Countdown to 25: An Update on My Quarter-Life Crisis

Countdown to 25 is my way of taking all of the pressure off myself to write one kickass birthday blog post on October 12, and instead sprinkling my “wisdom” throughout the week.

As I ascended the steps to Apartment 407, it hit me in the worst way. I was moving. Again. That night would be the last night I ever came home from work, pulled into that apartment complex and ascended those stairs. And using the verb “ascended” makes this all sound unnecessarily melodramatic, but “unnecessarily melodramatic” is my life’s subtext.

I’ve moved a few times since graduation, and all of those moves had finality to them. I would be leaving the state. Changing work assignments. Leaving friends who still felt new only to go make newer ones. But, this move didn’t have finality. This move happened while the rest of my life was still charging full speed ahead. This move was a comma; the rest of them were periods.

And because this move was a comma, I underestimated its importance. I spent three consecutive weekends tossing my few worldly possessions into boxes. I took Ikea canvas pictures off the walls. I called Comcast to transfer my cable and internet. I did all of the normal move things yet didn’t think I would experience any of the it’s-so-hard-to-say-goodbye move emotions. But, on that Thursday night, it all sucker-punched me in the stomach.

Apartment 407 was my first home. Not just a place where I napped or binged on Bravo television or squatted. But, it was a home. Before Apartment 407, I always felt like a vagabond, never too emotionally tethered to my living spaces because I knew I would leave them after eight months for a new work rotation. But, Apartment 407 was the first place I leased once all of that moving was done. It was the first place I really made a dent in. It was the first place I lived in long enough to leave ambiguous stains on the carpet and colorful memories in the bedroom. It was the first place where I successfully learned each and every one of Roxy’s hiding spots. It was the first place where I hosted small gatherings and invited my friends to leave good vibes. The first place where I stood in the bathroom for hours, locking the cat out so I could practice spoken word. It was the first place where I got serious about my writing, where I moved from just sitting on the couch to write to sitting up straight at a semi-decent workspace in the dining room. This was the first place where I planted roots.

But, when you are at the mercy of management companies yanking the rent up, sometimes you re-evaluate where you’ve your planted roots. This re-evaluation is also known as “Get the fuck out because you can’t afford a place with vaulted ceilings and a valet trash service.” However, I’d like to think I’m leaving all of my memories from these two years not just to save cash (although that’s the main reason), but also to start building new memories elsewhere. I’d like to think that even though this move is a comma, it means new beginnings in a lot of different ways that I don’t even know about yet.

Everyone I know is dealing with their iteration of the quarter-life crisis. I call friends to wish them a happy birthday and we are all of a sudden pontificating about the trajectory of our lives. I dial a number to interview someone for the blog and we’re trading stories about moves. I Gchat a friend I haven’t talked to in ages and we start chatting about what’s happening with them now that they’ve finished grad school. No matter how trivial anyone believes this so-called quarter-life crisis is, the truth is we are all looking at our lives and wondering what’s next and what the fuck? We’ve made it out of the abyss we fell into right after undergrad, that era when our perfect little collegiate bubbles burst and reality hit us like a sledgehammer. Now, we’re a tiny bit smarter. We have a smidgen of wisdom. We have destroyed ourselves enough now to know that we want to do better, even if we’re not quite sure how.

I knew I wanted to do better. I knew I didn’t want to wince or sweat or cower every time I checked my bank account. I put two and two together enough to know that desire meant getting out of an apartment munching on nearly 40% of my monthly income. I knew that meant trading in vaulted ceilings and a valet trash service for sanity and sleep-filled nights. I have destroyed myself enough. Time to do better.


Library Cards and Lost Love Letters: Traces of Life As I Pack My Apartment

Two things in life force you to unnecessarily reflect: moving and birthdays. I have both of those occurring within the next month. Suffice it to say I am already worn out by my own unnecessary reflection.

This past weekend, I could no longer avoid the inevitable so I figured I should begin cramming all of my world possessions into boxes. I started with my books, a decision I soon regretted as I later worked on research for an upcoming series I’m writing. I thought of at least three or four books that would come in handy. I jumped up to grab them until I realized they were buried deep in some box labeled, “Books (heavy).” I then moved on to my kitchen–a room whose contents are scarce and inconsequential. No loss there.

My worldly possessions
My worldly possessions

But, in between packing my treasures and a few pots and pans, I came across traces of my life that had fallen into corners and been tossed inside my ottoman. (It also sounds way too fancy to call the piece of furniture I’m referencing an ottoman because it’s hot pink and was found in the college section of Target). Next to one of my bookshelves, I found an old wallet–I’m talking high-school, maybe-early-college wallet. I wondered how the hell this thing had survived all of my college moves plus three post-grad moves (four if you count that time I lived in a roach-infested apartment for 48 hours before leaving). I opened it up and found my old library card.

