So. Let’s talk about how being in your early twenties feels a lot like staring out into a giant, gaping void with your hands flung out as far from your body as possible while you shriek at the top of your lungs and still don’t feel heard. It feels sort of like drowning, except instead of water, you’re inhaling lungfuls of crushing student debt while bicycling your legs frantically to stay afloat. It feels like a race where the finish line is always in sight but never quite reachable, where everyone around you is just a little bit faster and a little bit thinner and a little bit better at knowing which Insta filter to use.
Let’s talk about that.
My name is Grace, and I’m twenty-three years old. I live in Alabama, though I’m a third culture kid thanks to my dad’s time in the Navy. I constantly feel as though I sneaked out of the Land of the Misfit Toys and have been living in a state of subterfuge among normal people for most of my life. I graduated from college last year with a degree in English (no, that’s not the punchline, that’s my actual degree, though I guess in itself it’s sort of a punchline) and currently work as a substitute teacher when the school year is in session and do makeup on random weekends. Really, I’ve just had a nice long few years of stagnation and nonsense. And by nonsense, I mean chasing around my toddler.
Yeah, that’s another huge bit of my life. I got knocked up halfway through college, right smack in the middle of my junior year. Because I’m a masochist, I decided to plow forward with my education and ‘finish in four’. I popped out the kid – a little ginger princess called Lucy – during the second week of my senior year. I took two weeks off, then surged forward, so my senior year was a haze of breast pumps, delirium, and essays. Tons and tons of essays. Orie, my then-boyfriend and current partner-in-crime, tackled dirty diapers and new body issues with a surprising finesse. I rewarded him by moving in with him, marrying him, and refusing to have another baby in the next ten years because I want to preserve what little perk my boobs have left.
Anyway, yes. Long story short, I’m a ho-turned-housewife despite my goals of becoming a powerful, pencil-skirt-wearing, Louboutin-strutting business bitch in the publishing industry. It’s weird, but mostly okay, and where I live, it’s the norm. (Visiting the South is sort of like stepping into a time capsule and blasting yourself back fifty years.) This isn’t ever how I thought my twenties would go; I was firmly in the ‘career first, family later’ camp, thinking that maybe I’d get around to having kids in my early thirties, significant other optional. Of course, life has a charming way of punching you right in the ovaries, and so now I’m left flailing helplessly while trying to pretend like I’ve got it all figured out. But I’m gonna let you in on a shocking secret: I don’t.
And I’m gonna teach you how to learn your twenties.