Since graduating college, I’ve noticed a few things: Donuts aren’t quite so life-saving as I once thought them to be. Life without literature papers is blissful. And people (near-strangers, rather) tend to think they know you better than you know yourself. This isn’t because these people—mothers of someone who was maybe in your third grade science class, high school teachers who never actually taught you, friends of friends whom you’ve just met—think they know you well, but rather that you don’t know yourself at all.
Sure, I’m still rather indecisive about whether I love or hate cilantro. And I rarely commit to a sports team. And when a cellphone company asked if I could sign a three-year contract, I faltered. I have no idea where I’ll be in six months, let alone three years, but I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. And I definitely don’t think that means I don’t know myself.
So, these strangers ponder on advice about how one day I’ll figure out what I want in life. And I nod along politely, not daring to shatter their illusion that I’m some confused, goalless 22-year old. And I wonder, briefly, about where this idea came from. And then I remember that they asked me about my job. And I said I was nannying, which, in case you’re unaware, is actually a synonym for I have no idea what I want to do in life! Or so these strangers seem to translate.
This always seems to be followed up with the You’ll figure it out. The right job is going to come to you! encouragement. Still, I smile and nod, because how miraculous would it be if the ‘right job’ came to me when in three months I have applied to just two jobs. Two random jobs that were just there and available and pertained slightly to my major on the random day when I decided to peruse LinkedIn.
The Internet always seems to be chattering on about us entitled millennials. The way we act like we deserve everything, including a top notch job right out of college. We’re always on our cellphones. It is we who are oh, so reckless. We act without a care in the world. We are young! We are free! WE ARE THE MILLENIALS. I get it. We all get it at this point. The Internet thinks we’re the worst ever. But I think they’re wrong. We’re not the worst people ever. We are just people. And last I checked, being alive wasn’t a mortal sin worthy of damnation. But hey, I am a millennial, so what the heck do I know?
I’ve developed a new answer to the ever-dreaded “What are you doing after college?” question.
I am just a person. And I am living.
I’m seeing people I miss. I’m reading Harry Potter in French. I’m watering plants and baking late night snacks. I’m spending my mornings writing. I’ve gone swimming with a one-year-old, and I’m keeping SPF 85 sunscreen in business. I’m wondering about commas and foregoing semi colons. I’ve learned there’s no sense looking cute when babies aren’t happy until there is sweet potato everywhere. I’ve decided breakfast is more than a Luna bar—though I do love them so. I’ve gotten a library card. I’ve learned a lot about dinosaurs thanks to a really smart five-year-old who loves Netflix documentaries. I’ve left a hot yoga class early to throw up. I stood over the edge of the Grand Canyon, and I accepted that gift shops are one of the best part of traveling. I’ve cleaned out my mother’s closet and I redecorated my bedroom to the sounds of Gossip Girl reruns.
Living, as it turns out, is not as glamorous as romantic comedies may lead you to believe. And this I have grappled with. Because am I really living if I’m not backpacking across Europe or camping and kayaking. Am I really living if I’m not waking up on Saturday with a fun yet forgotten Friday night? Am I really living if I’m not signed into a contract and receiving a salary? Am I really living if my life does not resemble the one I’ve been taught to want?
There’s a difference between wanting things and wanting to want things. And though “entitled” we millenials may be, we’re really just trying to achieve the many things we’ve been taught we should want. And so one day I went to an interview, and I spoke with a raspy voice Brooke Davis would’ve been proud of (thanks to some spicy yam roll sushi) as I talked about myself. I gaged the interviewer and then I balanced on a fence during yes or no questions, trying to please. I wore a suit and heels and pantyhose, and I cut off my beloved ECUADOR bracelet and I washed the chipped polish off my nails. It’s very easy to lose yourself in a glossy building with gold ceilings. It’s easy to think that you look like Kirsten Cohen or Rachel Zane. It’s easy to think you’re on the fast track to being the person you’ve thought you’ve always wanted to be.
And ever so quickly, that illusion can be shattered upon the realization that that person is not you at all. Because life is not a romantic comedy. And you are you. And you are living. And it’s a disservice to both yourself and the world to pretend, even if just for a second, to be anything other than yourself.
Though I want to want to be a pioneer who lives without a cellphone, the reality is I want a phone again. The reality is, getting lost in my new city without a cellphone is terrifying. The reality is, I am not a pioneer. I like grocery stores, and I possess a credit card, and the media manipulates me into buying things I often do not need. I am not a pioneer. And, quite, frankly, I don’t actually want to be one.
I want to want to go to hot yoga everyday. An exercise class that turns you into a cool, calm, and centered human? Why wouldn’t I want that? As it turns out, I don’t want that at all. My journey towards finding an exercise I love is ongoing, but it’s not going to stop at something I think I should want. It’s not going to stop at something I only want to want.
I want to want to backpack through the Eastern hemisphere. I want to want to use a real map and wear the same clothes Blake Lively wore as that cool archeologist in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. But I don’t really want that. Not really. Because if I did want it, I’d be doing it. Truthfully, maps confuse me and army green is such an un-fun color. I like hotels, not hostels. And I listened to Liam Neeson when he warned me not to travel abroad alone.
Here is what I do want: I want to keep on living. I want to learn to ride a horse. I want to continue being happy. I want to not lose myself in the rat race of life as society and the media and near-strangers in the grocery store try to dictate what I should want to do. What I should be doing.
Because here is what I am doing: I’m looking after a 9-month-old so that I can continue to afford groceries while I actually spend the rest of my time writing. This isn’t The Nanny Diaries. And there’s no cute boy across the hall, and I’m not waiting to be reminded of what I’m truly destined to do.
Because here is what I want to do: I want to be a writer. And I’ve discovered that it’s a horrific waste of time to pursue things I only want to want to do when I already know exactly what it is that I want to do, need to do. Because, contrary to the opinions of near-strangers in grocery stores, what I’m doing is not synonymous with I have no idea what I want to do in life! In fact, it’s the opposite. I’d just rather not be a literal starving artist as I pursue this goal. I’d like to be an artist who respects the importance of pancakes and chocolate.
And if this makes me an entitled millennial, so be it. Maybe we aren’t entitled to a high-paying job or a new car or an apartment on the Upper East Side. But we have a right to dream. Because there is something we’re all entitled to—happiness.
And if we want to pursue happiness, the things we think we should want have no right getting in the way.