- My parents, but cooler.
- Priyanka Chopra: I would get to look like that, be a Bollywood star, and be married to a Jonas Brother which were all the life goals I had at age 12.
- Irene Adler – BBC Sherlock looks and attitude with book version brains and gumption.
- Enya: She lives in a castle by herself with a ton of cats.
- Sylvia Beach: the original owner of Shakespeare and Co, and a badass lady.
- Literally every boss I’ve ever had: With a few minor exceptions, I’ve been #blessed to have predominantly female managers who have all been brilliant, confident, extremely capable and just all around rockstars.
- The fanfiction version of myself.
- Someone who would make child Sydelle proud.
- Anyone who has punched a Nazi.
- A successful plant-mom.
- Someone who knows how to make their own bread.
- Literally any of the food editors from Bon Appetit.
- The brown, less biphobic, less elitist, more financially responsible, less bad-decision making Carrie Bradshaw.
- Comfortable enough in a social gathering where I don’t know that many people to not just scroll on my phone until someone talks to me.
- A successful networker.
- Someone who doesn’t overprioritize/idealize love and romance.
- Hermione Granger
- Frequent traveler
- Extremely hydrated
It’s the stone sunk in the belly.
The moment the airplanes wheels touch the ground
and you become a creature of mud and earth again.
Maybe its’ relief,
maybe a lack of belief in what you can’t touch.
You pen long letters to the feeling,
hoping to find proof of your faith somewhere in the lines.
You wait for someone to whisper it in your ear as you’re sleeping, why you feel more at home away from it, why you prefer other beds to your own,
why you feel your gut turn sour when you consider anything else than a white knuckle grip.
You don’t understand that you have give up yourself to contemplate divinity,
that it isn’t magic the way you think, because then
every spring would be an incantation spoken, every morning you wake up to the sun, conjured, each birth a spell.
You say the false prayers and hope for a miracle,
your fingers lost in the sand of faith, combing through shells and pebbles for anything alive, anything resembling an answer.
You are learning to be less than, knowing that you came from greater than.
You are learning that belief is often greater than the truth, and there is never just one way north.
If you’re like me and spend a probably questionable chunk of your daylight hours on Twitter, you’ve probably seen those tweets floating around that all say some iteration of “Nobody owes you anything.” They don’t you owe their time, respect, conversation, support, etc. Some tweets go as far as including family and friends in this. This theory is often intertwined with the concept of emotional labor.
At first, I agreed with the sentiment. To some extent. I was raised by a dad whose brand of feminism was “you can have anything you want, but no one is going to give it to you.” I generally have very low expectations for what the universe owes me. But, I did think the dynamics were different between people that I had an actual relationship with. I know we live in the iron-fisted grip of capitalism, and a lot of our relationships are transactional, but I balked at applying those dynamics to people I love.
Over the last few months, I’ve been thinking of this concept a lot more. What do the people I love owe me? What do I owe them? If nobody truly owes anyone else anything, how do we create community?
The conclusion I’ve come to (and as always, feel free to slide into those DMs and fight me) is that self-reliance is an oppressive symptom of the socio-economic system we live in and honestly, all-together a very shitty thing to aspire to.
Self-reliance seems kind of like a libertarian wet-dream. It’s the alienation capitalism causes alongside its glorification of hyperindividualism. We are called to be islands.
But self-reliance is not an equal-opportunity dream. For women it’s a catch 22. Independence is aspirational. As young women we are told to be wary of leaning on our partners too much (codependency is so last decade), as mothers we are told to lean in, eschewing spousal or filial support in what is supposed to be the highest calling of our lives. And conversely, we are often punished for it. We are cold if we do not need our lovers enough, leaning in either gets us branded as bad mothers or bad employees. By trying to be independent we are held back.
Independence is a masculine ideal, some sort of Emersonian fantasy of the completely self-reliant man. Men do not need, they are needed. This leaves men often bereft of the language necessary to communicate the needs we all have.
