Although I’ve allowed a couple months to pass, here, you will be relieved to know that I have at least been thinking about blogging. In fact, I have even been writing down ideas in a little notebook as they come to me, in the hopes of doing some kind of “Dispatches From Unemployment” type update. But alas: I have no idea what most of my reminders refer to anymore.
For example, I see here that the first one says “Maybe Tomorrow Will Be Different.” I know this came from some conversation at the end of the day, where I said the phrase in question, probably while gazing wistfully out a darkened window, and Ryan responded in a Lifetime Movie announcer voice: “Maybe Tomorrow Will Be Different: The Katie L***** Story.” But what was it I thought might be different? Maybe tomorrow I will find a full-time job? Maybe tomorrow Ryan will hear back about grad school? Maybe tomorrow we will no longer be living with my parents (hi, Mom and Dad!)? Who can say? Not I.*
Regardless, a few somewhat large life events have occurred — we have returned to the states, and my twenties are behind me — and I am going to rummage around in my dusty geriatric brain until I find something I want to say about these events. Okay then! My name is Katie and I live in America again and I am thirty!
I Live In America Again
Just kidding, I have basically nothing of note to say about this end of things. We were away for a while, and it was nice, and now we’re back, and that is nice, too. The other day Ryan and I were listening to the Diane Rehm show — tuned to NPR in our leased Honda Fit, on our way to Panera, our transition back to flabby middle class American life finally complete — and this lady was on, talking about her book on happiness. I enjoyed listening to her, especially after discovering she was an actual psychologist who researches happiness and not a blogger with a danged book deal. She talked about hedonic adaptation, about how, because of our ability to rapidly adjust to any new circumstance, the things we think will make us insanely happy never actually do so for very long.
Can I just say, that shit is word. A couple weeks ago my parents and I went out antiquing in Bumfuck, Virginia. The sky was blue and the diner breakfast was legit and the antique malls were eminently rummage-able. Thinking about having a day like that — out with family in Real America, trying on stupid vintage hats, eating some motherfucking buttermilk biscuits — would have been almost literally painful a year ago, like where you double over and put your hands to your face and go “uuuuuurrrrrgggggghhh god America” while Mongolia laughs, blows its wintry air all over you, and stuffs dried milk curds into your mouth.
However: That day, while it was pleasant and filled me with a moderate amount of happiness, did not make me fall to the ground in spasms of euphoria, which is how I would have expected to feel. I don’t know. As it turns out two and a half years is really not a very long time to get so worked up about these things, especially when you’ve had a steady internet connection for almost that whole period. So, hello again, America. I see everything is more or less how we left it.
That being said, it sure is nice to see people again, and it is especially nice to return to DC (or the DC area, because we live with my parents out in the suburbs and I must continue to announce that to the world as often as possible), where we know people, lots of people, lots of lovely people who are nice to us and hang out with us and even give us paid work. I spent a couple of hours the other day reading my own blog archives from February 2007 onward — February 2007 being when we were in the exact same position we are in now, i.e., home after a stint abroad, living with my parents, trying to secure employment — and feeling so sorry for those poor assholes. In a new city, trying to make friends, anxious about the future, looking for jobs exclusively on Craigslist for christ’s sweet sake.
I Am Thirty
That single dead leaf up there — trembling, ready to be swept away by the bitter winds of winter — is meant to symbolize my lost youth.
So it seems like the whole world, or at least my dingy little corner of the internet anyway, is all of the sudden just full of ruminations on overprivileged twentysomethings, right when I have crossed the threshold into overprivileged thirtysomthinghood. This New Yorker book review is a good overview, although it leaves out Elizabeth Wurtzel’s completely horrifying account of her total shambly horrorshow of an imitation of a life worth living, oh my god. It got a reaction out of me because a) obviously it is very well written and b) when I was a teenager I used to think that I might become a much less successful version of her, somebody who spends decades refusing to make any binding life decisions, somebody who is a writer, or in the case of alternate-universe me a “writer,” somebody who grows progressively more alone and more crazy and more broke. What’s most frightening is that I also used to think this was a kind of life I should have, like if only I had the courage of my convictions I would one day move to a major metropolitan area (preferably overseas) and live by myself and have no support network and be clinically depressed all the time. Like a bohemian version of Cathy? Without Irving, but with the sweatsuit.
I used to feel this way because when I imagined adult life, every other possibility — marriage, grad school, home ownership, children, a non-glamorous office job, saving for retirement, commuting in rush hour — seemed even more scary than Bohemian Depressed Cathy. Clearly Wurtzel feels this way, too:
And a lot feels potentially imprisoning to me: To get through every day, through a job of staring at pencil marks in spreadsheets through glassy eyes, through humoring a husband who has not sold a screenplay in six years and is writing a new one still, through telling everybody your three basic children are talented and gifted—I know that people who do these things are happy because happiness is the untruths we tell each other and ourselves or it would be unbearable. But I would rather not. I would rather be sad, and sometimes lonely, but at least not suffering the silly.
Eighteen-year-old me, with all her knowledge of herself and the world, would have agreed. But thirty-year-old me is all, imprison yourself, Wurtzel! THE CAGE WILL SET YOU FREE!
What in god’s name is my point, here.
Basically, I am at peace with the Prison of Life now in a way that I was not in my mid-20s, when I was writing stuff like this. There are many potential reasons for this: The universe has been nice to us and as a result I am not worried about our future; I have a set of somewhat useful skills and experiences now that I didn’t when I was 25; we just finished doing A Big Thing that was Important To Us To Have Done, and while it was sometimes difficult and painful I am grateful it happened, so grateful that sometimes the feeling of gratitude crosses into a feeling of deep relief.
But it’s also possible that I feel better about things just because I’m older now.
Or then again, could it be because of my new frantic diet and exercise routine? Because oh my god can I just tell you that I’ve been counting calories the last couple of weeks and it’s —
So now I will wrap this up with some Resolutions For My 30th Year even though it’s 16% over already:
1. Work on my nail art game:
2. Try not to bore people too much with my calorie counting
3. Start a gratitude journal? I don’t know. Stop laughing at me. This seems like a reasonable idea thanks to the Happiness Studies Internet Hole I fell down after listening to that lady talk about her book (of course that internet hole is not bottomless; it ends with this article from The Atlantic which calls for a whole other boring blog post). But don’t worry, if I actually start gratitude journaling I won’t be doing it here. I’ll be doing it all over Facebook. Haha just kidding, of course I’ll be doing it in some kind of private notebook, and probably not anywhere near daily, and probably after I’m dead and my family/the authorities are going through my things they will discover in my stack of yellowed steno pads that I just wrote “I AM SO GRATEFUL FOR THESE HIGH-RISE WORKOUT PANTS” over and over.
4. Find some kind of creative endeavor to take the place of last year’s photo-taking. I know how morally indefensible it is for me to link here to yet another site having to do with myself, but I mean, I did manage to do a full 365 project in 2012 (almost) and if you are so inclined you may see the fruits of my labor here. I am very glad I did this. It was a photogenic year.
Also, here is a gif:
I hope you are well. Good night.
* This post took forever to finish (probably because I have un-learned how to find things to write about in daily American life — it’s so much easier when you’re in a foreign country and every day brings countless, blog-ready opportunities for you to explore your own buffoonery). It took so long to finish that the following things have changed since I began: Ryan got into grad school, I got a full time job, and I stopped counting calories. So that’s a relief.