I’ve often thought that in order to speak about anything from a place of authority, you had to be 30, or at least close to it.
Well here it is.
I’m coming up to my 30th year, and things that seemed so impossible to figure out are only now beginning to make sense. Life’s mysteries and lessons are beginning to reveal themselves to me.
The worst thing about your 20s is everything. The best thing about your 20s? Everything.
After I graduated college, I wanted to be “one of them.” I so badly wanted a job in public relations, so I could get someone else’s point across, be a sassy Chicago office girl. Or I would write nonsensical news bits on the Frisky, which now I see how pointless that would have been.
I thought I’d manicure my nails, marry my college sweetheart, rise to the top. In every version of my old self, I was some hard-nosed Chicago bitch that accepted the status quo, or a shitty job, shitty weather, or all three of those things.
Yeah, that didn’t happen.
Now I’m stretching my aching back on mornings before my bus commute to work in Honolulu. My neck has a permanent crick in it, and I’ve already had skin cancer removed. I lived hard and fast in my 20s, and I don’t regret a moment of it.
I got an internship at an advertising agency right out of college. I thought I’d become some savvy marketer, a slick bitch with a grin and gimmick. I’d write copy that’d make the masses swoon.
Okay, so I was more of a fresh-faced, slightly scared, but no-doubt talented writer. Nonetheless, undeserving of the scathing shit scorn I’d get from one of my “mentors.”
Back then, it being my first job and all, after a few months at it I figured everyone just fucked everything up all the time. It wasn’t until now, today, 6 years later, that I realize I wasn’t fucking shit up. I was seen, as most talented and driven people are: as a threat.
Every headline I wrote was bad. Everything I did was sent back. Every press release that looked perfect was met with a prompt email (which made me think she hadn’t even READ it yet) that coyly said “Nice try.”
I put up with it for six months. I wrote headlines and copy that eventually got picked up in print by big clients. But around the time my internship was going to end, and lead to what I thought would be a full-time job with a raise, my bitch mentor told me that they were extending my internship because I hadn’t done well enough, hadn’t performed to their expectations.
I quit the next day. And today, for the first time since I quit that job, I realize that there was never anything fundamentally wrong with me or my headlines. I interned at the Chicago Sun-Times before I got that job. I quickly went on, after quitting, to being published in the Philadelphia Inquirer. I was good.
They were bad: bad leaders, bad examples. SHE was a bad mentor who made me believe bad things about myself as a person, and as a writer, for a very long time.
Around the same time I was tolling away at a place that fucked with my mind as a young writer and working professional, I was hopelessly dumped by my college sweetheart, whom I adored lovingly, out of the blue. I was utterly crushed for an entire year.
I spent so many nights crying in bed, wondering why he didn’t love me anymore. I envisioned a future with him. It wasn’t fair! Beyond fairness though: Again, someone made me believe that I was a bad woman. Undeserving of love.
I did what any self-loathing, but driven person would do – I got out of dodge.
I lived a whirlwind of adventures, was published in tons of magazines and websites, and lived the life of my dreams. I went to places people only dreamed about.
I questioned my sanity on the hard days. Was I really living in a camper, showering sometimes with cold water, getting drunk on PBR beers? Was I really living in a motel room for a winter before I permanently relocated back to Hawaii?
The answer was yes. I did do all of those crazy things, and much more, many things of which I might be too ashamed to ever even write about. But yet, as I’m coming up my thirtieth year, I can’t help but see so many doors from my past hurts and mistakes shutting with closure for good.
Fast-forward to today. I live and work in urban Honolulu, Hawaii. I live in my own apartment, pay my own rent. I have a job in marketing where my boss and the CEO are the most giving, amazing, non-judgmental people I ever met. Wherever there’s a chance to improve, I’m never met with a “Nice try,” but rather, “Let’s work on this together.” Everything I do is beyond appreciated. I’m good at it because I love it, and I love it because they love me and my contributions. I’m in a happy and positive work environment for the first time in my life.
In addition to that, I’m writing freelance travel articles. My clients are big nowadays: Expedia, Travelocity, Mapquest. I used to believe I wasn’t good enough to write for them. That same negative thought even crossed my mind the other day when I was commissioned to write a piece for Travelocity. My old editor said, “I’d love to work with you again. I love your writing, especially your narratives,” and I thought, “She’s just saying that…” No, she’s not just saying that. She believes it. And I finally do, too.
Recently, I had a coming full-circle moment. I casually checked my email on my phone. A typical “People you should connect with” LinkedIn email was in my inbox. Usually I delete these spammy messages, but this time I opened it.
The last person on the list, a LinkedIn 3rd connection (how do they even quantify that shit?), was my ex-boyfriend who crushed me so many years ago.
I felt like I was sucker-punched.
I immediately logged into LinkedIn to find out as many details as my brain could absorb.
I was unusually starved for information, you see. After he so cruelly dumped me out of the blue, we continued “trying to make it work” (admittedly, we just had sex) for a year after the breakup. One day, after having the same fight we always did, he stormed out my house and left me there, crying. I never saw or heard from him again.
Over the years, I tried looking him up a few times on Google and Facebook never to any avail. This was the first time I had confirmation that he was even living in 5 years.
And so, here I am, working my amazing job, living my amazing life (with my incredible new boyfriend, as it is) simultaneously rehashing the hurts of my past, again, via a LinkedIn 3rd connection. How could someone you once knew so intimately, someone into whose eyes you gazed when you professed your love to them, in the same lifetime become a mere third-tier connection on LinkedIn? Is life so bleak?
Turns out, he’s been living a rather boring existence. He transitioned into IT after majoring in English (where we met in college). He worked for a handful of companies in and around the Chicagoland area. He now works at some startup in Denver. He’s bald, unimpressive looking. His picture is devoid of any primary colors, and things are, for him anyway, much of the same.
This is all taken from a LinkedIn profile, mind you, so my assumptions about his life trajectory can only go as far as a 3rd tier connection will permit, but you get the picture.
I was slighted for a few days. I pondered the meaning of it all. I felt a bit sad, and hurt came and went, then came again.
But what I felt next was transcendental. When I really got to thinking about how far I’ve come since he dumped me, I felt assurance that the pain I experienced because of him started me on my journey to finding my life’s purpose. I felt closure.
I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Through the late nights, the cry sessions, the miles traveled, the people met, the jobs had, all of it conspired to bring me here, to this very point, to make these very real musings about the eventually and mysticism of life.
The moral of the story, from what I’ve pieced together through thinking about my early twenties until now, is this: Never let anyone, especially shit suckers and heart breakers, hold you back from the good things you are most certainly destined for in your life. People will be jealous of your successes. They will want to see you sit and listen to the same tape on repeat over and over again (like they do) for the rest of your life. People will dump you and not tell you why. You’ll have a mean boss, a boring job, or any other mess of circumstances in between.
The real work comes in when you decide to achieve anyway. You’ll emerge stronger, and you will reach further in the direction of your dreams. The power was in you all along. Don’t let some unhappy house mom or balding IT guy steal it from you. Bask in your sunshine, sweetie, and let the world see how fucking bright you can shine.