Being 25

I’ve pretty much been thinking about my age for the past 5 months, ever since I turned 25 and stopped qualifying as someone in their “early twenties.” Next year I’ll be closer to 30 than I am to 20 and that thought is a little mind-blowing.

You know how you always envision the way your life will turn out in the future? Lately I’ve been thinking so much about how I saw myself at 25 when I was 15. 10 years ago I was dreaming about what it would be like after college. I mean, it wasn’t intensely detailed or even terribly specific. But I had ideas about the things that would come between my sophomore year of high school and my 25th birthday. Ideas may not even be the right word… I think I had assumptions of how I saw things going down in the next decade of my life:
-I figured I’d go to college.
-At the time, I thought I would major in education and become a teacher
-I assumed I’d meet my future husband in college, probably my freshman or sophomore year.
-If follows, then, that I’d marry him shortly after graduating college.
-We’d live in an apartment somewhere for a while, but we’d eventually move into cute little house with a big porch and fireflies in the front yard.
-I honestly figured I’d be pregnant by now.
-I’d be happy and fulfilled with my life.

Sheesh. Such a basic white girl list of dreams.
But that’s what I thought I wanted and honestly that’s how I thought life worked, as if the time between 15 and 30 was a set list of things to check off as you accomplished them.

It doesn’t work that way at all.

Turning 25 made me sit back and re-evaluate all of the items on my check-list that I assumed were normal and happened to everyone. When I was 15 I figured that the only people who didn’t achieve those things were obviously free-spririted individuals or those sorts who had royally screwed-up their lives somewhere. God, was I naive.

I graduated college 3 years ago.
I didn’t become a teacher, because I realized halfway through my freshman year I didn’t actually want to do that.
No “ring by spring” (actually, that was OK). No boyfriend. I didn’t even date anyone in college.
After an especially frustrating summer in which I looked for a job that had some relevance to my profitable liberal arts major, I took a job at a coffee shop and further fulfilled the liberal arts stereotype.

It’s been three years since then. I’m still working at that same coffee shop. And lately, I’ve realized that I have no idea what I’m doing with my life or even what I would want to do with it. It’s what I lovingly refer to as my “quarter-life crisis.” You know the cliched concept of a mid-life crisis: someone goes off the deep end when they realize how much they haven’t done with their life, buys a fancy sports car, quits their job, becomes really concerned with the gray hairs on their head.
Mine’s been a bit more tame. I got a cat. I got my nose pierced. I cut my hair. I’ve been trying new things as a way to break the monotony and the uniformity that are all of my days.

And to be honest, the very last thing on that list still feels pretty far away from me right now. Even just in the last month it feels as though all the dreams in my life have fallen apart completely and left me standing in a giant pile of ash and dust, sifting through to find something concrete. It still feels as though I’m barely scraping by and trying desperately to be an adult, far away from my family a lot of my close friends. I’ve been sick off and on for two months, paying doctors bills and developing new sicknesses due to treating other ones. I’ve sat across the table from someone and waited to hear the answer I already knew was coming. I’ve watched them go on being happy and struggled to pretend to be OK.
I feel heartbroken, sad, and often incredibly discouraged.

I don’t say any of that to beg for sympathy or to bring about concern.
I’m OK. I’ll be OK.

I’m saying that being 25 is completely different than I could have ever possibly imagined it. It’s been a lot more pain than I ever thought was possible, a lot of growing in places that I didn’t realize needed to be stretched, a lot of concern over the way my life is unfolding versus the way I see other people. Being 25 has created an uneasiness in me that makes me want to focus on the people around me  and contrast our lives; it’s broken open that place inside of me that is chock full of insecurity and bared it to the world. I catch myself looking at pictures on Facebook  and wishing that their happiness was mine, and then realizing just how destructive that desire can be.

Being 25 has been this complex picture that no Buzzfeed article, no “Things You Should Do in Your Twenties” slideshow, no Hollywood depiction can truly encapsulate.