Nostalgia took over and I spent part of the afternoon looking up the requirements for getting a card at the local library in my neighborhood. I then quit and took a nap. After all, Amazon and I have a beautiful marriage; I can’t really cheat on him. But, for that quick moment, I missed going to the library. I remembered how significant trips to the library were when my sister and I were little. We stood in the children’s section enthralled by all of the colorful covers and the ounce of responsibility we received to check out our books. I remembered not-so-innocent trips to the library in high school to make out with my then-boyfriend in the non-fiction section and pretty much every setting imaginable. I remembered falling in love with Curtis Sittenfeld’s “Prep” after stumbling upon it unintentionally in the fiction section. I remembered this long history of always being surrounded by books, a history evidenced by the five boxes I packed housing my current collection.

Later during my personal packing party, I started trashing a bunch of papers stashed inside my “ottoman” when I found a few typed pages. I first thought they were a post or poem I found reason to print out until I read a line that said, “I know you deserve more.” I realized the sheets were an email I received from a former love interest. I skimmed through the pages and noticed my own handwriting on them, annotations of what I wanted to say in response during the phone conversation to address the lengthy email. I laugh, chucked up a peace sign to my pathetic 2013 self and threw the pages away.

I thought packing would be a royal pain in the ass. And, well, it is. But, it’s also a sort of catharsis to see all of these little bits of your life and deliberate which ones you want to keep. While my hoarding tendencies don’t rival those of the people who make it on TV with cats living under stacks of newspapers, I do hold on to more than I toss. I always think that maybe something will have meaning months or years down the road. And, those things usually do. But, now I’m seeing they can still host meaning without having to be physically present in your life. Maybe it’s the same for people. Or, maybe I’m just unnecessarily reflecting.


The Makings of My Quarter-Life Crisis

I really didn’t want to do this. I really wanted to spare all of us the melodrama of my becoming yet another person approaching my quarter-life and freaking out.

I tried not to do it.

I’m pretty sure I failed.

Cause I’m freaking out.

My 25th birthday is less than two months away. All of a sudden, this matters more than I ever thought it would, should or could.

When I demanded that Twitter (yes, Twitter of all places) provide me with advice for how to handle one’s quarter-life crisis, I was met with every reply under the sun, ranging from “wine” to “prayer.” Clearly if I can just chuck a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon whilst on my knees at an altar, I’ll have the perfect response to all of my misgivings.

I decided to hit up my homie to get a better sense of what a crisis really is. Crisis is a scary and oft-misused word. But, the homie told me that a crisis is “a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, especially for better or for worse, is determined; turning point.” 

quarter life crisis
Quarter-life crisis selfie

Ok, so really, I’m back at square one because what the hell does any of that even mean? Is the “stage” now? Is the “sequence of events” my life? Are “all future events” the rest of my life? Come on,, you’re fucking up. I need answers and you’ve only left me with more questions.

Everyone’s quarter-life crisis looks a bit differently. Let’s mitigate any confusion by stating that mine is not of the “need to get married and have babies” variety. No disrespect to that crisis; all crises are created equal. That’s just not mine.

It’s difficult to paint an accurate portrait of my quarter life crisis because a fraction of it involves my career and the 9 to 5 hush-hush part of my career isn’t quite up for blog discussion. But, for all intents and purposes, let’s say my crisis is about career, my blog and money–three entities that are related in theory, but pose separate sets of anxiety for me in this case.

I’ve spent the past three years pretty content that I have the basics: housing, food, water, litter for my cat. You know, those things. I have a job. I pay my rent. I can afford independence. When my 18-year-old mind dreamed way back during my days in Easton Hall, the aforementioned list was what I wanted. But, recently, I’ve wanted more. I’ve wanted to live a life of authenticity and creativity. I’ve wanted to stop hating Mondays. I’ve wanted to quit using the phrase “I can’t do anything for the next two weeks cause this is my rent check.” These are the things that bug me now. Just making it is no longer enough. Just scraping by is no longer enough. Just being OK is no longer enough. And, if you want to jump in the comments section and tell me that it is, save yourself the trouble. I moderate the comments in this bitch. Access denied.

I did something about one of my quarter-life woes so far; I decided to move to a cheaper apartment. In fact, a few days ago, I paid the exorbitant, demonic and soul-crushing rent on my current apartment for the last time (shout out to October’s pro-rated rent!) I feel both excited and apprehensive about my decision to downsize; I’m excited because I’m finally getting a chance to hold on to more money every month and I’m apprehensive because I need a legitimate plan to save that money so I avoid squandering it on Yellow Tail bottles of wine. To be continued.

I haven’t figured out how to (wo)man handle the other fractions of my crisis yet. I just know one motif that appeared again and again when the Twitter brigade offered suggestions was that it helps to have a plan. It does not mean the Universe will always move according to that plan, but it still helps to have it. It helps to have some goal, some aspiration, some thing that keeps you anchored during times of mayhem and uncertainty.

So, I guess it’s time to plan. The first plan is to continue to chronicle the makings of my quarter-life crisis intermittently on the blog so that you all can witness my neurosis. Seems like a good start.


Has Anyone Ever Really Found an Apartment on Craigslist?

I went to dinner with a friend a few weeks ago and she told me about a friend of hers who landed a great deal for an apartment on U Street. She found the place on Craigslist and while it was one of those sketchy ass listings that didn’t include any photos, it turned out to be a beauty.

