When I was a sophomore in high school, I developed the first of my many devastating crushes. This particular one was on a boy in my AP history class. He was older and funnier and more popular than I was which meant to me, in the legacy of John Hughes-type films that dictated my existence, that my crush would never be reciprocated until I showed up to prom (which was a whole year away) after my much hipper, much sassier friend (I didn’t have one of those) gave me a makeover (which I could have used) and he saw me for the Super Hot Version of Myself/Who I Really Was (I didn’t even know who I really was and did not have Super Hot potential. I was 15. It was rough). Unfortunately, I was no Molly Ringwald and this wasn’t public school in the 80s. I had to take fate into my own hands, which at that point naturally meant attempting to be alluring on MSN Messenger. My heart would skip a beat when he showed up as online. I would come up with terrible conversation starters (“hey what’s up?” “nm, u?”). Eventually, I began to sit next to him in class. Occasionally, I would even brush my hair. Sometimes he even laughed at the stuff I said. Things were really looking up.
After probably a few months of this, I guess my raging hormones became obvious to the people who had the joy/privilege/stressful experience of sharing a house with me. I would spend hours on MSN, waiting for the opportunity to make awkward Internet small talk with him. Eventually, my Mom asked what was up. I gave her the SparkNotes version. History class. John Hughes. No prom. Popular boy. Heart palpitations. He looked at me sometimes. Smiled at me sort of. In my moment of teenage desperation, I looked at my mother (probably really forlornly) and asked her if I had a remote shot with a boy she had never met and didn’t really know the first thing about. In her parental kindness and maternal pragmatism, she encouraged me to be “cautiously optimistic.” I obviously at the time took that to mean he was basically my soulmate (spoiler alert: he wasn’t, but we did go to prom together, so congrats to high school me on making the John Hughes moment happen).
I had completely forgotten about that advice until this week, when I was outlining the events of my post-graduate existence to a friend’s mother. In most facets of my life, I have the unusual condition of being simultaneously cripplingly cynical and cripplingly idealistic (please see aforementioned description of one of many devastating crushes). The current details of my burgeoning-ish professional life have forced me to reassess this attitude. In the two months (what?!) since graduation, I’ve learned that much of Real Life adulthood has to do with making decisions that have no right answer. We spend so much of our early life being taught to make good decisions. But now things aren’t quite so clearcut. Do I move to Culver City or Silverlake? Should I freelance or interview for Real Person Jobs? Should I watch the entire new season of Orange is the New Black in a day or enjoy it over the span of a week? Pizza or ice cream for dinner? Should I cry in my bathroom or alone in my car later? The hardhitting questions, you know.
I recently turned 22, which sounds much older than it actually is. I spent part of my birthday remembering my tenth birthday and it made me kind of sad. I wouldn't necessarily want to go back to school in the fall, but I can’t help but reflect on the four years I had at USC and imagine other choices I could have made in every aspect of my life from major to social life that would have drastically changed my present day (cautiously optimistic) life. I understand and stand by the majority of the choices I made over those four years, but it's still interesting to think about alternatives. College is a whirlwind of decision after decision - but even those constant choices have the safety net of structure and the "I'm still young!" battlecry. I guess I still have that battlecry for a couple of years, but it's getting a little less excusable to eat Uncrustables for two meals a day and send emotional text messages.
This post-grad summer is weird. People I love, who I spent years living down the hall/street/Figueroa from are suddenly halfway across the country, world, or Los Angeles (which as anyone who has sat on the 405 in rush hour traffic knows, is basically the same as being halfway across the world). I have friends who are making actual nice living money at actual intense jobs and friends who have parents who continue to support their penchant for Whole Foods and multithousand dollar studios. People are seriously taking the plunge now: they’re moving in together, getting engaged, adopting dogs, making bank.
I stood at a party last night with the very sudden, very terrifying realization that I will not be going back to the University Park Campus in the fall. There's no more comfort of a class schedule, the Lyon Center, and a bunch of intelligent/attractive same-aged people within a two-mile radius. Seeing people requires effort and gas and generally $15 plus tip for lunch. It's exciting, uncomfortable, and an incessant reminder that I'm supposed to be a grown up now.
If the last couple of months have taught me anything, it's that adulthood in general is sort of a farce. When I was younger, I assumed there was a Life Moment where everything clicked into place (a-la aforementioned John Hughes movies). Adults seemed like they were in an entirely different human category -- it's a profound childhood realization when you understand that your parents/teachers/mentors were just like you once. Now that children look at me and consider me an Adult, it's a little terrifying to understand that literally none of us totally know what we're doing, comprehend the mysteries of life, have all the right answers. Maybe there aren't even right answers. Perhaps it's comforting that we're all in the same boat, but the process of boarding the boat is baffling. All I can do at this point in my life is be cautiously optimistic that I will continue to stand by the decisions I make (like waiting hours on MSN Messenger for a ten minute chat conversation). Life success has become my devastating crush and I can only hope that cautious optimism gets me to the right places. Thanks for the advice, Mom.