It’s sucked. But it’s also been full of accomplishments and growth as I continue to make myself do hard things and try to figure out who I really am. Because, let’s face it–a decade later, I’m still just as unsure and unaware about who I am and what I want to do with my life than I was when I was 15.

Being 25 means I’m older, sure, and maybe a little wiser. But it mostly means that I am constantly realizing I have a lot more growing up to do, a lot more changing and figuring things out. It means that I get to learn how to be OK when things are hard and to be grateful for the small, happy moments life affords every now and then.

Being 25 is tumultuous. Crazy hard. But it’s just the beginning.

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Don’t mind me; I’ll just be over here, on my back, in the grass, trying to breathe.

So I started running.

I hope you’re getting the right mental picture here.
Imagine you’re out for a brisk jog. You’re enjoying the soft breeze, the dappled sunlight through the trees, the birds chirping. All of a sudden, imagine that you see a profusely sweaty, red-faced girl wearing two different kinds of running shorts (listen, I have thick thighs and one pair meant lots of chafing), an over-sized tee shirt with some sort of flame symbol on it (Lee University, what what), huffing her way slowly along the running trail and occasionally tripping over the curb as she zig-zags her way confusingly across the sidewalk, often stopping abruptly and gasping for air like it’s going out of style. You’ll probably be a little horrified and quicken your pace so you can pretend you were too into your run to notice her or make eye contact.

That’s about right. I feel a little embarrassed as I plod along and watch all the other runners who aren’t sweating like every drop of moisture is leaving their body simultaneously pass me in glorious ease. I mean really. They’re not even breathing hard most of the time. And I’m over here dying. It’s really not fair. How do that many people look so good while they exercise??

Starting wasn’t the hard part, honestly. It was a beautiful day, I felt restless but motivated at the same time. I even did much better than I expected to when my feet hit the path that afternoon. It had all the ingredients to give me a “runner’s high” and kept me going back the last few times.

But today. Oy. Today was hard. Wednesday was hard, too, but I knew it would be because my legs hurt from the combination of crazy work days and the past few times I had been running.

Today hurt in a I-just-hit-a-wall-and-I-think-I’m-dying kind of way.
I didn’t want to run today–I wanted to be a baby and walk the whole time. Sure, the first stretch that I tried running felt OK… But once I hit that wall I wanted to give up and go home. I’d be going at it and all of a sudden my legs were screaming at me and my side had a terrible stitch and I couldn’t hardly breathe and I couldn’t think about anything else. So I’d stop, once even bending over to try to breathe a little better. And I’d walk for a few minutes before I psyched myself up to try running again, only to see the same results 2 minutes in. Stop. Walk. Run. Repeat.

I struggle with making myself do hard things. There are the few facets of my life that came easily here and there. For example, I was actually able to transition to eating Paleo fairly easily, and sticking with it has often been easy.
But there are so many aspects of my life that I find myself stalling and making excuses and procrastinating. Exercising has often been one of those–I work a high-intensity job that requires me to be on my feet for 8 hours at a time so I figured that I was OK and didn’t need to engage in any sort of physical exertion besides that.
And, on some level, that’s probably true. I’d be OK without it.
But the psychological aspect is that getting off the couch, tearing myself away from Netflix, tucking my phone away and getting outside to huff and puff for an hour is a far, far better thing than sitting in my apartment and distracting myself by binge-watching episodes of Scrubs. Wasting time in fruitless distractions never got me anywhere, and I know that conceptually. It’s the finally doing something about knowing it that is insanely hard for me.

Making myself do this particular hard thing has already given me so much: the security in knowing I can exercise my self-discipline, the good feeling of having made my body work, and the ability to channel the overwhelming feelings from the 8,659 thoughts in my head into something concrete and fairly therapeutic.

