Here’s to 2012, the year I was supposed to grow up, but shocked everyone by shrinking down instead. In January, I had my first, real am-I-on-a-date-or-are-we-just-friends experience. I solidified the term “cooperative memory-making,” and I finished my first cup of wine without sticking out my tongue. I learned how to play Bananagrams and started watching Twin Peaks. In February, I went bowling in a princess dress and taught my very first Irish dance class at Oberlin. I learned how to play Settlers of Catan and became the master of armies of sheep and knights. March was a whirlwind of rejection, attempted romance, and spiritual epiphanies. April featured the birth of my thesis, a Mutual Dissolution of Something That was Bad, a weight-loss friendtervention, and quite a bit of drinking. In May, I fell in love…with a boy, a bowling lane, a town, and my friends. I watched my little brother graduate on his eighteenth birthday and, a week later, I received my Honors degree from Oberlin College. Such promising, adult-like behavior, right?
Plot twist: You’re wrong! I was a just child masquerading as an adult. Summer 2012 turned out to be the event horizon of some cruel, post-graduate black hole, which was about to brutally spaghettify me. Spooked by the expansive possibility of the path ahead of me, I ran away from my problems in June by running away from home. Without a return ticket and hardly any plans, I ended up in Boston. Ben Franklin wrote that fish and visitors stink after three days, but I selfishly stayed on my friend’s floor for three weeks, avoiding reality by chasing a pipe dream and an immature high I wasn’t ready to give up. I played on playgrounds, came within spitting distance of people who have my dream job, and ate probably 1/2 a chocolate cake by myself…in one sitting. Then, all of a sudden, it was time. I went home. Just like that. Feeling all too much like a fishing fleet returned empty, July was full of sporadic ups and downs. I stopped answering texts; I made plans I didn’t intend to keep; I yelled; I insulted. Filled with a strange compulsion to be rude to absolutely everyone, I laughed hysterically and drove recklessly. The Ultimate Climax of Every Feeling Ever occurred on July 22nd. Within twelve hours, I partied hard, saw an amazing concert, met my hero, and suffered my most thorough heartbreak to date…
August, September, October, and November were like the most pathetic non-scenes in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga. The worst had happened. I had become Kristen Stewart’s apathetic scowl sitting in a chair watching the world pass by. Long, blank periods of nothing were broken intermittently by short bursts of feeling, during which I smashed about with my emotional fists, letting them break whatever they damn well pleased. It didn’t really matter. There was no project, there was no dream, there was nothing to distract me from myself. Being around me was like trying to chew and swallow raw kale. I was such a lie, like that empty gum wrapper you refold and hand to your friend as a joke saying, “Hey, want some gum?” Basically, for three and a half months, my life was defined by disgustingly melodramatic metaphors…
…but my metaphor of a life went on. It had to. Somehow I managed to find and keep a job. Somehow I managed to make new friends in Oberlin and reunite with old friends in Ireland. Somehow I managed to keep [relatively] calm and carry on. Then, I went to the ER for the first time shortly after Thanksgiving, and strangely, everything started falling back into line. Once something tangibly bad had happened to me, the rest of my imagined problems seemed obsolete. Existent, sure, but obsolete. Now that my stillness was forced rather than voluntary, my rebellious mind yearned to escape. I got out of the house, did research in earnest, made commitments, kept promises… I was a sad human literary-device no longer!
Getting to December was supremely difficult. It was probably the most difficult thing I’ve done, but I left Oberlin feeling real again, and that means so much. I’ve done some serious reverse aging, but I haven’t done too much damage in the grand scheme of things. There’s still time for me to grow up, so here’s to 2013: the year I really will grow up.
To make the most of this most unexpected empowerment, I’ve decided to make my New Years’ resolutions public. Nothing like virtual accountability for my decrees, eh? As a jaded cynic, I normally consider this sort of thing the stenchiest bullshit. However! As a lover of lists, it is a temptation I have never been able to resist. I love making lists and then looking at them. Sometimes I make the same list five different ways. I will add stuff to a list, just so I can relish in the crossing-out of it two seconds later. I’m like Santa Claus that way. When I’m famous and dead one day, and they archive my papers, some undergrad is gonna find the microfilm and write a thesis called “Checking it Twice: Jen Graham and the Phenomenon of the To-Do List.” So! For the future of my archive file at a yet undetermined state historical society, my hopes for 2013 condensed into a list of ways I can better myself:
1) Keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel! That means no more texting and driving, which is probably your worst habit after lying about your feelings and picking at your fingernails. You are a mortal adult, not some dumb teenager who thinks they’re invincible. You know firsthand how dangerous a responsibility it is to drive, now it’s time to take it seriously.
2) Be honest! You lie too much! Stop saying you’re soooooooooooo drunk when you’re stone sober. You sound like an airhead when you do that. Stop saying you’re okay if you’re not. Stop saying you’re not okay when you are. Don’t be afraid to feel. You’re unintentionally barricading yourself from the world. Do you even know yourself anymore? Yup, neither does anyone else.
3) Eat food! Prioritize food over all else. Stop skipping meals to save money. Skip happy hours and movie theaters instead. Learn to love your body on food, because, I promise you, it will be 110% more beautiful than anything else.
4) Go to career services! There’s nothing stopping you. Opportunity is right outside your door and you’re that crotchety old man swinging your cane and yelling for it to get off your lawn. Why? Find a job, get away, and try something new. You deserve an adventure.
5) Read more books! When was the last time you finished a book? Okay, so it was last night, but before that it had been months. There is nothing more calming than curling up in a chair with a mug of hot cocoa and a good book. Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman is a good candidate for your next brain food, so turn off the computer and let yourself get lost in non-illuminated text on soft, aged paper.
6) Write more stories! I know you write them in your head when you walk from place to place. Even if it’s painful, put them on paper and exercise your imagination. It’s a muscle, after all. The less you use it, the quicker you lose it.
7) Exercise everyday! Wake up in the morning and dance for an hour, then stretch, and enjoy a shower you actually deserve. Really dedicate yourself to achieving your fitness goals. The only thing stopping you is your computer, so hide it under your bed or something. It doesn’t deserve you.
8) Stay single, lose the desperate! Go to bars by yourself and have a conversation with someone new. Go dancing and introduce yourself to the people around you. Don’t just go out alone and sit in a dark corner, looking wildly out at the human race while you sip your drink and try in vain to show off your newly shaved legs. Instead of cleaning tables with your hot butt sticking out, try talking to your customers. Put yourself out there and smile, but don’t giggle, and don’t–I repeat!–don’t ever ever say “OMG I’m soooooooOOOOOoooo drunk right now.”
9) Reconnect with your passions! You love historical women, the night sky, reptiles and amphibians, Irish dance, running outdoors, and singing silly songs. Don’t lose touch with those things. They are the reason your friends love you—because they make your eyes light up and your smile shine brighter. The further you push away from them, the further you push away from yourself. You’re not cool for not feeling. You’re boring. Never ever be boring.
9+) Don’t lose touch! It’s easy to grow complacent when you don’t see people every day, but make an effort to keep in contact with friends who really matter. There are people out there who have showed you so much kindness and have never let you down. They deserve better from you, and you can finally give it to them. Don’t feel embarrassed. Be honest and open and good things will come.
10) Travel more! Yeah, you’re broke. So what! Plan everything to the T. Budget before you go instead of in the middle of the trip. I want to see mountains again, Gandalf–mountains! So, Bilbo, get off your ass and find some mountains. Go somewhere new, even. See the world while you can, even if it’s in your own backyard. Don’t let money be the end-all excuse for staying put. You can do this.
You can do anything.