Closer to 30

I am 26 today, June 24.

I’ve been telling people I’m 26 years old since I moved to Dickinson two months ago, rounding up to avoid the confusion of saying, “I’m 25 but I turn 26 soon so by the time you see me next I may be a year older.”

But it hit me last night that saying I’m 26 and actually turning 26 feel very different.

I’m officially closer to 30, for one, as my mom pointed out. I’m in my “late 20’s,” a real old fogey. I sped through the past year without even the possibility of a real boyfriend, all the while reminding myself that my older sister was married before she hit 26, that maybe if I just picked a random bachelor on OK Cupid I could also hit that milestone (and then beat to her the next milestone of “divorced by 26”).

I meant to write this last night but fell asleep on my couch around 9 watching Sherlock on Netflix after a very strenuous day of being hungover (I’ll never learn! I’ll never grow up!), but here is a recap of things I’ve done in the past 25 years and why I might not be screwed for the next 25:

-Didn’t die

-Didn’t kill anyone else, directly or otherwise (I think/hope)

-Made plenty of mistakes that I still feel bad for–interviews that didn’t turn into stories, breaking promises to children, not sending my jiddo letters when I meant to, hurting my parents’ feelings–but tried to learn from them

-Completed 17 years of school

-Was published. On NPR!

-Worked at NPR (things may have peaked)

-Traveled a lot and never lost the desire to travel even more

-Had many pets and volunteered at many animal shelters and got to spend lots of time surrounded by animals

-Met Brandon and a bevy of other amazing individuals

I don’t know what I want out of the next year. Health, love, family, friends, etc., of course. But I want to be somewhere else–physically, for sure, and emotionally–by my 27th birthday. Not married, but maybe with someone (dating is tiring, you guys. And expensive. And degrading.). Employed and at a job I love. Living closer to my sister or Brandon, or in a different country entirely. Free of all debt (HA HA HA HAAAAA I will die with student loans).

Last year I celebrated my birthday traveling from Chicago back to D.C. after visiting for graduation. My friend John danced me into my 25th year at a club in the Belmont neighbhorhood, and almost 24 hours later I was watching the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup at a Cleveland Park bar in D.C. with a neighbor. It was both sweet and sad (perhaps they should invent a word to describe such a feeling–bittersweet?) to spend the day mostly alone, waiting for my lost luggage at the airport, leaving a city I had known so well and returning to one I hardly knew then. Now I would give anything to be in D.C. at that stupid bar. I like to think I’d be surrounded by people I love, the ones I left on the East Coast to come here.

I didn’t have high hopes for today. I made myself a special breakfast, bought myself a special coffee, wore a special outfit to keep my spirits up. Work was long. None of my coworkers remembered my birthday (I didn’t want them to, anyway–makes me feel uncomfortable, for some reason).

But my sister sent me flowers, my jiddo called me and a friend I’ve known since high school emailed me to wish me a happy birthday. I took myself out for a martini–and didn’t get carded, so the bartender didn’t know I was drinking alone on my birthday–and I’m eating too much guacamole and too many Oreos and watching Sherlock series 3 on Netflix. An okay Tuesday overall.

Starting Over, Yet Again

Miles upon miles upon miles.

Miles upon miles upon miles.

Well, I officially made it a year in D.C. Saturday was the one-year anniversary of the day two friends and I left Chicago at our backs and drove down to Washington. I thought I’d only be here three months.

Four sublets and three jobs later, it was another March 22, different year. So of course it would happen that on Friday I was offered a job out of town. Out of the state, even. Out of the time zone — in North Dakota. Because the universe and perhaps my own subconscious have decided that I can’t stay too long in one place, I accepted a city reporter position with The Dickinson Press, the premiere (ok, only) newspaper in fair Dickinson, North Dakota.

Giving my two weeks’ notice at work also meant giving my two weeks’ notice to D.C. I got comfortable, I guess, riding the same bus to work each day, or getting off at the same metro stop. Shopping at the same grocery store, visiting the same few bars each weekend. Seeing the same people. It’s funny how quickly we get used to things, especially since I came here kicking and screaming and vowing to leave as soon as I could.

