Written on September 3, 2014.
The night that I started writing this was also the first time in a long time that I found myself in the middle of an emotional breakdown. With my back against the bathroom wall, I could feel my legs giving way, my body sliding down the floor, lips quivering involuntarily, eyes welling up with tears.
I hardly ever cry. It’s not that I am an unemotional person — waterworks are just not my default coping mechanism. I used to think there was something wrong with me, that I had a missing gene that prevented me from crying at the drop of a hat (or at the first screening of movies like The Notebook or The Fault in Our Stars), but I later realized that my tears only come out when every other option has been exhausted. It’s the last straw, the final feeling.
On the night that I started writing this, I remembered that I would be turning 26 this week. When I was still Everyday Isa, writing the pre-birthday roundup article was one of my favorite traditions. But I was much younger then.
I am still young (I know that age is relative but in the grand scheme of life, I’d like to think that, yes, I am still young.) but I am also approaching my late 20’s. And the fear that finds me late at night is the question: what do I have to show for it?
If you had to take a snapshot of me at 25, if you had to immortalize this particular moment, here’s what you’d find:
A girl still trying to be somebody.
At 25, I am employed and broke. Not desperately broke but definitely some kind of broke. I suppose this sounds slightly jarring in a world of Instagram filters and picture-perfect online lives but I feel pretty safe with you guys so I’ll be honest.
I messed up. If I had been smarter, I would’ve invested in better things. It wouldn’t be the way it is now, where I have to consider each purchase with a certain sort of ruthlessness, where I have — for the last month — been at the risk of my bank account running empty. If I had been smarter, I would’ve saved more and listened to my mom when she told me to live within my means.
I’m getting back on my feet now, recovering what was spent on travel and experience. I never wanted to be broke at 25 but, to be fair to myself, I also think it’s the last acceptable year to be this kind of foolish, to let yourself be led by whimsy rather than practical wisdom.
At 25, I am trying my very, very best to not curate my life the way social media is teaching us to. It’s hard. I want to seem smart and funny and wonderful and like my life isn’t falling apart every now and again but I also just want to be a human being.
I am too lazy to keep up with the my-life-is-awesome game we’ve all been sucked into playing but I’m also too self-absorbed to completely not care. I’m tired. A lot of the time I want to go off the grid completely but I can’t. I can’t. The internet, for all the terrible things it has spawned, keeps us connected and I want to be able to cling to the tie that holds so many of us together for as long as I can muster.
25 was not a bad age. But it did require some trial-and-error, some changing, and the courage to find joy in the moments that seemed flat and anti-climactic.
One of my favorite trilogies is by Patrick Ness and it’s called The Chaos Walking series. There are times when the protagonist goes through so much — mountains and forests and bad guys — just to wind up nowhere. That’s just Ness’ brand of crazy. He’ll take you on a ride then find a way to break your heart. I get what the protagonist, Todd, must’ve felt because 25 has been that same way for me. I entered into it with the unadulterated hope that I would become somebody, that it’d be “my year”, and after all the twisting and searching and trying, I came out of it a few leagues less than who I hoped to be.
In true Ness form, it was my unbridled optimism that lured me into disappointment.
But the story’s not over. At least, not yet.
And I have to remember that great things happened, too. I have to remember that the money I spent afforded me a trip to New York to see my best friend. I have to remember that I got to touch a part of the world, go to the beach, sit on a mountain and behold the stars. I have to remember that I stayed committed to projects but began dreaming of new ones as well. I have to remember that this is the year I committed to more words than ever thought possible. I have to remember that there are things I did that I never thought I could but did anyway. I have to remember that at 25 the thing I tried to do was love the whole world. I found, at the end, that I couldn’t.
But that’s okay, right? I think that’s okay.
I am leaving this age behind, this age where hope and doubt fill equal parts of my heart. I’m coming into 26 with one silent prayer: take your time, Isa. Take all the time that you need.
I don’t completely know who I am, that’s the truth. I thought I would have it all figured out in my twenties but I’m still searching, still unlearning, still measuring the limits of both my courage and my frailty.
Maybe next year you’ll get a note from me stating otherwise.
What I’ve come to at the end of 25 is that I am alive. I am alive, I am alive, I am alive.
Somehow, that seems enough.
I leave you with this benediction from the song ‘Inland’ by Jars of Clay:
there are no streets to walk on
no maps you can rely on
faith and guts to guide you
wander til you find you
only raw desire
a match to give you fire
you have to trust your heart
everything you once knew
everyone that knew you
remove the shoes you came on
feel the earth you’re made from
pack up all your questions
just keep heading inland
come on home to me