thinks our daughter has seen too many exorcisms for being only two. (She may have a point).
Anyway. We were unpacking, and I came across a box of my old journals. The ones from high school, the ones that are only funny to read when your best friends are over and you’re on your second glass of red wine. When you’re by yourself, though, it feels a little different. Approaching that box of journals felt like poking Tom Riddle’s diary with a thin stick.
I opened the first Five-Star notebook and it was like the ink hadn’t even dried, yet. I was back there, ten years ago.
At sixteen, I slept in a bunk bed, surrounded by blue LED lights from IKEA and articles from National Geographic posted all over my wall. My sister slept below me. I’d stare up at the pictures and dream about all the places I’d go see and conquer and live in.
At sixteen, my first kiss was after a choir Halloween party (because nothing says “off the hook” like a semi-award winning chamber chorus drinking *Gatorade*), on my best friend’s couch with a senior on the basketball team. He was hot, and I was tired of being the “preacher’s daughter”. It happened at 2AM, after watching a rerun of “The Angry Beavers”, when the Slutty Fairy on the other side of him finally gave up and went to bed. Then, he was mine. Damn straight, because I was dressed as Helen of Troy and Helen of Troy always beats Slutty Fairy. I confessed to my dad after church the next day.
At sixteen, I worked at a pizza place. I was convinced it was haunted and would hold my pee my entire shift just so I didn’t have to go in to the bathroom alone.
At sixteen, I was bumped back to Algebra I, the freshman math class, because I couldn’t keep up with Algebra II. The classroom had a couch, and I claimed it as my desk as a rebellion. The teacher made a deal with me that if I swept the floor and helped grade homework, he’d pass me. I took that deal.
At sixteen, I was madly in love with my best friend’s boyfriend, but too afraid to say anything except to my poor journals.
That whole time, I couldn’t wait to be someone else. I couldn’t wait to be Mid-Twenties-Me.
I knew Mid-Twenties Me would be nothing like the girl with the broken heart who stared at ceilings, failed at math, or made out with boys who tasted like spearmint but who, on Monday, acted like it never happened. Mid-Twenties-Me would be in a jungle somewhere, trekking to get refugees to safety or defending her dissertation at Oxford to raucous applause. Maybe sipping espresso on the shore of Lake Como or breaking hearts in Scotland. I couldn’t wait to become her.
And as I read the pages, remembering what it felt like to want to become someone and trying so hard to make it happen, I wondered what she’d think of me, now.
I’ve traveled the world. I slept in a chicken coop in the deep wild of Nicaragua because the “safe house” our humanitarian group was promised did not exist anymore. I’ve shared a hostel room with several perpetually-drunk Irishmen in Edinburgh and felt the mist of the Nile River in Uganda. That boy that I was in love with? My best friend’s boyfriend? I stole him, rom-com style. We had a “will-they, won’t they” thing for a year before he kissed me on my parents couch (WHAT IS WITH ME AND COUCHES) and I felt the fireworks go soggy in my stomach because I knew I’d made a mistake. A mistake I didn’t admit for eight freaking months.
I studied abroad and fell in love with the biggest pain-in-the-ass, know-it-all ginger you’ve ever met. I finally kissed someone standing up.
Despite these amazing accomplishments (and I’m talking about the drunk Irishmen, mostly), sometimes I worry teenage me would be disappointed. I wear sweater vests to work. To a job that’s in a cubicle. I routinely have plastic dinosaurs and pull-ups in my purse. I have a mortgage, kind of (thanks to the help of loving parents). And I’m still looking to become.
But then I realized something.
Teenage me couldn’t wait to become so much that she didn’t see who she was and all the important things that were happening. I was a teenager when I went to my first therapy session. I was a teenager when I first decided to take my faith seriously, and when I first started writing. I was a teenager when I saw my first dead body and when I first jumped at my crush’s number on my caller ID. I was a teenager when a boy from church tricked me into a dark room during a BBQ, shut the door and said “shhh” as he shoved me up against a wall. And I was just a teenager when I shoved him off and fought back.
So now, when Mid-Twenties-Me doesn’t feel like anything special, I remember that – and I need to remember that.
This year has been weird. I went from being unemployed and living in my parent’s house to having a dream job and signing on our first condo.
I thought the drama was over. Alas.
When I realized that job was a pile of manipulative bullshit (I sometimes wonder how honest is too honest on here, but I’m going to tell it like it is, considering I’ve also just talked about my adolescent sexual history), I quit. In the middle of a conference call. I straightened my spine, took a deep breath, and told the people who’d been bleeding me dry for months that it was over.
I also walked away from the one professional writing win I’d ever had and left my literary agency.
And, as I sit at my desk (also known as the desk in the middle of the office because I gave up that fancy job to be an intern with the city), I find myself thinking about what I will become. My newest manuscript is with betas, and I’ll start querying soon. I’ve been eating better now that book edits are done, and I’ve been relishing the feeling of fitting back in to my pants. Things are looking up. But I need to remember to not wait to become someone else. I’m doing fine even now, with mascara smudged under my eyes, wondering how best to go about cooking dinner with my small counter space.
And it’s in the smallest moments, like when I fight for my paid break at work or when I don’t let the hair dresser talk me out of the bob I’ve been wanting forever, that I see it.
I didn’t read through the rest of the journal box, because I didn’t need to. I figured out what I needed to know. I sealed it back up, shoved it over to Ross, and told him to put it in the attic.
Though I told him to keep it close to the stairs, because when book club comes over next week I’m busting out some red wine and we’re gonna have a good laugh.