“So Kara, how’s Iowa—“
“I know! The game’s on! I almost wore my Iowa shirt, but didn’t since it’s D’s birthday. Should we turn the game on?”
My friend Willie blinked. “I… I was going to ask about the Iowa caucus. But yes, we can definitely turn the game on.”
Thursday night Iowa played Maryland in basketball. It also happened to be my friend Derrick’s 33rd birthday. Derrick, Willie, and the other guys in our circle have been friends since college—attending the University of Maryland, together.
Willie flipped the channel and stared at the screen. “This is what I picture high school kids to look like,” he said. Bro, I hear that.
When I was in elementary school, I thought sixth graders looked like giants. When I reached that age myself, I thought every kid in high school stood six feet tall. The pattern continued into my freshman year of college—I couldn’t tell the difference between the senior class and someone in their thirties.
Since kindergarten, I’ve always been looking toward that next milestone. I thought when I reached a certain age, I would wake up one day and feel grown. I thought my twenties would consist of a baller job, a stacked closet, and a hella lot of frequent flyer miles.
I’ll be 27 in a few months and will be the first person to raise my hand and say I am not where I expected to be at this point in my life. I don’t have the lavish wardrobe I always dreamed of having. I have no idea how my taxes work. I live with a roommate, and we still keep tally on whose turn it is to buy paper towels and toilet paper. My love life is comical—which is a nice way of saying non-existent. I park my car in Derrick and Willie’s driveway (a mile and a half from my house), because I can’t afford the $160 fee to park at my own apartment.
This weekend, my friends and I round-tabled this exact conversation. We each had our own definitions of “making it.” None of us have reached the threshold of adulthood we set for ourselves as teenagers. Every single one of my friends said, “This is not what I pictured my life to be like ten years ago.”
And what the fuck is wrong with that? Ten years ago, I wore flare jeans and had chronically over-plucked eyebrows. Can’t say I’m too upset over deviating from the path laid out by that girl.
I’ve told you before about my friend Alexa from Simple Roots Wellness. From an outsider looking in, Alexa has it all. She owns a beautiful home, is married to the greatest guy, has three adorable daughters, runs her own company, and is one of the most brilliant and artistic women I know.
Hopefully this mom of three won’t mind me saying this, but Alexa is your stereotypical badass. We also text/call each other the words (on a semi-monthly basis), “Just what are we doing with our lives?”
To me, if someone like Alexa—mom, wife, homeowner, entrepreneur—can think these thoughts, then I know I’m not alone. Ten years ago, I’m sure she didn’t picture herself running her own online business. But for the love of everything good, I’m happy it turned out that way for her.
At age 26, I never got the closet, ring, or 401k I once pictured. I never thought I would quit my first job out of college. I never thought I would waitress for six months while holding a college degree. I never thought a health insurance deductible would be such a confusing concept.
Here’s what else I didn’t expect:
- I never thought I would live in four states in four years.
- I never thought I would rewrite the website for a $100 million company
- I never thought I would live in Washington DC…Twice.
- I never thought I would learn food photography.
- I never thought I could still bust out a 17:45 5k at my age.
- I never thought I would make friends all across the country—some of which I’ve only met a handful of times in my life.
This is not how I expected my life to turn out, and I thank God for that.
Last week, I said any woman who claims she never criticizes her body is a fucking liar. I will make the same accusation for any person who says they’ve never thought the words, “This is not where I expected to be at this point in my life.”
My life is not perfect, and I don’t want it to be. That would be very boring. And when I stop and think about it, having an unpredictable life is the one thing I once hoped for, that actually came true.
I don’t think anyone is ever who or where they thought they would be at [insert milestone here]. The thing that no one ever tells you is that milestones don’t actually mean anything, except from the outside looking in. Change is neither sudden, nor linear, nor always forward moving. Sometimes I regress. Sometimes, I forget I’m not 24. Sometimes, I look at my life and think “how did I get here?” and “where am I going?” but I think the only way to really assess whether your life is going well is if you’re happy. And, you know, if your roommate remembered to buy toilet paper :-p