I want to exist as my own person and I don’t know how
I’ve been told what to do for pretty much my whole life. I’ve had to ask for permission to be myself, permission which was granted or denied. May I please go up to my room? May I please have something to drink? I often felt more comfortable going over to friend’s houses and raiding their fridges when I was hungry than going into my own.
As I got older, my world opened. I got a car, I could go to friend’s houses or downtown on my own, but still felt trapped by obligations. I could rub X’s off my hands and sneak into bars, but still had to keep going to class and practicing the piano a half hour a day.
Some people would call my entrapment “responsibility,” or “growing up.” I just wish I had more of a say in it all.
In the past, I felt like my work was a means to an end. High school was babysitting and socialization with some learning mixed in. My good GPA and well-rounded resume got me into college. College offered freedom, self-exploration, and the nebulous mind-expansion of liberal arts with the hope of a job at the end of it all. HAHAHAHAHA. Four unpaid internships later and I’m all, “how did I get here?”
This is not my beautiful apartment
This is not my beautiful boyfriend!
I know the future is uncertain. I know I can’t quantify every experience I have by charting what gains it will bring. I just wish I could take steps in what I believe is the “right” direction–the direction in which the world is pushing me, or where everyone else seems to be going, or what may feel like my only option–while still existing as ME.
Emily likes cooking and eating and walking around outside. Emily likes squeezing her cat and cuddling with her boyfriend. Emily does not like sitting inside an office, behind a desk, working at a computer. She thinks it’s stupid to wake up early to get a ride with someone when she could have slept later and just walked herself.
Maybe the life lesson I am being forced to learn, lest I suffer the consequences, is to friggen say no, create my boundaries, and stick to them. When I was in high school, around the time I was sneaking into bars and asking for permission to exist, I came up with a brilliant idea: Say Yes to Everything. I wanted to experience all life had to offer and didn’t want to let my own prejudices get in the way. What a bad idea.
Times when it’s nice to say no: when you don’t want it, when you don’t need it, when you don’t like it, when you can’t afford it, when it’s not what you’re looking for, when you don’t think it’s the best option for you, when it’s uncomfortable, when it’s unsustainable
I am aware that I am not some sort of cultural auteur that is so brilliant and transcendent that I could make a living just by being myself. “Look who just got high and took another picture of her cat and made a weird joke on Twitter! Forget Lena Dunham; Emily is our girl!” No. Just, no. But if I am selling out and becoming yet another homogenous grown-up, can I at least sell out? This girl has got to get paid!
Some of this has to do with my problematic black-and-white thinking. When I was unemployed, I happily filled my time writing and baking and exploring Seattle. I wasn’t nearly perfect and did sometimes stress during big amorphous expanses of time, but I was generally productive.
Now, much of my time is spoken for. During my free time–a half hour with Ben here, an hour there–I freak out that I don’t have more! Time is passing (and being wasted) more quickly than I can deal with it. I had the whole day off yesterday, a kind of surprise vacation, and I spent a good chunk of it crossed legged in bed bingeing on Parks and Rec with a few very large Coronas.
My life is happening faster than I can think. I’m trying to fight my way towards the reins so I can at least recognize myself at the end, but most of all I want to shout WHOA and relax for a minute. My little filly can nibble on some grass, and I’ll lie back and draw the flowers.