Tuesday, March 8, 2016

What It's Like Being 26

You there...you're 25, right? 24?

I know all sorts of things about your life.

I know about that serious on-again off-again relationship. The one you thought you couldn't live without. I know the ones before that, too. The really unhealthy one that makes you feel like a totally different person when you think about it. The lovers who used to seem so important and now almost are erased from memory. If you started as young as me, that is.

Time is relative. It grabs you by the wrist, I've heard. It lengthens and compresses. I know about how your fur-children, kittens so recently, are now getting old. They fall into the "Senior Plan" at the vet's office.

I know about the sex. The wild, delicious sex with those you could communicate well with. The awkward, disappointing one-night stand with that boy from high school, now all grown-up, but apparently missing some crucial lessons. The drunken rolls in the grass out back behind the house after a night of crashing frat parties.

I know you think you will be skinny forever, no matter how much you eat. You're just lucky that way, with your metabolism. You can eat a whole tub of ice cream with no consequences. Don't let that older boyfriend shame you for having too much sugar. He's a fuddy duddy.

I know you think biking everywhere is perfectly fine and convenient and ethical. You're absolutely right. Don't get into bad habits of borrowing your roommate's car. They grab hold quick.

You have some idea of what your purpose is in this life right? You've dived into your psyche deeply, explored it through meditation or mushrooms, or both, and are ready to take the next steps of being an adult. Some semblance of what that may be is starting to take shape.

You are gathering all the self-knowledge you need. You still care so much what people think of you, but you are starting to dare boldly to challenge them a little - let out a little bit more of your radical self in those professional contexts. Don't shave for them. Body hair doesn't disqualify you from that scholarship, or make you do your internship less competently.

Dumpster diving is a thing of the past now, not because you think it's gross - it just isn't needed, or as fun as it used to be. And maybe it is a little gross when you have enough money to buy your own food. Dumpster diving clothes is still fun, right?

I know that your finances are still tight, and sometimes your roommates are irritated with you for not paying rent or bills on time. You're trying, but it is so difficult to survive in capitalism. Especially while maintaining some integrity and self-love, refusing to take totally shitty jobs. You were never good at customer service. That whole put a smile on thing makes you want to fuck some shit up.

I know you like to dance like a dork to music from your early teens. That doesn't change, don't worry. But some things do. Let me tell you about them.

26 is about eating sushi and drinking sake. It's about playing Scrabble in Spanish, because you're going to Latin America this summer, for the first time in 5 years.

It's about mentoring people younger than yourself, realizing that you are in fact older than some people, and learning not to look down on them and remember how much you hated it when older people did that to you. They still have experiences you haven't, because every life is different.

It's about hiking with new friends, and telling old friends hard truths. It's about moving beyond objectivity while mediating conflicts, and trusting so deeply in community that you can bring your full self to a difficult moment. Because you've put the effort in and made those relationships strong enough to resile (the verb form of resilience).

It's about Mercury retrograde opening you up so big that you tell people truths you held inside for too long. It's about mistakenly thinking you could stay that open a whole year long, and then coming into a more even-keeled balance. Praying for continued honesty, while also taking care of oneself by privacy if needed.

It's about climate organizing. Really it is, for everyone. It's about finding the last piece of the puzzle in planning your South America trip. It's about getting people you love to go with you.

It's about successful fundraisers and traveling across the country with friends to fight for criminal justice reform - and maybe have some drinks while you're at it. It's about birthday lunches with friends at a Thai restaurant (weeks after confirming that, in fact, no Thai place is open between the hours of 3 and 5pm anywhere in your city).

It's about gifts and celebrations. Poetry on other friends' birthdays. Sharing vulnerably and being inspired to write more.

It's about cuddling and being held in nonsexual ways that are deeply nourishing and maybe a little confusing at times. But you'll get it.

26 is about holding space for dear ones coming in the door sobbing, and helping to hold them, smush them all better, with a group of other people big enough to contain this pain, and valuing so deeply what it means to be in community. It's about appreciating that you've come to take this level of human connection and support for granted, and how fantastic is that. Once upon a time, maybe all humans did.

26 is about so many things. Cats and Congress, community and cooking. Planning your shopping list from recipes and actually eating well for days on end. Having enough. Enough food, enough love, enough faith, enough adventure... . It's about making friends on the Internet out of potential enemies. Crossing bridges and seeing a bigger picture. Having your hope in the future restored - which means a willingness to act towards a positive vision.

26 is about starting to write again, knowing that no matter how many breaks you take for how long, you can always begin again. Always. (26 is about diving deeper into long-loved fandoms, as well.)

26. 2 and 6. 2+6=8. Infinity. 8 was perhaps the last year before you truly lost your innocence, your faith in your guardians to care for you well. This year, the 26th year, is a time to regain that sense of being able to be well-cared for, by yourself and others. And to give that care to others, also.

But who knows, really, all that 26 is. Not me. I'll let you know, if I get to 27.