A few weeks back, I received an email from a familiar name, who is not my regular email buddy. He was a guy from my high school. The email was titled “Class of 2005 Update,” meaning, clearly it wasn’t targeted just at me (phew, how awkward would it have been… Although, no offense Charles, it was still heartwarming). It started like this: Can you believe we’re coming up on our 10 year reunion next year?
10 years! A decade! I had a good fortune of attending the school that one of my favorite writers, John Green who graduated in 1995. Then I thought in 2005, when he published Looking for Alaska, wow, this dude is old. And now, I’m at the age where the upcoming graduating class of 18-year-olds are gonna think, “wow, this lady is old” (although I’m hoping that the fact that I’m Asian has aged me less rapidly, and I still look just out of puberty. One could certainly hope).
The following sentences were these: “During this time several of our classmates have completed advanced degrees, represented countries in global politics, started business, and found life-long partners. We’ve gone off to do some really amazing things with our lives, and I hope we can share our stories in person at reunion next year.”
Then I just sighed. Who are these kids who became so fabulous? What the hell have I done with my life over the past 10 years? I moved around like a freaking nomad, and now I’m a… I don’t even know how to describe myself. Sometimes, I feel like, I’m just a girl, not even a full-grown adult/woman. While my head knows that I’m more than that, my heart often succumbs to the hopeless monster I raise in me.
Trust me, I know in my head I’m a valuable citizen of the world who wants to (and will eventually) change the world one by one, the feminist way, the right way. But at the end of a particularly crappy day, I feel like I’m another problematic, entitled millennial that the society sees the needs of fixing to achieve greater things, maybe transforming the education system or something that’s messed up.
My agony runs a bit deeper than a generational issue in my mind however. Being a feminist and an avid reader, of course I have read countless books and articles, from Lean In (The famous book by Sheryl Sandberg) to Recline to Lean Out to confidence gap. And at the end of the day, the issue is that I (and many other young women) may never get to all the milestones, because I’m not Sheryl Sandberg who can afford nannies, great hairstyle and work clothes and have great, laundry-doing (and hence sexy according to her) partners, because I’m never going to have those perfect babies who eat, sleep and poop regularly (while rarely crying and start to speak 2 different languages almost as soon as they’re born), because picture perfect milestones of others on facebook (or instagram, or pinterest) are perpetually ruining my expectations of my self-image, how I see myself. I have learned how to constantly objectify myself to be a perfect worker in the office, perfect friend to my friends, and eventually amazing partner (and mother) at home.
In reality, I wolf down half a bag of corn chips for breakfast. I constantly worry that I will never be able to prove myself at work. I don’t know what to do with my hair. My bedroom looks like a Gap clearance section on Black Friday. Most of my relationships have been mixture of disasters and lame guys. And I don’t see that all these magically correcting themselves and helping me get to those milestones. I’m screwed. If I were to attend that 10th reunion, what can I tell others about who I am and what kind of milestones are under my belt?
Of course, deep down, I know that there is no answer, and that’s why I think that we should all laugh at those milestones, as feeble goals, as piñatas that we need to beat the hell out of, because we may get some sweets at the end of the constant labor, some frustration, and most importantly, laughter.
Despite the fact that “what the hell am I doing with my life?” and “what will I do with my life?” have been the two main discussion topics with my 20 and 30-something friends in any occasions (brunches, weddings, hiking…), it seems like no one real (note: exceptions are applied to Chelsea Clinton and Mindy Kaling, in my book, but they are as good as my perfect imaginary friends) knows what the right paths are to get to those milestones, and as cliché as it sounds, the paths and roadblocks and piñatas on the road are the ones that really matter. I will twist my ankles just as often as in every hike, will want to throw up and/or poop in my pants where there is nowhere discrete, and may feel like there’s no one to hold my hand whenever I’m trembling in the dark in fear. I will have to beat the hell out of the piñatas on the way whether I want to or not, while not knowing what’s really inside.
But somewhere on the path, I hope to learn what I value and what are meaningful to me. I may never become fully happy and content (oh being human!), but I will meet people who will hold my hand from time or pat me on the back with knowing smiles. Maybe on the path, I will finally learn to do what normal and responsible adults do, like ironing my work shirts, eating healthy, and being a loving and generous daughter/sister/friend/partner, etc. to those who mean so much to me.
And meanwhile, I will try to beat the piñatas as hard as possible and laugh as much as possible while doing so (and enjoy the candy of course!).