This post originated as a personal essay written for my Creative Nonfiction course in Spring of 2017.
The Tale of Celeste
I want you to think about a young girl named Celeste. She is your typical high school senior, and recently accepted to her college of choice. She went to the admitted students day, submitted her deposit, got a towel with new university’s name stitched on it, and is now confronted with the idea of class placement. Every student must take an introductory writing course their freshman year, and according to most sources everyone hates it. The only prerequisite to the course is a composition class, and to test out of it requires completion of a timed essay. Celeste has always excelled on essays, but only because she revises them with the dedication of a cat with a mouse.
This is the little-acknowledged super power of children: they care allowed to make mistakes. Not submitting an essay on time in high school is frowned upon, but is easily made up for. But if Celeste doesn’t finish this essay within 60 minutes, she will have to take a whole extra course her freshman year that will ripple all the way through her college courses and beyond. It is quite possibly one of the most important essays she will ever write.
At this moment, Celeste realizes that she is an adult and needs to get things done and no one is going to do it for her, which will rattle most sheltered 17-year-olds. Hunching in on herself, she starts the essay, and with 20 minutes to spare it’s submitted. She passes with flying colors and her mother asks why she was ever worried.
The Child that Becomes a Woman
Thus, ends the tale of Celeste. Its purpose was to suggest that there is a point in one’s life where a fundamental switch is flipped. Celeste didn’t instantly become a responsible forward-thinking, committed individual who never put off something she shouldn’t have. But she wasn’t quite the child she had been either.
It’s difficult to talk about the differences between childhood and adulthood, because there are arbitrary lines that are hard to cross completely. Look at life as divided into slices. A person must act a certain way in each slice with repercussions if they step out of line. Go to preschool, elementary school, middle school, high school, college, grad school, steady job, marriage, children, grandchildren, retirement, death. This version of the ‘American Dream’ is a falsity, and I have known this from my birth. Many people have different visions for how they live their lives, but there is always a cycle and a way to find yourself. To look at it another way: “What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three legs in the evening?”
The thing is, once I get out into the world, I can get things done and in fact I’m quite productive. Apparently, most people consider me well balanced and for some reason think I’ve got all my ducks in a row, got all my shit together. What people don’t seem to realize is that I am a chaotic mess. Every night when I get home and get ready for bed I am consumed by irrational anxiety. The only thing worse than this is the fact that when I tell people this they ask me why I’m so anxious. I point them towards the word irrational. Why it is so hard to understand that I don’t know why I feel this way? It is for the most part unexplainable. The issue here is my own inability to recognize my own limitations until I break them and I break down. My ducks are not in a row. They are in trench warfare against themselves and the trenches are full of shit.
Example A: “Hey love, how was your day?” “I had a great day, woke up at a reasonable hour after getting 10 hours of sleep and got work done and turned in my assignments and my meeting with my advisor went super well.” Cue me bursting into tears.
Example B: “If you’re so anxious why do you waste time by calling me and crying instead of doing your work? Pull it together.” This makes me cry more.
Even writing this makes me even more anxious. I tend to write about nothing but my anxiety, but this makes me more anxious and then I don’t have anything to write about so I write about what is bothering me but then that makes me feel worse not better because it’s all a vicious cycle. I’m shaking.
The thing about irrational anxiety is that you never know that it is coming. I woke up feeling sleepy, but mostly refreshed, and I could slowly wake myself up as I gathered my bearings. Before my eyes were even opened the sensation of being awake started to dawn on me. There was a pillow squashed on my back. I was facing the wall. For one brief and warm second I dared to dream that I was in my childhood home. I opened my eyes and saw my dorm room. A sigh. I don’t remember what my dream was about, and I know it was a nightmare and filled with uneasy thoughts and feelings, but I want to go back to sleep anyway.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that children in want of adulthood no longer want it when they get there. Parents tend to prevent their kids from gorging on candy and staying up late. As an adult, I can eat candy all day and stay up late. But I don’t want to. Personally, I’d like to be asleep by 10pm and wake up early so that I have time for breakfast, a run, and be able to make my bed in the morning before I leave for class or work.
Obviously my 8th grade self is disgusted.
That is not to say that I haven’t had my fair share of nights where I stayed up late, took care of drunk people, was a drunk person, and drank enough caffeinated beverages that my blood was on the verge of turning into energy drinks and I became a 2am regular at the C Store after closing out the library. Most of that is in the past now, as I have started a nice little love affair with sleep and hot tea.
I used to live alone. And as anyone who has ever lived alone can tell you, that left me with very little accountability.
I could go to sleep whenever I wanted, eat whatever I wanted, and have sex as loud as I wanted, none of it mattered to anyone but me. I went days without seeing another human, and if I forgot my shampoo before going to take a shower I didn’t have to bother putting a towel on. I didn’t have to do dishes until I ran out of spoons and if the salad I made the week before was fermenting in the fridge there was no one to call me out on it. No one could verify whether I had showered and/or did laundry because febreeze exists. If I decided to gorge myself on ice cream without taking any lactose pills, well there was no one to complain about the stink in the bathroom but my own squashed little nose.
I have a roommate again now, so this whole accountability thing has escalated.
Read: any dirty dishes stay in my room until I get sick of them.
On Being Human
Due to the fact that I try my best to be human (most of the time) I have set myself some ground rules:
1. Clean dishes within 24 hours of getting them dirty. More dishes can be added to the general horde, but they each have an individual 24-hour limit.
2. No dirty underwear on the floor. Jeans and sweatshirts, whatever, but dirty underwear is forbidden. (So is clean underwear, but why would anyone keep that on the floor?)
3. Keep a maximum of 48 hours in between showers. If you forget the last time you showered, flee to the bathroom immediately. Semantics problem sets can wait, you stink.
4. If you decide to stay home all day and retreat from all outside world action get dressed anyway. It can be pajamas, but they must be clean (or at least different from the pajamas you slept in). Walking around naked is also acceptable, but keep a robe handy for surprise video calls.
4.1 On a related note, make bare minimum contact with the outside world. Texting, Skype, an actual phone call, or owls, whatever works, just make sure you engage with minimum two other humans.
5. Eat. Eat at least one vegetable, and one source of protein. Yes, lean cuisine can count. If you are feeling fancy you can even put it inside a real bowl instead of simply eating out of the plastic. (Then again that may contribute to rule 1, so perhaps not.)
Follow these rules and I daresay you will be successful at passing yourself off as a capital H “Human.”
Almost everyone can find something in their past that makes them turn their head. Something done, said, unfinished, unsaid. Did I say I hated Harry Potter? Why did I write Jasper Hale’s name on five different binder clips? Is that really what my hair looks like from the back?
You’re not going to remember everything that has ever happened to you. Memories are imperfect, and a mystery. I remember being in elementary school, and asking my mum if she remembered people from her elementary school. It seemed unfathomable to me that she could forget people she saw every day for so many years. But even as I look back on that and think that I only remember a handful of kids from back then, and that’s mostly just the ones that pissed me off.
You’re Never As Prepared As You Want To Be
The hardest part of adulting is keeping up with the pace of it all. Life comes at you hard and fast. Sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes less so. Often, I get the sensation that I’m a step behind where I need to be, constantly discovering things that are great to know, but two years or two minutes after I needed to know them. That said, it’ll always work out until it doesn’t because that’s just what life does. It goes on until it stops and I love every birthday.
Statistics show that those who have the most live the longest.