I’m in the market for a new apartment once autumn hits. And, after a few skims through Craigslist, I am convinced there is some secret section under “Housing” that only 3% of apartment hunters know about where they find these incredible deals.

Moving is a royal pain in the ass. I’ve done it before, but all of those times were on corporate relocation money, also known as “Just tip the movers and we’ll take care of the rest.” In other words, all of my prior moves happened in some fantasy land in which I no longer reside. There will not be movers–there will be the Wilkins family, a UHaul and aching limbs for a week after.

If it were entirely up to me, I’d stay in my current apartment until it’s time to get married or something. But, my complex jacked the rent up last year and I’m getting tired of looking at my bank account and having the balance read, “What in the entire fuck?” So, I figured I need to downgrade a bit. And, that’s why I started browsing through Craigslist.

movingOf course, I started with the “apts/housing” tab, but all that ever yields is “Must see! One bedroom! $1700.” Oh, go to hell, District of Columbia, in all of your gentrified and overpriced glory.

The other idea is that I could get a roommate. However, I’ve been living alone since I graduated from college and once you live alone, the only person you ever want to potentially consider living with is your future spouse. And, even that cohabitation is questionable. The liberties that come with living alone–blasting music, reciting poetry loudly at 11pm, not closing the door when you use the bathroom and essentially doing whatever you want–are now freedoms on which I’ve come to rely.

Even so, I decided to take a peek into the darker side of Craigslist: “rooms/shared”. And, that was when shit got weird. First of all, half of these places don’t allow pets. Sorry, I’m a package deal. While I’ve never outright told an apartment complex I have a cat (because what the fuck is “pet rent”?), I have also only lived in ones that do allow pets. Just in case a leasing agent busts in on me one afternoon while Roxy is meowing endlessly at the bathroom sink (a nightly occurrence). Hey, you never know.

Under the rooms/shared tab, I also saw a listing requesting a “Professional Indian Desi woman” in which case I am absolutely sure the lister meant to post that under the “personals”. Are you looking for a roommate or a damn wife?

I clicked on listings advertising someone’s basement as a space to rent. At first, those seemed somewhat decent aside from only receiving a tunnel of natural light. But, at least they would be my own space–kind of. Except those listings became strange when I’d scroll through the photos of the space and all of the sudden, a photo of the couple renting out the space would pop up. There they would be all smiley and inviting and I’d have visions of them offering me a cup of coffee laced with arsenic. No, thanks.

Listen. Living should just be free. Or dirt cheap. Someone told me that a one bedroom apartment including utilities goes for about $525 in Oklahoma. But, then of course, you are living in…Oklahoma. Does that state even have paved highways?

Now, I’ve returned to my original apartment-hunting tool– Fortunately, the move is still a few months away, so for now, I’ll drink wine while lamenting my bank account.



The Beauty In Going Out Alone

I sat across the table from a friend Tuesday night eating dinner and catching up. She’s one of the better human beings I met while I worked in Massachusetts and when I learned she was in DC for business, I capitalized on the chance to see her.

Somehow we got on the topic of moving, particularly the few moves we both experienced throughout our time in a work rotational program.

“The best thing I got out of moving was learning how to enjoy my own company,” she said.

I couldn’t agree with her more. Her words reverberated through my head for the rest of the week, combined with my best friend’s advice that I should go out more. I remembered how fearless I used to be when I lived in Texas. I would venture out on my own often, spending a Sunday afternoon at the Arboretum or catching a movie on a Friday night. I realized once I moved back to the East Coast, I lost that newfound independence, instead only going out when I had at least one other person to join me.

On Friday when I saw via Twitter that Busboys and Poets was publicizing its 11th Hour Poetry Slam later that night, I first texted a friend to see what her plans were for the night. After I learned she already had something going on, I purchased the $5 dollar ticket anyway. I did not want or need to persuade anyone to go with me. It was time to reclaim that same independence I once had.

I had an amazing Friday night. I people-watched on the Metro, my most entertaining audience a cadre of fratty Georgetown med students who were clearly en route to get wrecked. I took in the sights, sounds and smells of U Street on a Friday night. I watched dauntless performers pour their souls on stage. I laughed. I cried (thanks the night’s winner expelling a poignant piece about womanhood). I drank my signature glass of Chardonnay. I absorbed the show, grateful not to be bogged down by my usual performance nerves that distract me when I attend other shows and plan to hit the stage.

And, when a dapper young gentleman from out of town sat next to me on my long Metro ride back and struck up conversation, it was as though the comsos wanted to affirm that my solo voyage was not in vain.

I love my friends. Going out with them is always fun as we stitch together the memories we’ll recall for years to come. But, there is something empowering and cathartic about going out alone. (When you’re safe, of course.) It is one thing to confine my introvertedness to the walls of my apartment, but it is another to let it spill outside. There are simply some things that will always be more interesting to me than they will be to my friends. That goes for all of us. Sometimes, there is no use in waiting for other people to join you in order to do the things you want to do. Do. Go. See. Explore. Enjoy your own company.