Sure, I may be listening to a playlist that is full of break-up songs, angry lyrics, and generally p*ssed-off outlooks (which may or may not include a few Taylor Swift numbers…), but at the end of it I needed something to do that wasn’t Netflix, eating my feelings, or just sitting around feeling sorry for myself. I let myself feel all the things while I’m out there beating my feet against the concrete and in return I feel a little less hopeless and overwhelmed when I get home and face my quiet apartment once again.

So, I’m running.
Don’t mind me, I’ll be the sweaty mess who stops all the time and probably looks like a duck trying to sprint as my feet flop all over the path, but I’m out there and I’m making myself do a hard thing.

Far Better Things

No.

Because who really likes to hear that word?

When you’ve reached the end of something or are anxiously waiting at the beginning and hoping and praying and wishing for it to happen, the worst feeling comes from hearing that syllable, seeing those two letters grouped together in the most unappealing way:

No.

Maybe sometimes it’s not so bad. It’s just a minor bump along the way, a small snag in the imagined plan you have playing in your mind like a movie (because we all do). The No is hard to hear but it’s not going to ruin anything. It’ll just take some recalculating, readjusting, reimagining. You may even have anticipated the No and have already created plans to get past it seamlessly.

But.

But there are times no matter how much you see the No coming, the want was just too bad. It filled up all the cracks and chinks that pockmarked the surface of the dream you carried, making it seem complete and whole. The want kept you from plucking at the strands and loose ends of your master plan, kept you from imagining the worst, chased the possibility of failure away.

But you still saw it coming. Like turning away from the sun and seeing the rolling, heavy rain clouds rushing in your direction. You just chose to keep your face towards the orange horizon, pretending that the storm wasn’t actually coming this way and that you would be fine as long as you could see the light in the sky.

And then it started raining.
Not just sprinkling, but a vicious and ugly storm that absorbed the sun and made the darkness seem unbreakable.

No.

Sometimes it’s that much worse to somehow know the answer you’re going to get before you even ask. Because you ask anyway hoping that maybe, please maybe, you’re wrong. And when you’re not all the holes and chinks that were once filled become vapid and empty, expanding and crackling until the dream crumbles like smoking embers in your burned fists.

Or maybe it’s not even a question that you asked; maybe it was a circumstance you hoped would eventually work out on its own, all the parts all fitting together nicely with no room for doubt or uncertainty. The No came when you finally saw you were holding handfuls of corner pieces and trying to make a whole puzzle and the overwhelming impossibility of it came together in one fell feeling–rocks churning in the bottom of your stomach, you realized it wasn’t going to happen.

No.

The hardest part?
The No is not a one-time thing.
It’s waking up and remembering over and over again that the answer was No.
It’s seeing that picture, that face, hearing that voice, staring at those corner pieces in your hands again.
It’s watching the horizon desperately and feeling like the sun will never reappear from its angry, grey prison and relieve you from drifting aimlessly in the snapping sheets of rain.

It’s reliving that moment when you knew, absolutely, it was a No.

However.

Someday, surely, the sun will come back out. Someday the pieces will make a picture.
Someday the answer might be
Yes.

One must hope. And wait.

C.S. Lewis quote

Can I go back now?

Made a brief trip to Nashville this past week to see a certain adorable nephew of mine, who has gotten so big since I saw him last! I rode up with my mom and youngest brother and we stayed with my oldest brother and sister-in-law for a few days while we basked in the cuteness that is little JM. We even got to babysit him for an evening while my brother and sister went out on a date, which was of course perfectly fine with us.
2015-08-11 17.21.27Look how cute he is!!!
And completely chubby. I’m loving the little double chin he has going on–it’s beyond precious, especially since his arms, legs, and belly are also rolls on rolls on rolls.

I love holding him. He stares right into your face as if he’s memorizing it, not breaking eye contact for minutes at a time. He obviously loves mommy and daddy the most, but it was neat to watch him watch me (sometimes in confusion) and try to make sense of my funny faces and noises.
The kid is a pro at making faces.