But it’s not simply a gendered problem. The most privileged in our society are often the most dependent on others, while being lauded at the same time as independent paragons of industry and success. The wealthy often stand on the shoulders of their wealthy ancestors, they have connections, family support. They were raised with a safety net and therefore, feel comfortable enough to leap. On the other hand, poverty is often a result of forced, disastrous independence. It’s much easier to become homeless, become incarcerated, or fall into addiction when you have no one to rely on. No one is in a place of safety with a couch to sleep on or extra funds to loan you.
With all of that being said, let’s go back to “no one owes you anything.” I think the issue with the statement lies in the word “owe.” From a purely biological perspective, humans are social creatures. We need each other. Our instincts to reach out for help or support or to offer those things to each other is not the act of paying off some cosmic debt we owe to each other. It’s not a matter of owing, it’s a matter of simply giving.
In “Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner?” author Katrine Marcal writes:
“Economics has been described as the science of how you conserve love. The basic idea is: love is scarce. It’s difficult to love your neighbor, not to mention your neighbor’s neighbor. Therefore we must conserve our love and not use it up unnecessarily. If we fuel our society with it, there won’t be any left over for our private lives.”
I’m not so idealistic (or hippie-dippie) as to hope for a society based on love. But I do, in some way, think we “owe” each other something. Until someone hurts us, or abuses our kindness, I think we have a responsibility to give them our best selves.
I haven’t been writing that much lately. Snatches of poetry here and there, half-finished pieces crowding the notes app on my phone. It’s not exactly writer’s block. It’s something else: happiness.
I’m about to get real corny for a moment, so if you’re bitter/don’t like joy/are disgusted by sincerity, please skip to the next paragraph. With me being the person that I am + living with a mental illness means that the concept of consistent happiness felt really difficult. For as long as I could remember, I was deeply anxious over something or the other, grades, exams, the LSAT, my body etc., etc. Every time I felt like I was comfortably treading water, a wave would wash over me. But since I moved to DC, a combination of therapy, personal growth, a job I love and wonderful friends have contributed to a sense of, dare I say, contentment, that feels unprecedented. At least, post-puberty. Finally, I’ve reached the shore.
But there’s one thing I miss about being lost at sea. Writing. All my life, my best work (if I do say so myself) has come from a place of fear, sorrow, heartbreak. The notebooks in my childhood bedroom, this blog, the Moleskines I keep buying as an adult and losing are filled with scraps of unhappiness, a patchy portrait of a lost girl. I don’t want to be the cliche of a tortured artist, only able to put things together when I’m falling apart. But I still haven’t figured out how to write from place where I know who I am and I make no apologies for it.
Maybe because I don’t see it as being interesting. Like the Tolstoy quote about happy families, isn’t my sadness more interesting? Isn’t happiness trite? Especially in a world where we pay professionals, download meditation apps, and read wellness blogs in the pursuit of mental wellbeing. Maybe I’m more interested in the questioning of my identity than actually coming to terms with it. Maybe I’m worried that a woman wondering is always more palatable than a woman who knows.
- The Apolitico: This is the dude who never wants to talk about politics. He’s white and straight and cis and hails from Connecticut. He didn’t mean to end up in DC. He’s a programmer or works some kind of finance job you don’t really care to understand, even though he explains it multiple times over $16 cocktails. He doesn’t care about politics but thinks Elizabeth Warren isn’t likeable.
- The guy who just discovered non-monogamy: He thinks he’s polyamorous but is really just badly communicating with 8 different women at once. He read the Amazon summary of “The Ethical Slut” and has “poly” in his Tinder bio but has yet to manage basic time management skills. Three girls think they’re exclusively dating him because while he hasn’t that conversation with them, he assumed they understand the “vibes” (his words not mine). He assumes their needs are limited to his flirty texts that appear every 3 – 5 business days. He is currently looking for his a 9th partner so slide into his DMs if you understand partnering without possession!
