Once upon a 2011, there was a girl who had a plan.
Her days and weeks were color coded in her Google Calendar AND neatly written in her planner for good measure. There was a well-versed answer for what she wanted to be when she grew up to be the very adult and fully grown age of twenty-five. She had a general trajectory for how she envisioned her place in the world and she knew all the right words to say if she suddenly found her careful plan totally unraveling. Her definition of success was doing anything to avoid the long walk home and never admitting total defeat that she doesn’t, in fact, have her shit together.
And then she grew up and took a liking for red wine which lead her to be more honest with herself and frankly, way cooler. Not that drinking wine makes you cool. I’m just saying that maybe, just maybe, I needed help to chill out and realize that having no plan is totally, one-hundred percent fine. I have maintained the appearance of millennial success but have had no plan, no intentions, no actual career goals and no next step other than the faint idea that maybe one day I would move home to Portland for the last four years.
This spring I’ll complete four years of post-college real world education and check off the one thing on my to-do list since graduating college by moving to the city that I actually wanted to be in from the very beginning. This fact serves no purpose other than to remind myself that four years is actually a really short amount of time because I still have no idea what I’m doing. Here I am again on the internet writing notes-to-self for the things I wish I knew in each year of my post-college real world education to make myself feel like I accomplished something. You can say I earned my Masters in Adulting. (Except please don’t, that’s a terrible line and also I made yet another grilled cheese for dinner yesterday so…make your own assumptions there.)
While I was packing for my big move, I went on a major nostalgia bender. I went through old photos, notes, and journals that I’ve collected over the last four years. Then for good measure I read some of my old blog posts. My If-You-Can-Dream-It-You-Can-Do-It 22-year-old self annoyed me so much that I told my friend Katherine that I was going to decommission this blog. It had clearly served its purpose for my first foray into adulthood and now that I’m older, wiser, and — thank God — a little more emotionally stable I can probably stop word-vomiting my know-it-all truths onto my corner of the internet in an effort to convince myself that I am more successful than I feel. To which Katherine immediately responded, “You can’t! I read your blog and I NEVER read anyone’s online blog (no offense to all of you other twenty-something self publishers). Your words are helpful and you have a different perspective. Don’t quit now.”
End of the conversation. In a matter of seconds, I felt really proud of my semi-devotion to this semi-consistent hobby over the last four years and also I did not, in fact, delete this thing out of my own insecurities. Get yourself a Katherine.
That very blonde & maybe a little too enthusiastic college grad who made a WordPress account on a whim was trying her best and she deserves a little grace. Everything she blindly walked through actually brought me to where I am today, so for that I am grateful for her bold naivety. I am also grateful that she learned how to be alone, how to not care so damn much about what people think and also that she learned how to be wrong.
Here are the cliff notes of what I wish I knew in each of the last four years. I hope in another four years I reread this list and cringe some more. I hope I’m so wrong about the things I’ve learned and am declaring as truth to the internet today that I actually LOSE readers. (Ha! Take that former Emily! I did this to you!) I hope that as I grow older my heart gets more malleable and open and stretched and maybe even has a few tears in it for character. I hope that you read these and you feel okay about maybe being wrong once, too.
The minute you graduate everyone is going to make you think that you have to have a five-year plan complete with how you’re going to afford health insurance in a couple of short years, even though you are still a CHILD who doesn’t know that you actually have to print out your car insurance card every year lest you want to pay a two hundred dollar ticket.
Don’t feel an ounce of guilt for celebrating instead of freaking out about how to pay your student loans in your barely more than minimum wage job. Take a year to be in a city you love with people you love. You’re not falling behind. You’re not missing out. You are taking a minute to breathe, rest, and enjoy what God has already done. You’ll need these memories. In the ever wise words of our Supreme Leader, Ben Gibbard: “Stay young, go dancing.”
There’s a lot I could write for this one. But what I really needed was for me now to sit me then down and straight up just tell her to stop doing so much. And that no one is waiting for you to fail. And that you’re doing so great. And that being drunk every weekend isn’t cute. You’re signing up for a season of feeling like a flaming garbage can all because you’re too scared to admit that you feel like you don’t belong. It’s braver to go it alone.
After befriending your lonely self, you’re going to learn that you need people who know you. Not the you that you have carefully curated for the public on a Saturday night, but the you whose anxiety likes to be a bitch and keep you bedridden for a day. You’re going to need your people who can bring you food and sit next to you in hard seasons and you’re going to need to do that for them, too.
Finding your people is not easy. Community is hard fought for. Keep showing up even though you want to run away. Every time you get that pang of lonely, say no to the temptation to fill your time with social media or dating apps or even another trip to visit a friend. Half of the work is just showing up in the same place over and over and over again until one day it’s all just different and good.
I used to treat every opportunity like it was once in a lifetime. If I didn’t say YES to something, then it would never come back to me. I would miss my chance. I would never fulfill the dream attached to that choice.
And it took four years to realize life is not a poker game. You don’t have to cautiously hold back and ration your chips for fear of not knowing the outcome, or risk losing it all after going all in on one hand. There are always more chips. There is always another chance, another opportunity, another date, another job, another choice. Stop living like you have wasted your chips.
There is more coming, I just know it.
Also for your viewing pleasure, here are some of my most cringeworthy early posts: