SPOTIFY PLAYLIST: MT1: So This is the New Year Around now is when I remember I made New Year’s resolutions back in December of the previous year.
This realization always happens at the most inopportune time, like while I was at the grocery store the other day taking a mental inventory of my freezer and debating how many containers of Haagen-Dazs I could comfortably fit in there (the answer: five, but only if I take out my bottle of vodka). As I was reaching for a chilly pint of caloric sin, I remembered I vowed to eat less junk food in 2015.
Before I knew it, my other forgotten resolutions began spilling out of my head and into my shopping cart: eat healthier, complete my novel, become financially responsible, buy a new car, apply to grad school, pint sized reminders of my failure piling up in front of me.
I drove home in a panic, taking frantic chomps of my Haagen-Dazs coffee ice cream without even using a spoon, overwhelmed by the New Year’s resolutions I had forgotten and subsequently broken (including one I always make to eat better). Are all of my resolutions equally important? No, not particularly. But in these moments, I find myself asking the same question over and over again: when will I start feeling like an adult?
I thought I was having some kind of arrested development, but my therapist affectionately called my restless panic a “quarter-life crisis.” The term, originally coined by Abby Wilner, was used to describe her post-college anxiety after she moved back home and had no idea what do with her life. Like Wilner, I strutted around my college campus like a pseudo-adult, high on the possibility that I would change the world, certain that my future would be printed on the back of my diploma like a treasure map. Nobody told us we needed to reshape our childhood dreams into practical goals (or maybe they did and we just weren’t listening). Many of us felt ill-prepared for adulthood, as if thrown out of a plane with a knapsack instead of a parachute.
Growing up, I dreamt of becoming a famous violin player and novelist. I’m not sure why I thought those two careers were related, but I remember the blurry vision I had of my taller self, playing beautifully enough to bring people to tears and reading excerpts from my novel in packed bookstores. At 31, I can assure you that I am neither of those things. In fact, by this age I was confident I’d be successful, married, possibly famous, and writing bestselling novels in a home office with a large picture window. Many of my closest friends are now parents or have professions that make me feel woefully unaccomplished. I sometimes feel like I’m playing catch up with them, hoping there will be some definitive moment where I feel like I’ve successfully transitioned into adulthood too.
I am beginning to think the first step into adulthood is less apparent than we imagined growing up. Am I a grown up when I pay for my bills instead of purchasing a new pair of shoes? Am I considered an adult when I live in a house instead of an apartment? Am I a grown up when I stop eating pop tarts for breakfast? Perhaps only I am able to decide.
We have the power to assign meaning to the personal milestones in our lives. These badges of honor should be not be defined by the arbitrary expectations set by society, but rather by the ever changing personal goals we create for ourselves. We may not fulfill every resolution we make this year and that’s okay. We’re meant to be in this chaotic limbo between adolescence and adulthood. We’re meant to flounder in our new freedom and responsibilities because without this struggle, there would be no growth.
I haven’t become a famous violin player or novelist yet (although, I’m still holding out for the latter), but it doesn’t mean I’ve stopped thinking about who I want to be. Even if we don’t end up becoming the adults we originally envisioned ourselves as, our fantasies dare us to dream bigger than the realities we know. These experiences are what steer us toward who we are, filling in the essential markers in our journey, and further guiding us on the road ahead.
Instead of lamenting over what we’ve left unfinished, let’s take a moment to appreciate what we’ve accomplished so far. Let’s celebrate our steps and missteps. As far as I’m concerned, this marks the beginning of 2015. Our slate isn’t clean, but we don’t need it to be.
So let’s continue to be dreamers and resolution makers. Let’s be idealists and also remember we have the capacity to make great strides in our lives. As Gloria Steinem once wrote, “Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning."
SPOTIFY PLAYLIST: MT1: So This is the New Year
Kristel is a sometimes angsty writer from Hawaii who now lives in Los Angeles, CA. She claims she’s a Marketing Director at web design agency, but she spends most of her day in front of the computer while wearing pajamas.
Musical Temperance is her small attempt at creating the perfect soundtrack to help her survive an extended quarter-life crisis. Additional musings and playlists can be found at kristelyoneda.com.
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