- The workaholic: He’s too busy to see you but not busy enough to stop breadcrumbing you. He has some swanky, high profile job that impresses you on the first date. He isn’t condescending either, and you’d love to see him again. But actually, he has a conference in San Francisco this week and needs to fly to Sri Lanka next week for an international convening. How about next weekend? Oh his best friend from college is getting married in Napa. Instead of admitting he doesn’t have the time to date (or that you’re really option 2 or 3) he will send you a considerate, yet incredibly witty text once a week so you remember who is and how cute he looked in that blue checked shirt every guy in DC has.
- The Hilltern: He’s just here for the summer and pays for your drinks with an Amex gold card. His internship on the Hill is unpaid obviously, but his parents just “think that the experience is so important” so they’re bankrolling his Ubers and bottomless brunches and $2,200 studio apartment in Dupont Circle. He’s working for a Republican representative for the “connections” and tries to, very sincerely, and very incorrectly, explain the merits of supply-side economics with his 8th Bud Lite in hand.
I never though quarter (or mid) life crises were real. I understand the anxieties about getting older and I understood crises all too well. But I always attributed quarter life crises to the ennui of youth, the low wages and high anxiety lifestyle of millennials and societal norms shifting. For mid life crises I thought they were either a symptom of wounded masculinity or menopause in most cases.
But now, 4 weeks away from my 23rd birthday I suspect I might be having something of a quarter life crisis. After making the decision to not attend law school next fall (or possibly ever), I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. Law school had felt like a dream turned nightmare, literally, because I would wake up in the middle of the night dreaming about failing out, or not getting into a good one, or not being able to pay my student back afterwards. Putting that dream on pause has at given me (marginally) better sleep.
Right now, my only goal in life is to be great at my job. That’s it. No homework, no exams, no extracurriculars, no applications to fill out or cover letters to write. I feel free. But also trapped. As Sartre would say, I am condemned to be free. Okay, maybe that’s a bit melodramatic.
What I’m feeling is not unusual or special. But this is my blog and I very stupidly skipped therapy this week so I’m going to write about it!
So…what exactly is the point of all this? Do I just meal prep and listen to podcasts and watch Netflix and go out to bars and work and do laundry until I die? I’m not seeking a purpose, but rather a significance. Even if I fulfill my purpose to the best of my ability, does it matter?
18 years of Catholic teaching made me want to think about it from a religious perspective at first. As far as I understand it, I’m supposed to follow God’s laws and be a good person and then when I die I will be rewarded by going to heaven. I do consider myself a pretty decent human being but I’m also pretty sure St. Peter won’t think I’m up to scratch at the Pearly Gates. I also don’t like the concept of being a good person for a reward, don’t think confession fixes wrongdoings, and think religion and morality are often two very different things.
So maybe Nietzsche was right. Maybe he was onto something with the whole nihilism deal. I’ve always thought of there being 2 types of nihilism: positive and negative. Negative in the sense that nothing matters, so why even try? Positive in the sense that nothing matters, so might as well have the most fun and do what you want. Obviously, work and human adult responsibilities occur separately from this. I like my job! I like doing groceries. So maybe selective nihilism. Go to brunch every weekend! Drunk text that guy! Cut all your hair off! Get that tattoo! Essentially, positive nihilism is just Hedonism: reloaded. Maybe that’s the meaning of life. To have 70 – 80 years of riotous, unapologetic, unfiltered joy. As my soccer coach would say in 3rd grade: what’s important is that we do our best and have fun.
I’m not afraid of dying. I’m not afraid of never leaving a mark on this world. I think my fear is that I somehow always feel a step behind. To figure out what I should have done, to realize what I really wanted, to understand the significance of a decision. As an overthinker, overworrier, indecisive person, I sometimes feel so caught up in thinking the “right” way that I just go through these phases of ascribing to different philosophies without ever moving forward. Whether it’s existential philosophy, astrology, fantasy novels, even going to church again, I feel I’ve been waiting for the right view of the world. It’s like when you go to the eye doctor and they flip back and forth between different prescriptions asking you which one is better – one or two or terrible but the rest all kind of look the same so you eventually panic and just pick one. I also think about the Plath fig tree analogy on a daily basis, and now that I am smack dab in what is supposed to be the beginning of my real life, I can feel myself at the fork of that tree, panicked and starting at all the different branches laid out before me.
