While I was growing up, I had a hell of a lot of fun. My very early years were spent going to the local sports complex with my dad and my little brother, playing backyard baseball/soccer/tag with a gaggle of kids from the neighborhood, having fashion shows with gear from my massive dress-up box for my mom. Then, as I got older, my friends and I started throwing boy-girl parties involving air hockey tournaments and games of spin the bottle, and would have sleepovers where we dyed our hair and cleaned the house on Saturday afternoons so my mom would give us movie money.
In my early teen years I’d hang out at the skatepark and take trips out of town with as many people as we could pack in a van to watch bands play; later, at the end of my high school career, weeknights were spent driving around, listening to jams and making pointless stops at WalMart, and weekends were spent partaking in outlandish late-night drinking shenanigans accompanied by board games.
Then I went to college. And while some of my best friends did attend the same school as me, and while I did meet a handful of fantastic new people, for the most part, I was pretty miserable. I went from a small town where I had known everyone for 5+ years to a giant school filled with rich kids from suburbia who wouldn’t know real fun if it kicked them in the teeth.
As I had thought since age 11 that this was where I wanted to go to college, for two years I gave it a go and tried my best to enjoy myself. And I did, to some degree: there were definitely some experiences at college that I wouldn’t trade for anything. But every time I went home, the fun I had at college paled in comparison. These were my people. This was where I belonged. And yet, I couldn’t stay in my hometown, what would I do with myself? Get married, get a job at the bank, and pump out some kids? That was not an option.
So eventually, I ran away, from both college and home, and went to New Zealand. And there, for a brief period of time, I kind of found My Home, Part 2. I was living in the staff quarters at a four star lodge in a national park, spending my off hours lounging on the beach or running in the woods or bonding with my incredibly chill, awesomely hard-partying international coworkers. For about a month, life was totally zen. Then, the winds of change started blowing again and I was off to other parts of the country, and then back, again, to my hometown.
That summer was like every other summer of my life – filled with campfires and swimming and boating and hiking and concerts and late night talks under the stars. But somehow, underneath it all was the sense that I was getting older, that we all were, and we couldn’t keep doing the same shit we had been doing since we were thirteen. Things had to change.
In the fall, I packed up my crap again and headed east, this time to New York, where I still am now. For the past seven months, I’ve looked for jobs, gotten jobs, quit jobs, gone to bars, gone to restaurants, gone to museums, met new people, had friends visit, stayed in, gone out, done all the things you do when you’re a young adult living in the greatest city in the world. And yet the only thing I can think is, is this all there is?
Is this it? Do we get older only to abandon the pure joy of living and become mindless drones who go to work and make money only to spend it on “going out” and “cultural experiences” and “long-term investments?” I like to think that I’m the kind of person who thinks outside of the box and seeks adventure; I mean, hell, I quit school and went to New Zealand and then moved out to New York City, right? But I can’t help but feel like I have reached the pinnacle of life that you aspire to reach when you’re a kid, that point in adulthood when you’re old enough to live on your own in a fabulous place but young enough to do whatever you want without a whole lot of responsibilities to worry about, and yet, I’ve never felt so…blah.
When I was younger, everything was awesome. Life was intensely interesting and every day was an adventure. The simplest activities were fun and exciting and my friends and I were always thinking of new and amazing sh*t to do. There was this sense that everything we were doing was the exact right thing to be doing at that moment, and everything in the universe was perfect.
And my friends! My friends from home, to this day, continue to be the most hilarious, fantastic people I have ever met. Which isn’t to say I haven’t met some great new people with excellent things to offer, because I have. But never have I met people quite as hilarious and insightful and genuine as people in my hometown.
So what to do? How do I handle this? Should I just buck up, count my blessings, and press on? If I tell myself that things are as shiny as I thought they would be when I was thirteen, will they be? Will things improve, or is this a permanent leveling off of my life that I’ll come to accept? Is this just what growing up is?
I know I sound like a spoiled brat, whining about a life I’m lucky to have. I guess I pretty much am a spoiled brat, whining about a life I’m lucky to have. But I suppose I’m writing this because I feel like I can’t be the only one going through what amounts to a quarterlife crisis, but feels like the terminal loss of true joy in my life. There have to be other people out there who have made it this far only to feel ultimately disillusioned with what life has to offer. Right?