Don’t Look Back in Anger

I don’t even know how to begin this. Ultimately it will end up sounding like another jaded, self-aware millennial complaining about their situation. It will share the same cynical, yet hopeful, yet somehow unabashedly enthusiastic tone seen in countless blogs and Facebook posts. It will contain references to things that were maybe once niche and would make me seem alternative, worldly or well-educated, but are now just common knowledge thanks to the internet. I have no revelations to share. I don’t think my current situation is interesting enough to share with anyone but the people who love me enough to listen. Real life love, not “omg, love her tumblr” love. I’m not able to put the blandness of my situation into an art form that others can relate to. I’m not wonderfully beautiful nor do I possess any kind of ‘it’ factor or quality that demands that I be paid attention to.

Some people have told me that I have the talent to create something that could change the world, but I don’t see what they’re talking about, and our ‘participation trophy’ society has me thinking that they’ve got me gassed up, Willie Loman style. I’m just a normal girl. I’m not exceptional in any way. Somehow, that’s not allowed. If I share this sentiment with someone, they go on a long tangent to convince me that I possess greatness – that I’ll find my calling and suddenly be reeling in a world of fulfilled potential and recognition and being soul mates with a quirky guy that everyone says is just so perfect for me.

Because we think that everyone who has potential lives to see that potential fulfilled. But what if I’ve missed the boat? What if, even at just 22 years old, I’ve missed my opportunity to live up to something? Folks keep reminding me how young I am, as though there aren’t people who peak in high school or college; as though there aren’t people whose peaks are hardly peaks at all, but small hills in comparison to what so many of us expect. Or whose lives are more cliffs than hills – nothing particular to note until it suddenly drops off. I’m not somehow exempt from this because I try or something. My being mildly attractive and above average intelligence doesn’t guarantee a greener pasture any more than the amount of work my parents put into trying to get me off the ground. Hard work ≠ big time pay off. It’s bleak, I know, but it’s the kind of thing I think I have to acknowledge to even stand a chance at being happy with the life I’m most likely to end up leading.

Which brings me to my real question: Am I allowed to be sad? Like I said, I’m 22, mildly attractive, above average intelligence. I have a job working in New York City with a livable salary. I know at least 15 people personally who would maim someone to get my opportunity. In an economy where no one is getting hired, I found a job. I found a good job, in the field I studied in school, with full benefits and after hours perks and the possibility for upward mobility. You don’t even have to delve in to the under privileged youth of America or the starving children in Africa to point out that I’m an ungrateful shithead. I’m over here ruefully contemplating the validity of my existentialism like that bitch in Eat Pray Love while I should just be grateful I had the means to travel to three separate countries just to “find myself.” I should just shut the hell up, sit at my desk and do the work requested of me until I learn to appreciate what I’m given. Who am I kidding? I have health insurance!

How much does it really matter that I think the work I do is pointless and I spend every evening psyching myself out for the next morning? That New York City as a whole is so overwhelming that I never really recover from it? Sure there’s a lot of great stuff here, and I know that if I left I would miss it, but here in the middle of it all I can see is the storm. All I can see are the people who didn’t miss their opportunity, who are still working towards some great finish, who will fall in love one day, working dutifully to their end while I get carried out to sea. It’s as though one day everything will settle and somehow everyone will have ended up exactly where they should be and I’ll be standing right where I was, all alone, proverbial dick in hand, and all anyone will be able to say is how I had so much potential. I won’t have any great stories to keep me company in my old age, no artifacts of a better time; just the notion that maybe, if I’d paid better attention, or wanted it more, I could have had everything I ever wanted, and I only have myself to blame.

I’ve been on the verge of tears for over a month now – every time I’m in a room alone or riding the subway home I have a moment where I think it will all come rushing out, a great wave of cathartic tears somehow washing everything away the way it used to – but it never comes. Even if I were to cry, it wouldn’t fix anything.

It’s not as though I know what I want. I don’t have a dream that I could set out on the road towards, I’m just decidedly unhappy with where my life is now. The little engine that could knew exactly what he was working towards, so he knew to put everything into it. I don’t know where to put my attention because I don’t know what I want. Every time I think of the Little Engine that Could, I think of a girl I knew in elementary school. She would write ‘I think I can, I think I can” at the top of all of her test papers. I don’t think I ever saw her get higher than a C.

Part of me thinks I should just commit and throw myself into this career because at least it’s a direction. At least this way I’ll know to commit and make the most of something, instead of possibly wandering through life never certain of anything. But another part of me remembers that I promised myself I would start making decisions, not just letting life unfold in front of me, and that I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I just resigned myself to this life.

I’m not sure if I’m allowed to be saddened by my life, but of course that doesn’t matter. I am sad. I wake up and I wonder how each day will make itself worth living through. Other days I wake up and can’t remember anything I was ever excited about. I keep waiting for life to surprise me with a divergent road, so I can make the decision to take the one less traveled by. But I’ve been so focused on looking for the road less traveled by that I’ve forgotten that the roads least traveled never really become roads at all. There may be a bit of dead grass, or a bent branch somewhere in the wilderness, but the roads least traveled remain overgrown, wild, precarious and fearful. Completely indiscernible from the jungle that surrounds them. There is no way to take one of these roads with any kind of certainty. There is nothing there to guide you through except the stories of those who have successfully – and unsuccessfully – gone before. This notion taunts me, reminding me that at any moment, if I only pay attention and want it bad enough, I can have everything I ever wanted. And that if I don’t go for it, I only have myself to blame.

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