But are these fears even real? Am I just an oversensitive, anxious wreck who prefers to fret over the options rather than deal with the consequences of a decision? Wow, that was a good self-drag. I was telling one of my roommates about a personal problem I was mystified by, and suggested that maybe, *I* was the problem. I don’t think that I am the problem, but I do think I’ve created it, at least partially. Which is ironically kind of a comfort, because I’m the source of the problem, I’m also the person best equipped to solve it.
My 22nd birthday honestly feels like it happened centuries ago, and I don’t feel close in any way to the person I was at this time last year. But that’s what we call growth, honey. Here’s my annual reflective post of yet another year that I have managed to survive.
- Getting over trauma doesn’t mean all evidence of it happening is erased: A lot of bad stuff happened last year, and I did a lot of work to recover from it. But for the longest time I thought I wasn’t “okay” because I could feel how I had changed. It took me a while to realize that there was no way I was going to be the same person, but that’s okay, and that doesn’t mean I’m not healed.
- Oysters are so delicious and I can’t believe it took me 22 years to try them.
- Loneliness is not a reason to be with others, it’s really a call inwards: I know everyone says this, but even if you’re the extrovert to end all extroverts, get comfy and learn to enjoy being alone. Many times being lonely is really just a sign you’re not dealing with something inside.
- Tidying up your room every night before you go to bed is a revolutionary habit to make. Try it.
- Consent is so much more than just a yes or a no, it’s an active, enthusiastic choice and I wish more people knew and practiced that.
- There are no perfect political candidates (until someone gets me that forged birth certificate and I can run for President).
- It really do be like that sometimes.
- If two famous writers lived during the same time period and were in the same place at one point – they probably hooked up tbh. (Ex: Walt Whitman and Oscar Wilde).
- ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT. Be it a raise, a relationship, space, understanding, forgiveness. People cannot guess your desires. This is something I’m still working on because I think my intentions are really obvious to people when really I’m just constantly wrapped up in a veil of mystery.
- I need to stop manically getting a haircut (or doing it myself) and calling it “spontaneous.”
- I lowkey believe in astrology and I’m not ashamed of it. God, I’m such a Taurus. And on that note – anything that doesn’t hurt anyone and helps people understand themselves or the world around them (different religions, philosophies, astral projecting, etc) isn’t something you should mock.
- Always think that people expect a lot from you – then meet those expectations.
- Replacing butter with tahini in a chocolate chip cookie recipe is a genius move. Everyone should try it.
- At some point I will probably have to tell my parents about my love life, but I’m going to hold off on that for as long as it is feasible.
- Bad mental health has taken a lot away from me. But thinking about what I’ve lost isn’t going to help me.
- Mr. Big from Sex and the City *is* hot you just have to be a certain level of maturity to see it.
- There is such a thing as being too polite.
- I FINALLY understand what it means to nurture your inner child/parent yourself. For me this means lots of fantasy novels which bring me levels of joy not seen since maybe 2010 and telling myself that “we have food at home.”
- Finally ready to admit this controversial opinion: Theme/Amusement parks suck after the age of 12 (including Disney). Also, Disney as an entity isn’t that great. Sorry.
- Making friends as an adult is as hard as everyone says it is. But it’s not impossible, and if anything it’s an opportunity to build a friend group based on nurturing, healthy relationships and common interests rather than convenience and proximity.
- At least 40% of my dating problems would probably be solved if I just ruled out white men as a group, but what can I say, I still haven’t completely gotten rid of those self destructive tendencies.
- I recently told my mom about the anxiety I get every year as my birthday rolls around. She just laughed and said that I remind her of my father. So happy to know my annual existential crises will continue into my 50s. Can’t wait.