You may have heard me say, or have said it yourself, that there should have been a class at the end of college that taught you how to be a grown up. You know, the basic simple things the world assumes is common sense, but every individual most likely has some kind of horror story about.
I had told myself after graduation almost two years ago, after busting ass and graduating at 20 while working and keeping a scholarship, that I didn’t have to grow up yet. I moved to Austin and I told myself in my best Peter Pan voice that I didn’t have to grow up yet, that I deserved a little time to go wild with freedom and an open schedule. I gave myself my Neverland Year. And it served its grand purpose.
By the end of it, however, I was a Lost Boy through and through. I began to believe that growing up was an option, and it would never be one that I would take. Travel the world, never get tied down, be a free spirit. Then I jumped from my Lost Boy Treehouse into the Concrete Jungle. And I saw that life up in those trees is much easier than down here on the ground. Down here, there are more mistakes to be made and more predators waiting for you to make them. I began to see that getting what I truly want out of life is going to require much more effort from me – not just waiting for the perfect situation to be thrown in my lap. Life is work, it’s just finding the work that makes you happy.
The hassle is juggling it all. When you are fully away from family and close friends, you start to realize how much you relied on them for support. They’re still all there, of course – emotional support – but it’s not quite the same. Somehow, those people ultimately dictated what parts of your life needed most attention. You’re in school, so are all your friends and your parents only ask you about grades. Your best friend starts training for a marathon, you start joining her at the gym and start watching what you eat. But here, people don’t seem to run in packs. The sidewalks aren’t wide enough for them.
So, which part of my life do I focus on first? In college, it was pretty simple. School came first, over social life or work or even health (as evidenced by overdosage of Red Bull, sleep depravation, and weight gain), and as to subjects, whichever one you were least prepared for was always a good place to start. Or whichever class came next. But now, there’s is an ultimate three-way tug of war between money, time, and health that are being pulled across a plane of what I want and what I need. How can I become secure in any area without knowing which to focus on first? And that’s the thing. You can’t just focus on just one area – you have to focus on all of it at once. In the grand scheme, what should I put as top priority?
And through all this priority making, I have to learn how to do things for the first time. Survive in the worst possible job market without hating my life every day I go into work. Navigating a budget in a city with the highest cost of living. Figuring out basic health focuses – finding dentists, discovering exercise that won’t kill my bad back, how to eat on the go, learning what a podiatrist is. But there seem to always be compromises – to get one thing, you have to sacrifice another. Even if you plan, you have to prioritize as to what’s most important when the shit hits the fan and your plan crumbles. What should come first? Money? My health? Work? Basically, priorities are hard. And I’m lucky to be learning this now when I can be selfish – with no one else in the picture whose life I have to prioritize alongside mine.
Everyone here moved here for a reason. Or else, stayed here for a reason. The first question you are asked upon meeting a fresh face is “where are you from?” closely followed by a “why did you come?” Those reasons are what run everyone’s decisions here, whether they’re breaking into business, theatre, or publishing like me.
So I ask myself, I who, six months ago, would have told you that I would be smothered if forced to sit behind a desk from nine to five Monday through Friday, why did I move?
And while I believe that is easily answered by a mixture of two conflicting ideas: my hippie mentality of traveling to try something completely off my map and to stick a toe into the publishing pool to see if a fully submerged career might be in my future – I also believe that this, while being a childhood dream, was my opportunity to push myself completely out of my nest, and grow up.
But don’t worry. A little bit of pixie dust will help me as I learn to fly.
(photograph from http://skyheartphotography.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/march-10-2012-concrete-jungle/)