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  • Writer's pictureErin

What's next?

Yesterday was the Monday-est Monday I've had in a long time. Maybe ever. I had a DMV appointment scheduled for 10:45, which had to be rescheduled from a few weeks ago as I didn't have one piece of information out of the ten I was supposed to bring. No matter. I left early on what would normally be a 45-minute drive, just in case. And yet, the moment I merged onto the highway, I got caught in a dead standstill traffic jam - overturned truck half a mile ahead - that lasted over an hour and a half. I had to reschedule again.

I get to work around noon after rerouting my morning, and catch up on emails that weren't answered over spring break. This takes an hour. I eat lunch, write up and print out newsletters to send to my students' parents, and don't even bother actually writing their addresses and sending them out, because that would have taken the rest of my workday. I opt to do that at home. I start grading final assignments for the quarter, and start biting my nails because so many of my students are failing, and nothing I do or say to them seems to be getting through. I meet with a few students in office hours, but most of the ones who show up are the ones who really don't need support in not failing. I look at the clock, and it's somehow already 3:45.

I drive to my therapist's office for our 4:00 appointment; it's a rough one. It feels like my brain is swimming in soap.

I leave; my gas light turns on, and I stop to fill the tank. A mile or two down the highway from there, I hear a pop from the back of my car, like a rock hit the side or something. Then I hear the whirring sound of a flat tire. I change it - I know how to do this, despite it taking half an hour - and then I get back in the car and head the final few miles home.

When I look over to the passenger seat, I realize I forgot to bring the newsletters and envelopes home. It's gonna have to wait another day.

Sigh. The woes of adulthood - I mentioned this concept in my last post. We've all been dealing with a lot lately across the board, but even still, individual lives get their own personalized stack of problems to sort through. Sometimes we get thrown the shitty Mondays just to make it more interesting. For me, the larger "stack" has been college loan payments, trying to peacefully coexist living with my parents, figuring out next moves with my partner, stressing over pay scales in other parts of the country, generally taking on more financial and general responsibility for myself - budding adult stuff. I also recently experienced the death of my grandmother and the fallout of her side of the family. Now I'm beginning the process of cleaning out her condo and divvying her belongings out to those who want them, donating the rest, and picking up the pieces left behind from it all. It's been a lot, and I feel the long-winded exhaustion behind my eyes as I write this. Have you been here?

How do we get so caught up in it?

There are a few immediate thoughts: first, I want to clarify that I don't want a pity party from this post, and I'm not trying to feel sorry for myself. These are just the things that have come up lately. In all honesty, I'm really proud of how I've been managing. Two years ago, I might have just crumbled. In any case, I think this is how we sometimes get stuck in the adult-world bullshit - we just let it get to us. We dwell on the stack of problems until it's all we see. Of course, depending on what the stack contains, we really can't avoid it. Yes, I have to face the fact that my grandma is dead now, and I will not see her again in this lifetime. Yes, I have to pay off the loans (unless the Biden administration pulls through, but I'm not holding my breath). But the traffic jam I stumbled into? I can't control that! Sure, I was annoyed to have to reschedule my DMV appointment for a second time, but you know as well as I do that they could care less if I showed up or not, if I changed the date or not. In the grand scheme of things, it really doesn't matter.

So, some gentle reminders for shitty life obstacles such as those above: again, sometimes, it really doesn't matter. Another thing that helps to think about in certain circumstances is the little cliche of it could be worse. Yeah, I got stuck in horrible traffic, but I could have been the driver of the overturned truck. We don't like to think about that sort of thing, but this is where we would then send out love to whoever was in that situation. We hope they're okay. We pass the scene of the accident, we're out of traffic, and we move on. What else can we do?

Well, all of this occurred the day after I got home from my spring break. I was able to visit my partner's mom in Jacksonville, Florida, and we had the most relaxing, fun-filled week. It felt so new and needed. My birthday was on the 29th of March, and vowed that I was going to spend that day, and the following days doing everything I love to do. We went to a few incredible skate parks, sat on the beach and turned on some lo-fi, enjoyed some Delta-8 chocolate, and read a new book. On the moment I turned 24, I sank my feet into the cold ocean water and silently let go of all the old, tired, dying elements of life that were not allowed to come with me into the next year. I thanked them all for their time and lessons, and sent them out to sea. I am an adult, and I am strong amidst the woes of adulthood. If we can start to believe that we will only put up with the things that we allow into our lives, life will start looking a lot more like a fun challenge than a burdening to-do list. In letting go of close-mindedness, poor boundaries, and shame in fully showing up as myself - the self I want the world to see - I get to open to so many new opportunities. I get to see life in a new way.

So, beyond the words of reaffirmation, and beyond holding the belief that we are strong and we are capable of walking away from things in life that do not serve us, there is one more deed to the mystery of how to enjoy what comes next, rather than be afraid of it. Think for a moment: what was your favorite thing to do as a kid? I personally loved digging in dirt and flipping over rocks, looking for bugs and loudly narrating stories about them. I would pretend I had my own TV channel similar to Animal Planet, but all the shows were about the different bugs I found in the yard, all about their lives. I used to make up games with my little brother, or draw portals on giant pieces of paper that I would try to step into, to see if I could really create another world. I climbed our backyard trees and would eavesdrop on my neighbors, or chase my cat around the neighborhood to see what he did all day, who his friends were. At some point, we get too busy or too distracted with the events of growing up to do these things anymore. But the question I'm beginning to ask more, and the one I want to stick at the center of my 24th year, is why? What's really stopping me from looking for bugs again? Better yet, what's stopping me from enjoying the process of doing so?

This isn't to say that in order to cope with adulthood, we all need to revert back to childhood. But at the very least, can we acknowledge the innocent wisdom that we held when all we cared about was what was right in front of us? Can we remember what it felt like to witness something for the first time - to be absolutely enthralled in it? Can we let life happen and enjoy the pockets of freedom and choice that come with it? It takes a load of unlearning and relearning to get back into the mindset of excitement over fear, and it's just not going to happen for everything all the time. No one actually wants to go to the DMV. But maybe while you're waiting in line, you happen to glance out the window at a fat squirrel in the nearby tree, and you keep your eyes on her for a few minutes. You notice that she's eating something, and that she's made eye contact with you. She cleans herself, and she looks so cute doing it. She minds her own business and goes about her day, while you go about yours. Before you reach the attendant at your window, you catch yourself with a little smile from the secret connection you just made. A little detour, at first mundane, becomes profound.

You wonder what will happen next.


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