When I was in my early 20’s-
It took multiple glasses of wine & several episodes of The Hills to prepare me for the fresh hell that was going out on a Saturday night… which I’d feel obligated to do after a day of hiding out & eating eclectically (Ramen, canned beans, & Peanut Butter Puffins, anyone?) just b/c I didn’t want to go out, not even to buy groceries, b/c I just couldn’t deal w/ anyone.
I remember telling myself, someday, I’ll be 28 &-
By the time I’m 28, I’ll be doing yoga every day.
&- By the time I’m 28, I won’t do that thing where I pick at my nail polish in the car when it starts to chip… & then store the shavings in my cup holders… & leave them there for weeks.
B/c- By the time, I’m 28, I’ll be perfect.
It was always just far enough away…
Until last year…
When I turned 28…
It was my first difficult birthday, but not for the reasons I might have come up with in my early 20’s. I don’t do yoga every day, but I have a gym membership that gets semi-regular use. I still pick at my nail polish, but there are currently no traces of it in my car. I’m far from perfect, but I’m happy with the choices I’ve made.
To my surprise, the MAJOR FEELZ that came up before my birthday had nothing to do with regretting not going to grad school or being upset that I still don’t own that dream pick-up. Instead, it had everything to do with saying good-bye to my early 20’s. Despite, the fact that I am arguably more perfect (& far less humble) now. 🙂
As a survivor-
I bring you this guide to Surviving:
27 Going on 28: Return of EMO
Step 1: Turn & Face the Music (It’s where you’ll find your mantra.)
Every Emo phase has a soundtrack & mine started w/ this Chainsmokers’ song-
I cranked this song up the first time I heard it on the radio… & then every time after that. My husband was sick of it before I even realized I was going through a thing- a thing that I didn’t even know was a thing. Closer is a cautionary tale about back-sliding w/ an ex-
But what it’s really about is masking one’s hurt & celebrating questionable decisions…
What’s more early 20’s than that?
Once you have your ‘OMG MY EARLY 20’s ARE BEHIND ME’ moment. You’re ready to go Full Emo.
That’s right. Dust off that old Death Cab album.
Find the music that was once both the truest & most embarrassing thing about you…
For me, it’s that Good Ol’ Country Music
& Miranda Lambert‘s latest album, ‘The Weight of These Wings,’ couldn’t have dropped at a better time… I found the root of angst I was feeling & the mantra that would get me through in the divinely emo song, ‘Runnin’ Just in Case’-
‘Happiness ain’t prison
But there’s freedom in a broken heart.’
While I never questioned my happiness, I did question whether or not it was something I deserved & could maintain &
Could I be happy & still be me?
I’d reached Full Emo.
Step 2: Burn, Baby, Burn.
Once you reach Full Emo, sh*t is going to come up & nobody can plunge your sh*t but you.
Do what you gotta do, but after you do-
Let It Burn.
This is my way of saying that while Aroldis Chapman, currently 28, was helping the Cubs win the World Series, I was creating a now-deleted Word document titled ‘Poems to Keep the Angst Alive.’ This resulted in 0 successful poems, but I still kept my favorite:
‘In the same building where we met,
Well after you’d left me there,
A teacher told me I had to make my own black
(He also told me I couldn’t paint.)’
…I know I know better & that’s the thing about getting older-
You start to understand what your black is made of.
Chances are you’re at least a little familiar with the sh*t that’s coming up, because it’s old sh*t. So, go ahead, write that letter to your ex or to your dead-beat dad, but after you do-
In the words of Bowie:
“The moment you know you know you know.”
Trust me, you know.
Step 3: Won’t You Please, Please Help Me? (Open up the doors!)
In my early 20’s, I probably wouldn’t have responded to a girlfriend’s “Happy Birthday! How are you?” text with an emotionally honest answer, but, at 28, I did.
To my surprise, she showed up where I work with flowers & an invitation to grab cocktails the following night.
After the tears have dried, it’s time for a drink… with a girlfriend who has been through what you’re going through.
We met up & I told her about Miranda Lambert’s latest album, about all the looking back I’d been doing, about the blackness, & also about how mortifying it was to see clearly the selfishness I displayed in my youth… & she totally got it.
It started to dawn on me that with age also comes the perspective necessary to helping both yourself & others.
Over the course of the evening, we talked about our exes, what we put our mothers through, & the importance of forgiving our younger selves
Which I thought I’d done until–
I confessed to essentially ghosting all my exes from my early 20’s, because I was too scared to either respond or reach out.
“Why? What are you afraid might happen?”
I laughed, “Nothing!” It was that simple & easy & true. The fear was not coming from me as a 28 year old woman. It was coming from the grl I was in my early 20’s, stubbornly holding on to her feelings of guilt.
(Burning sh*t is easy, but guilt tends to linger.)
Step 4: Give Yourself Permission (to give 0 f*cks.)
“I think you have to give yourself permission to do what you want,” she said.
For the first time, I really understood what that meant.
When I really removed guilt & fear from the equation, I was left with 0 desire to re-connect with those who I once felt I ‘owed’ it to &, ironically, it made me feel 5 years younger. 😉
I was also able to make a couple new friends, but it took burning the letters/deleting the doc to open the door.
I came away with a sense of clarity-
Turning 28 was about saying goodbye to my early 20’s. That meant honoring my past, esp. the darkest parts, & then finally letting go of some of my old sh*t.
Being 28 is about what I do with the empowerment that comes from really knowing myself. That means being the one to validate my own decisions & forgive my own mistakes.
If you still miss your early 20’s after reading this-
An episode or two of The Hills (or The Bachelor) ought to bring the emo (& the horror) back into your life (shout out to Rachel, 31!)
28 & Gr8,
Your Grl On Base.