To be or not to be, that is the post-grad question

So I’ve decided that I want to write a book.

Here’s the thing, I’ve recently learned, about deciding that you want to write a book. In my head, I see two steps in this process. Step one was, of course, to decide to write a book. I needed to go through a lot just to make it to that first step. I needed to have time to dedicate to a book. I needed to feel inspired to write a book. I like to think that I had to experience some life things to process through writing. Then I needed to realize that I wanted to write a book.

Step two, as far as I can tell, is to actually write the book. Can you believe it?

I Googled “how to write a book.” As far as I can tell, you have to sit down for a long time, often, and write words down, which I guess I didn’t need some guy’s writing blog to tell me. I bought a book about writing a book, more specifically, about revising a book, which won’t help me much with step two. I bought a bunch of classic books to read, which I am considering another crucial part of the process, hoping they will seep into my mind and improve my word-making. These might sound like distractions but I swear! It’s important! For book-making! It’s a process!

I think the real key is coffee. Yes, lots and lots of the stuff. I need to shake with caffeine before the words flow. My phone can’t help. My inability to sit still for longer than two and a half minutes at a time probably isn’t contributing to my Pulitzer. And if I’m being honest, my life has felt extremely strange recently.

Please, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, stop telling me “congratulations.”

Rewind my life tape a couple of months and you’ll see me all stressed out and sighing and complaining and pulling on my frizzy hair, drinking another cup of coffee in a cafe, listening to lo-fi music and finishing my papers and tests and stories all at the last minute. This was my life for the past few years. I had assignments; I did assignments. People asked what I did and I told them I was a student. College was both my routine and identity, aside from being the only thing keeping me from real adulthood. Losing all that, by graduating, is devastating. People even tell you congratulations for it! I’m heartbroken!

We allow ourselves to feel heartbroken for major losses. We give ourselves time and space to mope and eat ice cream, or work out a lot, or book a trip or get a tattoo.

But what about the “celebrations?” Graduating college means that I am getting older; I can no longer sit in a room full of peers, every weekday, and discuss the sociology of sexuality or nuclear disarmament. I can’t operate my day in hour-long intervals, stopping at the campus Starbucks for a chai latte in between. Sure, I was (am) broke, and look forward to the day I’ll have a salary to pay for things like travel and more chai lattes, but for now, for just a little bit longer, I’m wallowing. I can’t help but feel like each “congratulations” is actually an apology, a “welcome to the real world.”

Sure, I balanced jobs and school and activities and friends and relationships and family before, but somehow the varied chaos, the routine, all-over-the-place days spent learning and churning content and the hamster wheel pace I operated at provided their own sort of busy comfort, one away from my anxious, idle mind. (But isn’t the retrospect always much rosier?)

Of course, this isn’t just me. My friends feel this way too. I haven’t spoken to one recently graduated person who feels okay, actually. I would say we’re all going through it. Perhaps “it” is the real world, though I think we experienced the real world before. But this does feel different. The paradox of choice is suffocating.

I could do anything. I could do nothing. I’m terrified.

These milestones are celebrations, but they’re also deaths. Graduation was the death of college. I’m currently mourning. I guess that means I’m moping around, trying to figure out who the hell I am and what I want to do with this life. I baked a cake, like an entire chocolate cake from scratch with a chocolate ganache and espresso mascarpone cream from a recipe I screenshotted off of The New York Times cooking subscription — did you know need a separate subscription for that? — and I spent so much money on all of the ingredients and time into baking it and it actually turned out kind of okay, or only “a little dry” according to my colleague.

I discovered I don’t actually love baking.

Do I want to do a play? Maybe, I decided, after talking to a bunch of Shakespeare in the Park actors for a recent story. They look like they’re having so much fun, I said. I could be a better dancer and break out of my shell, I said.

But also, I’d have to do a play.

The book thing I’m serious about. But I’m reevaluating nearly everything else, really. Mostly, the thing that keeps me up at night now more than ever before is whether I’m a good person, and how to be a better one.

So who am I? Right now, confused.

I identify as a good daughter, for the most part. I identify as a writer, though sometimes feel like a wannabe. I’m a sister and a friend. I’m a romantic, hopelessly. I enjoy reading and fashion and nature and art and walking and sitting in cafes. I want to do so many things that the collective weight of them crush me. I struggle, and lately, I struggle a lot.

And seriously, people keep telling me congratulations. Can you believe it?

 

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