2015-08-10 17.20.14“What are you doing?”
Bahahahaha.

2015-08-11 16.52.17Perks of being the first baby/nephew/grandbaby: he’s going be spoiled with lots of love from all his family. 🙂

The fearless feline

I get home from being at a friend’s house, walk into my apartment and turn on the light. Kitten immediately accosts me with his pitiful meows and chases after my feet as I walk into the bedroom to kick off my shoes.

I walk back into the kitchen after changing into my pajamas only to find him ON TOP OF MY FRIDGE.
He knows better. Oh, does he ever know. He knows he’s not allowed on the counters AT ALL. Yeah, he’s a cat. He does what he wants. But he also knows that if he dares to set his cute little paws on the counter he’s going to be directly squirted in the face with a water bottle. As many times as it takes for him to get it.
He doesn’t particularly care for that.

So fast forward to tonight, he’s on top of my fridge, meowing frantically and looking a little lost. I immediately scoop him down and in no uncertain terms scold him (because he obvs knows what I’m saying).

I turn around to look at my laptop and immediately hear thump.
He’s back on the fridge again.
“Kitten!”
Back on the floor.
So now he’s sitting at the base of the fridge, meowing frantically and staring intently at the ceiling.

I finally get the thought that perhaps he’s meowing at something just in time to see a nice, big, black cockroach crawling across the wall in the kitchen. I jump up, grab my roach spray, move the things off the fridge, knock over a few bottles on the counter in the process, and spray the sh*t of the roach. It falls to the floor pitifully and tries to writhe away. I give it one last good spray and look up, expecting kitten just a few feet away and ready to pounce. He’s nowhere to be seen.

I throw the roach away, wipe up the mess. Go looking for the kitten, only to find him hiding under my bed.

My hero.

12 Ways to Not Piss off Your Local Barista

Adulting is hard. Seriously.

There’s nothing like making yourself constantly do things that you don’t want to do, especially when everything is hard and you just want to crawl into bed and eat ice cream for the rest of your life.

But you have to get up, go to work, make people happy so you can earn those dolla dolla bills so you can go grocery shopping and buy cat food, and litter, and stupid toys that your kitten destroys within hours of you bringing them home. And people food of course.
If you’re really honest with yourself you’d so much rather let the dishes pile up the in sink for days with the laundry doing the same while you camp out in your bed, alternating between ice cream and Life cereal for meals and thinking about maybe pulling yourself up to go change the litter box because it stinks, dammit, and maybe on your way back to the bed you might grab another bowl of cereal and then eat it while you watch so many episodes of Scrubs that Netflix gets worried and starts pausing them halfway through and asks you if you’d like to continue watching?
Not that I know any of that from experience. Nope.

But rather than even begin to approach the 8,623 thoughts that are running marathon laps through my brain, I thought I’d instead focus on something else and compile a list. Because I love lists–they make me happy and bring order to chaos. During college I worked as a student facilitator for graduation ceremonies, and during that last month before the actual ceremony I often collected stories from situations with actual students that I used as a PSA for all future graduates. Things like: you really should pay that $5 library fine before you show up to graduation on Saturday morning and we literally have to pull you out of the line because you can’t walk across the stage and get your diploma without giving the school its money, or you really should know that graduation tickets don’t grow on trees and just because you have 25 1/2 family members coming to the ceremony doesn’t mean we can magically produce tickets for all of them when you were originally allotted 5.

So I’d like to do the same with some of my more favorite coffee shop moments.

