I have no idea what I’m doing.
I think most people grew up with complete illustrations of what they wanted or expected their future to look like, right? At least a loose timeline mapped out. I know I did.
When I was in high school I used to think I’d have everything together by the time I graduated college. Then I thought it would fall into place when I was 25. That turned into “when I move out of my parents’ house.” Then, last month, I moved into my first apartment, and, maybe unsurprisingly, I still felt stuck.
The new expiration date has yet to be determined. Please stand by.
We know about that early-20s, post-college uncertainty. That has been a trope forever. But nobody warns you about the almost-30 period of constant am-I-really-an-adult-or-has-my-life-not-started-yet self-reflection, and something tells me that’s not a feeling that ever truly disappears. I think I’ve thought “What am I doing, exactly?” to myself every single day for the past 15 years. With every major change comes a new round of questions and insecurities, and those changes seem to become bigger and more frequent as you age. I certainly felt that when I moved to a new town last month.
Moving day itself was sweaty and chaotic, but my family and friends couldn’t have been more helpful or generous with hand-me-downs and carrying boxes up to my second-floor space. It was a physical whirlwind of packing a truck and couch lifting and record packing and rug shopping and rearranging. The two or three days after everything was settled were mostly spent solo, building furniture and alphabetizing my books and albums.
Slowly, it has started to feel like my own space. Decorating is exciting and fulfilling for me. Finally framing and hanging up posters and prints I’d been storing in my childhood bedroom for my future living room really felt like I had done something great. I opened a toolkit more than once. I use an oil diffuser. I’ve been cooking dinner. Sometimes I even eat cereal at my kitchen table before work instead of scarfing down a couple of cookies at my desk. (Yes, my computer keyboard is full of crumbs. No, I will not be taking questions at this time.)
Still, those hazy, latent feelings of doubt continue to lurk no matter how comfortable I get. This continues to be very scary! I’m living somewhere other than Trenton/Hamilton for the first time in my life, other than college. I’m living alone for the first time ever. I want a cat. I have never owned a cat. I am allergic to cats.
All these thoughts have been driven by what has been a period of tremendous change. All of July felt like a train hurtling along at breakneck speed. I’m not great at going with the flow, so this was a problem. I have felt kind of frozen.
There’s been a vague sense of Bobby in Stephen Sondheim’s musical Company dancing around in my brain over the last month or so. “Being Alive,” Bobby’s iconic, stirring closing number, has been looping in my head on repeat. So much is happening around me, accompanied by a chorus of what feels like everybody in my life singing “Bobby bubbi” and “Robert darling” and “Bobby baby” at me—well-meaning, I know, but a sometimes overwhelming reminder of my own doubts, too.
But thinking about Company reminds me of another truth—that “having it together” is completely subjective, and it’s often a veneer, as it is with many of the couples in the musical. The idealized version that you create for yourself is probably unattainable. Ultimately, I know I’m not alone in these feelings. Imperfections, insecurities, change that seems insurmountable are all things everyone has felt at one time or another, and anything else is often a facade.
I’m sorry to make another insufferable pop culture reference, but I’ve also been watching the mid-to-late 2000s NBC sitcom 30 Rock for the eighth time. Liz Lemon’s musings on living alone in her 30s (“I have imaginary arguments with couples on House Hunters. Why can’t people look past paint colors?!”) and dedication to “having it all,” even if that means wolfing down a hoagie at airport security while trying to find a man before his flight takes off, have all felt very relatable. Eating a sad ham sandwich for dinner at 10 p.m. while watching Liz sing about her night cheese has made adapting to this change and addressing my fears with myself a little easier. Watching Liz struggle and bumble and question is a true comfort.
All of that carries over into real life, too. Nobody knows where they’re headed. Nobody has it completely together, no matter what their Instagram stories say. We may never reach the peak of pure, unfiltered satisfaction.
But I’ve come to realize that there will be a point when everything will come together in a way that works for me. I think that’s something you can’t know until you get there, wherever “there” is, or what it evolves into over time. Fixating on the intricacies of change only makes it that much more difficult to get past.
So, yes, I have no idea what I’m doing. But there is something I would like to go back in time and tell young padawan Sam—neither does anybody else.