I live in a state of constant reflection and nostalgia. I realize it's very self-indulgent, but I'm OK with that. Maybe it's because Mercury's in retrograde right now.
I'd like to say it began when I started getting into storytelling six or so years ago, but I know it began much earlier. When I was a little kid I enjoyed looking through my own baby photos, nostalgic for a time I couldn't remember. I've kept diaries since I was six and always relished the opportunity fill a whole book so I could immediately read the whole thing and reflect on my "growth." Or, you know, re-live entire depressive episodes, which is more often the case from the diaries of ages 19 through 23.
Now that I've reached the ripe old age of 32, I've been reflecting on my twenties a lot. Yes, they weren't that long ago, but sometimes it feels like it was so long ago. (For some evidence, see this recent post.) I've been especially reminiscing about the magical years from roughly age 23 to 27. At the start of that four-year span, I had just moved back to New York after recovering from a car accident. I was a weak-legged animal poking my head out of hibernation, alternating between fear and invincible joy.
So much happened in that four-year span of time. I moved from Washington Heights to Kensington to Astoria. I tried out experimental theater and then improv and then sketch and then storytelling. I dated a handful of awful guys and a couple of okay ones. I filled up more journals and a blog. And throughout all this, I was buoyed by the reassurance that I didn't need to have my shit together. Probably someday, but not yet.
It was the golden era that every millennial experiences. You're out of college, so you feel accomplished by taking small stabs at adulthood, like paying an electricity bill. But you also stay out late drinking margaritas on a Wednesday because, hell, it's not like you have a paper due tomorrow or something. And you can be anything you want if you believe it hard enough, so why worry about it today?
In this recent reminiscing, I came across a mixtape that my bestie Andrea made me in the summer of 2007. I was 23 and had just moved to Kensington. I was feeling cool about living in Brooklyn, not knowing I was in an uncool part of Brooklyn, and I was embarking on my first New York roommate experience, not knowing my new roommate was a wackadoo who always slept with her bedroom door wide open. The mixtape so perfectly captured everything I was feeling that summer, but could not put into words. I listened to that tape over and over, like I had done with the mixtapes I made off the radio as a preteen.
One of the standout tracks is Why?'s "Dumb Hummer." It features a bridge that Andrea and I used to yell-sing along with, filled with the smug joy of knowing that we were in the prime of our lives:
If you wear first hand clothes
And get your hair cut by somebody you don't know
I'm below you
Because it was true. We were "below" these real adults, who got flawless salon haircuts and shopped in the non-sale section of the Gap. They probably had their own apartments and serious boyfriends and jobs that paid them enough to buy better wine than two buck chuck.
But we didn't care. There was a swelling pride in that song because we knew that our friends cut our hair and our favorite dresses were the weird ones from the $1 dollar bin. We were allowed to be a mess. For now.
Am I saying that I have all my shit together now, at 32? Hell no. But I want to. I've been getting my hair cut at salons and I like it because it looks nice. I do still shop at thrift stores, but I also understand the joy of a more expensive, well-made pair of shoes or winter coat. I'm in a serious relationship with someone who's much more than "okay." I have my very own apartment!
I do get wistful when I hear that song, but there's also a sense of relief, a pride in having made it through those years mostly intact. I still feel like my purpose and passions are scattered all over the place, but instead of saying "fuck it" and drinking gin and dancing on top of them, I'm picking them up and trying to piece them together. Sometimes still while drinking gin.
When I recently got my hands on a cassette player, I listened to that tape again. And of course, like my 7th grade mixtape, I had to recreate it on Spotify.
Spotify didn't have every single song, but this is a very close approximation:
And yes, Andrea really did end it with "I Won't Grow Up" from the original cast recording of Peter Pan. Touché.
Happy Saturday, everyone! Go read your old journals and tell me all about them.