But I did get used to it. More than that, I ended up loving it. Not all of it; I’d prefer not to live in a group house for more than I paid for a studio in Denver, or spend $40 a week on groceries. I still think the majority of people here are entitled assholes who go out of their way to walk on the wrong side of the sidewalk and force their way onto crowded metros when people are trying to get off. But there is always something to do in the city: a new art exhibit, live music, pub trivia, an impromptu BYOB happy hour in the NPR cafeteria.

I wish I could stay. It seemed possible. I’m lucky to have gotten to intern at NPR an extra semester, but it made the illusion of permanence that much stronger. I could imagine myself coming to the building every morning, eating my banana with peanut butter and drinking Peet’s coffee, checking the celeb blogs before starting work, making small talk with coworkers across cubicle walls and going home at six every night to eat eggs for dinner and watch Netflix. It would have been a good life. It would have been a simple life.

But as my gruff editor pointed out, that’s not what I went to school for. I studied journalism because I want to be a journalist. This opportunity in a town so small and foreign and far away is exactly what I’ve wanted to do for years: write, report, explore. I’ve never gotten to work for a real newspaper before; it seems like such a rite of passage for young journalists that I should have done years ago. At such a small production, I’ll have more responsibility, and more impact.

It would be limiting to take a marketing or PR or web producer position just so I can stay in D.C. I could try to freelance, but I know myself; I’m not cut out for that life that so many of my friends and old colleagues have, hustling from assignment to assignment. Pitching stories every day? Buying my own insurance? Filing quarterly taxes? It’s a miracle I filed taxes once this year. I’ll just barely recover in time for next April 15.

Professionally, Dickinson is a good move. Personally, it’s a terrifying one. I have friends here, and favorite haunts, and cute boys a few desks away. I’m scared to give all of that up. My boss pointed out, optimistically, I think, that I can go anywhere right now: I’m young and single, without the burden of kids or a relationship to worry about in a job search. He’s right (but how did he know I was single?), but part of me wishes I did have something, or someone, holding me down. Would it be such a burden to have a reason to stay, to say, without compromise, that I have no choice but to find a job here because this is where my life is?

Right now, I have to put career first. I can’t putz around as a failing freelancer or reluctant administrative assistant somewhere just so I can stay in D.C. because my friends are here, and I never did get to try the bread at Le Diplomat, and maybe things will work out with that one guy if we give ourselves enough time. D.C. will be here if I need to come back, but for now, I think the best thing I can do is go to Dickinson and play Cracker Jane Reporter for a while. Anyway, it’s not like I’ll be there long — the universe gives it a year at most.

You just wasted another fifteen minutes of your life.

The house where I am renting a room — in “up-and-coming” Brookland, home to a variety of artists and general vagrants — has a beautiful old grandfather clock in the foyer. The men who own the house only recently bought the clock and were very proud to tell me all about it when I first came to view my future room back in November.

To think, how young and unburdened I was then, how silly and initiated I was to the reality of grandfather clocks, to wholeheartedly agree with the proud owners that this clock, this magnificent clock, was a beautiful and necessary antique around which life in the house should revolve.

That all changed when I moved in. I have not had one good night’s sleep in over two months. Because this clock, not content to chime on the hour, has to jangle off every 15 minutes. At 15: a short, jaunty jangle. At 30: a slightly longer jangle. At 45: a very off-key, unmelodious jangle. On the hour: a terribly long cacophony, followed by the stroke of bells. It’s all noise, all day.

I wonder, though, who wants a reminder that another fifteen minutes of life have passed and we’re still sitting in our beds eating Easter candy (this may be a very me-specific example)? Who wants to lie awake at night, trying to sleep, kept up by a record of the dwindling hours they have left before morning? Who needs a biological clock made tangible, telling us at set intervals that we have fifteen fewer minutes left to live?