*Ahem*

12 ways to not piss off your local barista

  • If we have a big sticker lopped across the front of a drink on the menu board that says “Temporarily Out,” it probably means we’re out of it. Proceeding to rant about that other store across town that has the ingredients and can make it will also not change anything; if you’re so sure about them having the ingredients, you should probably go there. We won’t be heartbroken.
  • If you’ve been sitting in the drive-thru for more than 2 minutes, you probably should get your wallet, purse, messenger bag, or man purse out and grab some money instead of looking completely surprised that we’ve asked you to pay for your order when you get to the window and then reaching into the back to grab your card.
  • You should never lie and send your drink back because you think said you wanted that iced. There are at least 3 baristas with headsets on that can disprove that faster than you can say caramel cappuccino.
  • If someone dressed like an employee is sitting outside with a tupperware of food, a nice iced beverage, and a book you should not approach them and start a conversation with Oh, do you work here? and proceed to ask them questions that you could have walked 10 feet inside and asked of those other baristas who are actually wearing work aprons.
  • Just because your barista is a female and you are a male doesn’t mean you should call her baby, sweetie, sugar, honey, dear, or darling repeatedly while winking at her. She will not appreciate it and you might find that your beverage was lacking something in the caffeine department later in the day.
  • Pulling up to the drive-thru and asking What pastries do you have today? is a good way to make the barista answering the speaker want to stick his or her head in the coffee grinder. We have over 20 kinds of pastries on any given day; please don’t make us rattle them all off to you because you don’t even know what kind of flavor you are in the mood for.
  • Your local coffee shop may list their sizes differently than simply “small” “medium” and “large.” Don’t scream at your barista when they recite your drink back to you and accidentally use the coffee shop’s name for a small instead of the word “small.”
  • Do. Not. Use. Your. Cell. Phone. At. The. Counter. EVER.
  • Additionally, it’s pretty obvious that you aren’t listening to a word your nice barista says when they greet you with a What can I get started for you? and you reply with a distracted I’m great, how are you? Um.
  • When asked What can we get started for you? the best and most appreciated way to begin your request (it is a request, believe it or not) is with a please or may I have. Nothing sounds more rude than Make me a [blank blank blank]. What, were you raised in a barn?
  • Do you know what a cappuccino is? But seriously. Do you? Picking up your drink at the end of the bar and immediately commenting But it’s so light! There’s nothing in here! tells the barista who made it that you probably don’t.
  • And, finally. Paying for your $9.98 order with a $10 bill and telling us to keep the change is not as heroic to us as it might appear to you. There are 20 of us who will be splitting those 2 pennies, thank you.

Comfort

Books.

image

I like people. I love my family and friends. Those relationships mean the world to me and I will never not need them.

But there’s something about books that brings me comfort. Finding the deepest corner of some small book store and listening to the silence, the pages being turned, or the quiet conversations of the other wanderers around me.  I don’t honestly even have to be reading them. Brushing the pages against each other, smelling them, running my fingers across the spines of a hundred different stories. I can forget about reality for an hour and get lost in the made-up worlds described on book jackets and back covers. Books aren’t complicated or unpredictable. They don’t have feelings or reactions or advice or sympathetic looks to give; I can feel whatever I feel and not have to explain it to anyone, yet tucked away in an aisle of a quiet library I don’t feel alone. There is something about a roomful of books that is comforting in a way I can’t fully describe, yet I am drawn in by perpetually.

I haven’t posted this week, mainly because I’ve been sick. Sick and sad.

Realizing that that thing you’ve wanted for a really long time isn’t going to happen is like being sucker-punched in the gut, every morning. There’s that bliss of 30 or so seconds when you wake up and don’t remember anything except for the remnants of a blurry dream in which you tossed and turned your way through, before you get the feeling you’re forgetting something important. All it takes is that half a second for the memory to cut through your fogginess and bring you back into reality.

I wish those 30 seconds lasted a little bit longer. I’d like to think that eventually they will become 60 seconds, a couple of minutes, a few hours. Several days. That the sadness doesn’t always loom over everything and settle into my bones until I feel like I weigh 500 pounds. That going to bed doesn’t mean staring at the ceiling and replaying conversations in my head until I can’t remember what is real and what I imagined.

For now, I find solace in dusty bookshelves and the musty smell of an old bookstore. In words and pictures and simply just being around the written word of a thousand different authors. In being by myself, but not being alone.