Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Quarter Life Crisis

i wrote this a few years ago. it's frightening both how much and how little has changed.

On my way home from a family visit the city welcomes me with standstill traffic and thick, yellow skies
I'm not exactly sure when i started referring to this place as home
but it frightens me that i've gotten so used to yelling at strangers on the freeway

i talk to my friend on the phone as i drive and he tells me he's going through a quarter life crisis
26 years old, single, careerless, directionless
and seriously thinking about moving in with mom and dad so he can save up for a condo
nevermind that he makes twice what i do for half the work
he had wanted to be a musician
you're so lucky to be pursuing what you love, he says.
you are so lucky.

in high school you promise to make your first million by the time you're 22 so you can retire early
marry someone way younger than you and spend the rest of your days on the beach
sipping martinis and working on your tan
but 22 turns into 25 and somehow paying your bills becomes a priority over things like traveling, finding true love and changing the world
you make the worst mistake of your life by taking a job that requires you to wake up at the same time every morning
and suddenly you're 28
at which point you're no longer going through a phase you're just kind of a fuck up
and your family speaks in whispers at holiday gatherings hoping you'll at least marry into some money

you see, we are part of a growing social class with more opportunities than we know what to do with
where success is implied but never promised
and love means changing your profile from "single" to "in a relationship"

we strive for a better life, to make our families proud and achieve an acceptable level of comfort
but really, these are just nice ways of saying we need money to have happiness
as if one can't exist without the other
as if money not only makes you content, it keeps you healthy, sexy and young
with minty fresh breath and farts that smell like the first day of spring

but i remember the warm smile of the senior citizen employees at the walmart
who restock the snack shelves like it's the most fulfilling job in the universe
i remember the old man at the comic book shop who lights up like a child over new issues of X-men
even though he has to carry around an oxygen tank just to breathe
and i think to myself, what the hell do they know that I don't?
I'm not so patient i can wait another 40 years to understand the secrets of a happy life
and frankly, I know plenty of unhappy old people
so who can i turn to for advice?
who can i count on to give me a hug, hand me a beer and tell me that everything is going to be just...awesome?

because when you've lived a life of straight A's and merit scholarships, no one really wants to hear you bitch about your upper middle class problems
try explaining to your grandmother who had to evacuate her village during bombing raids that you're just not sure what to do with your life

tell your grandfather who survived world war II, the last male in his family line, that you don't think you're ever going to get married, let alone have kids

or complain to your aunt who was forced from school into internment that you haven't really used your college degree since graduating

i can never forget that struggle is nature's way of separating the weak from the strong
and having struggled for little, it is best to count my blessings and keep on my toes
because i may already be a happy person
I just don't know it yet

so i will make the effort to look forward to my car payments and the rent on my apartment because it beats taking the bus and sleeping on the street
i will teach myself to appreciate credit card debt because it means i've got shelves filled with nifty gadgets and a closet full of jackets
i'll call my parents and thank my mom for buying me my first set of paintbrushes
and for glorifying every single watercolor of she-ra, the thundercats and voltron on our refrigerator door
i'll thank my dad for making me play every sport he could think of and for showing up at all my matches
even after i told him it embarrassed me to have him there
and i'll thank my grandparents for proudly showing me off to their friends and strangers at the mall
and for making sure every girl i brought home saw those naked baby pictures of me that i thought i'd destroyed

I will never be unaware that it is my privilege to concern myself with bullshit like a quarter life crisis, my self esteem and whether or not I can really afford that vacation package to hawaii
I will endeavor each and every day to make sure
that the gifts my family fought so hard for me to have
do not go to waste.

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