I started off my foray into the world of twenty-two armed with a cheery attitude, a plan, and a Taylor Swift song.
I had walked halfway to work before I realized I had forgotten my key. Our offices all stay locked, always–medical records and liability or something–I needed that key. If I walked back home, I’d be late to work, so I did what anyone in my shoes would: I called my mom.
She met me at the corner, brought my key, and dropped me off at work. I got there early.
The second thing I did as a twenty-two year old was to inaccurately respond to a question one of my bosses posed to me on a telephone call. You haven’t done your homework, he said. Working here isn’t like school, it’s not coming in on a Saturday evening to do the work. It’s different, but it’s still important. Why don’t you figure out the answer and get back to me?
It felt a little unfair, actually. It wasn’t unfair at all–I have been there two weeks, I should know the answer to this basic question–but it did, and I felt more like a twelve-year-old than a twenty-two year old as I sat at my desk and tried not to tear up. This does not define me. I can do this, but even if I can’t, I am more than this mistake.
As it was, I researched the question, figured out the answer, realized I had been correct but hadn’t been articulating myself very well, and shot him an e-mail. He called me back a few minutes later. That’s exactly what I was looking for, he told me, and my lips quirked a little as I went back to work.
The worst thing I did at twenty-two was miss an important e-mail from my other boss completely. I didn’t see that last minute urgent: please e-mail me this particular file before you leave today, didn’t notice the (1) on my inbox until I got home. It’s my birthday, I wanted to tell her. I’m sorry. I got distracted, I wanted to get home, and I’m sorry.
Over all, today was not the best of work days. I messed up files, composed silly e-mails, and felt over and over again that I was not measuring up to what is expected of me. I hate that feeling–this idea that I have to prove myself in a new area, introduce myself to my new colleagues by way of my actions all over again. It’s never really bothered me when I moved, but taking a new job is a different kind of move. There may only be seven or so people in my office, but they don’t know me at all. And unlike working at camp, this isn’t the type of work where you can prove yourself quickly by jumping all in and having a good attitude and a good work ethic.
(Because I’ve tried that, and I still feel a bit lost at sea.)
Even the people who knew it was my birthday (there were two of them) didn’t say anything to me about it today. Granted, they were busy, and I’m not particularly an attention seeker (says the girl with the blogs, I know, I know). That’s just the kind of environment this is: people eat at their desks and work their way through lunch. We don’t talk much past the “Hello, I’m fine thanks, how are you” in the morning and the occasional question about a file or protocol.
It’s quiet, which is a change from my last office job. It can be hectic, though, and it can be loud–but in general, I work in solitude and silence, which is actually… kind of relaxing, and not as lonely as this is making it out to be, especially now that 90% of my friends are moving into my neighborhood. It’s not what I want out my life ultimately, but it’s okay for now. It’s a step, not a destination. In the long run, it will help. In the meantime, I’ve learned that I never want to be the type of person that works through every lunch and drives two hours each way to get to and from work. I don’t want to be the person that obsessively checks their e-mails 24/7, sending reminders and notes to my new employees anywhere from 4:20AM (this morning) to 11:50PM (last week). I don’t want to be a person who lives without boundaries, who can’t separate her work from her play, her job from her life.
That sounds miserable and unhealthy and I don’t know how these people do it. I’ll eat at my desk, sure–especially if it’s raining and no space outside–but I will be turning off my computer screen and settling in with a book for at least twenty minutes, thank you.
I ended my first day of twenty-two much more positively with most of my best friends–some of that 90% over for dinner now that they’re here, my fam, a few phone calls, a video chat. I ate some delicious food, laughed long and hard, and spent a lot of time just smiling. My friend and family are pretty amazing, and it was an absolute joy to have so many of them in one place.
My mom always told me to write on important days–when things were hard, when bigs thing happened, when I wanted to remember something. I have page after page of half-filled journals covered in stories of what happened today. There’s an entry from when I was seven that’s dated 1/20/2000 and consists only of me writing the birthday song down for my sister. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you.
So today, here’s what I think it’s important to write, important to remember.
to twenty-one: thank you. You sent me off to new countries, pushed me to make new friends, and sat me down more than once to have a heart-to-heart about whether or not I’m serious about the writing thing, or the medicine thing, or whatever I happened to be worrying about at the time. You gave me a thirst for adventure and new things and big things and scary things–and you also gave me more love for the ordinary, for home, for the known and familiar and routine. It takes both, I think, to live pleasantly. Remember those last two books you read? What were those lines you loved? Oh, right. One was from Stardust, and the other from Warm Bodies.
Thank you for living like that, without even knowing you wanted to do so: for being so completely captivated by the world that all you could think was expect me when you see me and so, so utterly caught up in this life and its stupid sticky rawness.
and to twenty-two: there’s this saying that I’ve always heard called a Chinese curse, whether or not it actually is: may you live in interesting times.
I’m not sure what you’re up to yet, twenty-two, but I have a feeling it won’t be dull. Here’s to fun with friends, travel to help you breathe, and the stamina to make it through the first year of a nine-to-five. Suck it up, dear–discipline builds character, after all, and we could all use some more of that in our lives.
And so, self–if I can address myself for just a minute here–may this year be one that builds up grace and builds up character, inspires joy and creativity in yourself and those around you, and doesn’t leave you crying because the weekends are too short. Don’t forget that resolution you made when you were fourteen–you know, that one you decided was important enough to write down in the middle of the night–literally?
I don’t want to live by the “I’ll be fine once”s of the world: I’ll be fine once it’s the weekend. I’ll be fine once pre-season finishes. I’ll be fine once field hockey ends. I’ll be fine once it’s Christmas break. I’ll be fine once finals are over. I’ll be fine once it’s summer. I’ll be fine once the play is over. I’ll be fine once _______.
Remember that? It’s what you wrote, and it’s still true. Forget T. Swift’s “Everything will be alright if…” Your fourteen year old self knew better. That’s no way to live, you said.
So hop to it. You’ve got a life to live, and it’s not just going to sit around and wait for you to catch up to it. Remember that stanza Miss Thomas wrote in your eighth grade graduation present–the one from a poem by Longfellow that you memorized so quickly?
Let us then be up and doing,
with a heart for any fate;
still achieving, still pursuing,
learn to labor and to wait.