Twenty-two feels a way I never could have imagined, despite the cutesy, girly-pop lyrics that promised I’d be alright so long as I never stop dancing.
It feels like the freedom to do as I please, being old enough to master a metro map and young enough to make plans without having to consider a spouse or dependents.
It’s the desire to sprint wholeheartedly into the direction of my dreams while fighting off the paralyzing fear that whispers how I’ll never make it.
It’s working three jobs in a town I’m ready to move away from as I struggle to both pay rent, feed myself daily and set aside whatever pennies I have left in a jar marked ‘Chicago.’
It’s watching people I love marry people they love as I cry tears of joy but also swallow my resentment that they managed to stabilize a part of their lives before the rest of us.
It’s unfollowing friends on Facebook after reading their recent post-graduate job update, checking my attitude, undoing that unfollow and commenting ‘congratulations’ while wrestling with my jealousy at their success in earning a job that has nothing to do with my skill set.
Twenty-two isn’t always pretty or proud.
It’s checking my Fitbit more often to see my heart rate than steps as I attempt to reassure myself that my heart is not, in fact, about to anxiously beat out of my chest.
It’s crouching in a stockroom full of shoes and taking eight seconds to breathe deeply before I have to return to the sales floor and act as though the customer’s happiness is the beacon by which I determine my worth.
It’s moving into my best friend’s spare storage room a month before her wedding and living in chaos with a person who is my comfort.
It’s going weeks without speaking to some of my people because they live in far-off places like Alaska or DC and are settling into a similar uncertainty in different time zones.
It is a constant trade-off between believing myself capable of single handedly flying a homemade vessel to the moon and, hours later, putting lotion on a toothbrush.
I’ve never known myself this way or had to ask who I’d be without the fabricated finish lines that education provides. I didn’t imagine that my confidence was contingent on the security I had in my identity as a student. I thought it was a lifelong character trait I earned from doing high school theatre.
Instead, I’m starting to believe confidence and identity are slates that wash clean every four years or so to remind us to reject complacency and actively take part in the people we become.
It does not escape me that I am only able to have this ‘crisis’ because I am doing okay enough to be able to worry about finding my place in the world. My experience of 22 is not universal, and I hope that at every point possible, I remember to turn around and build bridges for others to succeed in whatever capacity they so desire.
But this is where I’m at right now.
And it’s hard.
And I, ever the planner, have to figure it out one day-one breath-at a time.
We all do.