Sarah feels every mile in the moving truck from D.C to Ohio. While she knows she’s headed in the right direction, she can’t get the calamity out of her head. She tries to form sentences out of all the noise, but comes up with nothing. In her home town, her mother anxiously awaits the arrival of her only child, and her friends daydream of future nights at their local.
2000 miles south east of her trip, Jen sits in the living room of her apartment drinking her iced coffee and watching Sex and the City reruns. Her boyfriend of several years is at work. In a state marked by manicured landscapes and neon everything, she has never felt so middle gray. She feels less like a marathon and more like a treadmill, scrolling through Facebook on her phone looking at pictures of her in her early twenties, marked by impromptu shows at Lupo’s and adjusting her cat eye at a red light in her rearview.
A month or so later, I’m hearing a similar story from another friend, the obvious theme breaking down walls inside my head.
“Maybe we were right about ourselves all along.”
I think back to myself at 16 in my dad’s old house, editing my clothing with my my step mom’s sewing kit, my sister curiously inquiring why I never wear color. Jen picks me up in her old Chevy, and we form some lie about plans for the evening. In two or so hours, she is in the front row with our friend Tina, and I’m drinking a ginger ale in the back with the bartender talking about this Mit Romney asshole. In those days, I ended up in love far more frequently than I found myself in any back seat. As a teenager, my creativity recharged overnight and I didn’t even have to sleep.
Six years later, I had a long term boyfriend and a college degree, but not much in terms of inspiration or finances. I went against my own grain. I followed the man and the dollar. I took the back seat but was far from making love there.
We’ve all had that moment when we stop trusting ourselves; the moment when we let the road dictate our destinations, totally forgetting that we’re behind the wheel.
I frequently refer back to something my mom often said when I told her of personal desires that were the exact opposite of who I am as a person,
“Everything eventually goes back to the way its supposed to be. Life finds a way to bring it there.”
In a old apartment in Chicago, my clean laundry is sprawled all across my living room floor, and I have Jen on the line while I’m folding. I can’t help but notice my style is eerily similar to the way it was when I was a kid, except older. I find myself saying to my friend, that despite what she wanted, she never stopped being herself, and she never will either. As I say that, I think of Sarah making her life go in Ohio, and Abby who will always be a teacher of sorts regardless of what she’s teaching. I think of Andrew, who at 15 worked in a deli and drew pictures in his sketch book, and is now a butcher and selling his paintings and illustrations. I think of my colleague who in mid conversation with me smiles and tells me that I will always be a bleeding heart poet, no matter what I do.
We are the regenerati-the ones who understand that going back to basics doesn’t mean regression. We’ve stripped away the pretense of what the years were expected to turn us into and realized that being adult doesn’t mean sacrificing seventeen. Wearing blazers and being on a first name basis with your dry cleaner doesn’t mean you also have to take to the suburbs and only socialize with people who are faking it in the exact same way you are.
We know that sometimes, you outgrow an old personal epiphany-and that’s okay.