I guess I’ve read the first ten pages of at least ten different books this week, none of which I’ve been able to attach myself to. I’m talking my very favorite ones. I started with Donald Miller, you know, that whole soul-searching theological self-inventory quest stuff, and then went on to my go-to’s from the canon…Catcher in the Rye, Franny and Zooey, even The Great Gatsby for crying out loud. Maybe it’s all the rain. Or the fact that I’m not attempting this with an oversized mug of tea in my hand. 12 ounces of tea won’t last more than a chapter in books like these. It simply won’t do. My Keurig has ruined me.
Anyway, I’ve decided that two months of post-grad-sitting-in-my papasan-chair-watching-tv-shows-on-netflix-and-wearing-something-other-than-running-tights-only-sometimes is pllllllenty. No more going to the grocery store in yoga pants just to check out all the different kinds of fake milk. No more spending six hours reorganizing all my playlists on iTunes. Okay, actually, I don’t feel bad about any of those things.
Rewinding to the milk note, I was really excited about switching over to soy milk a few weeks ago. It made my starbucks order sound really pretentious and awesome — a venti unsweetened iced coffee with soy. I went to Wofford. I used to want to be a neurosurgeon. I drink soy, therefore, I must be important. Anyway, after consulting various blogs and doctor friends and grandparents, it seems that the processed soy in soy milk either causes cancer or prevents it. The jury’s still out on which one that is, which brings us to my next biggest accomplishment of summer: I switched to unsweetened almond milk. It’s actually really good in coffee, but they don’t have it at Starbucks, so now I’m training myself to like unsweetened iced coffee all by itself.
This is what happens when I don’t live at a Young Life camp for the summer. Weird things.
That’s really the most exciting thing I have to talk about, which is why I’ve been finding it hard to sit down and blog before now. The good news is that I am still a real person doing real people things. I popped into Windy Gap on Wednesday night and I still miss that place harder than I have ever missed anything ever. I met my new roommate for coffee yesterday and we ran around to some antique stores and too-expensive furniture stores. I’ve been trying to introduce her to my quirks gradually, so we covered my fears of fish, lakes, and fire. When I got home I realized that the lemons in my twelve-lemon centerpiece vase (thank you, Williams-Sonoma) are starting to grow things, so I am now in the market for some good fake lemons. I move to Boone in less than a month and I am a) scared, b) not ready, c) realizing that my Phase V apt is the nicest place I’ll live for a long time, and d) thinking a million thoughts all at once all the time.
Because here’s the thing. I’m not so good with change. Whenever I get to a transitional point in my life, even when things are fairly alright, I tend to stop and pelt myself with existential questions. This normally ends in me looking up the requirements for post-baccalaureate pre-med programs. Because somehow my life crisis default is re-convincing that I wasn’t all that miserable as a Bio major and that going to medical school will fix all my problems. I don’t know why I always go back to that, but I do. I wanted that for a long time, to be a doctor. It’s what was expected of me. Harvard and med school and important things. Harvard and Yale came to Abingdon when I was a senior to do some news stories for their new admissions process (why they picked Abingdon, I’ll never know) and the next thing I knew, I got called down to the office out of AP Chemistry because Harvard was on the phone. Something about being a preferred applicant from some made-up region in their fancy admissions system, and would I be available to help them with some press stuff. You should have seen my ego that day. Huge. At the end of it all, there was an article and a multimedia presentation (go here and Ctrl+F my last name; don’t say I never gave you anything) and the press photo for their new financial aid policy was me shaking hands with the Dean.
If you’re really lucky, I’ve let you see the video where they follow me around at school for a day. I’m wearing chinos, a button-up, and a knee-length grey peacoat. To high school. And use words like “esteemed” — precious moments.
When they interviewed my parents, my mother went on and on about how I had been talking about going to Harvard since I was 5. That wasn’t true at all. I think I’d first heard of Harvard when I saw Legally Blonde, which was probably not something the reporters wanted to know. But I suppose I picked that up and ran with it. And then, when I didn’t get into Harvard, I literally quit everything I was involved in because I was terrified that everything I did was part of this awful false identity that I’d let other people assign me. I didn’t really know who I was because I was focused on getting into Harvard instead of figuring out who I was or what I meant for. I wasn’t hyper-involved in Relay for Life because I particularly cared about it; I just wanted to look good on paper. I had a ten-year plan. And a knee-length wool peacoat. And a fake lifelong affinity for Harvard that I was holding onto for dear life. I’m serious. I wasn’t a very good person when I was seventeen.
I look back at seventeen-year-old me and all I want to do is tell her not to be so scared.
I spent a lot of time trying to measure up to this fabricated and impossible standard, and ever since then, it’s been my default to tell myself that I’m a disappointment whenever something didn’t come out cookie cutter perfect (and especially whenever I made a C+ on a Chemistry test or — God forbid — the day I marched into the Biology suite with my request to drop Cell Bio, the ultimate reassurance that I’d doomed myself to a life far below the bar that my 5-year-old Harvard-pennant-waving self had set).
Do you see where I’m going with this? I never even gave myself a shot. I can’t be the only one. I wonder what thirty-year-old me will have to say to twenty-one-year-old me.
A few months ago, I ran into an old friend from high school. And I remember that when he asked me if I was happy, I paused for a long time, and with a little bit of panic in my voice, I said “I don’t know.” And he recounted for me that I was about to start grad school and that I’d done a lot of great things, and that I should be happy. But all that was running through my head right then was, “Yeah, but I should be going to med school.” And that was in May.
You want to know the real reason for my dedication to spin class and my new affinity for watching The Bachelorette and why I feel weird if I leave the house in something other than chinos and pearls and why I still look up those post-baccalaureate pre-med programs? It’s because I’m still terrified. Just of different things this time. I say it’s of having to learn the intricacies of a new Panera, of snow, of not living close to a Target.
But really, I’m still terrified that I’m doing it all wrong. That I’m going the wrong way. That I’m still just trying to do what’s expected of me. That I blew it when I was a sophomore in college. That I’ll throw this big huge wedding because it’s what Pinterest says to do or that I’ll spend my life playing “keep up with the Joneses” with all the other Wofford grads, which is a losing battle if there ever was one. What if I bought my ruffled orange J. Crew peacoat was because it was Woffordy and not because I actually like it? Do I like it? “I do,” I reassure myself out loud.
I guess I don’t have a resolution for all of this yet, as I’m still in the middle of it. But to all the people out there who are just as terrified as seventeen-year-old-me and twenty-one-year-old me all I have to say is this:
First, it’s going to be alright.
“This place where you are right now, God circled on a map for you.” (Hafiz)
It’s a prayer of mine that I’ll be able to find rest and freedom and happiness in that.
I bought some fresh peaches this morning, and though I mostly want to stand around and sniff them, I think I’ll turn them into a nice cobbler. Because I want to, not because Pinterest told me to.