On the Future, Not Quite Resignedly

When I was younger, I swore that no house I lived in would ever have white walls. I’ll never forget the textured white walls of each apartment or townhome we lived in. The apartment had that bumpy wall that looked like spray foam. The townhome had the softer walls, the ones that looked like someone had sponged thick white paint onto the wall unevenly.

We don’t have white walls here, except for our basement. It’s white. We’re working on covering the walls with art, posters, flags, lights. It won’t be white for long. Paint isn’t the point. It’s the walls. They’re not white. They are the fulfillment of a promise I made to myself years ago. They are proof that you will not lose all of your childhood ideals as you age away.

I often wonder how much of adulthood is like slow and painful adolescence, where no matter how mature you feel, you’ll look back in the coming years and cringe, shamed by your own misguided, subjective look at reality.

I meant to make a list then of all the things I swore I’d never do as an adult. I’d love to see it, even now, during the second adolescence that is young adulthood, the years sandwiched between your first taste of freedom and the hard reality that you are exactly what you said you’d never be.

I am achieving exactly what I thought I would, and yet, I have come to realize that I am nowhere near where I will end up. I am simultaneously so far forward and so completely lost.

Everything is at your fingertips, the future still looms in front of you, undecided, yours for the taking. It is the promise of a limitless supply of endless joy – available only to you. Beneath the excitement of possibility lurks the ever-present fear of failure. Chance is a terrifying game to play.

Think too much or too little? Failure. Conform too much or too little? Failure. It’s all about the search for balance – work, life, everything that goes along with those things. I’m coming to realize that at first, adulthood is like wearing your Easter dress every day instead of once a year. You’re itchy and uncomfortable, and you’re still trying to figure out why you can’t just wear your Ninja Turtles pajamas. (To be honest, I’m still tempted to put on yoga pants every morning instead of real pants. It’s funny how something as simple as pants can make you a professional.)

(That may have been a terrible metaphor, but I’m imagining little kids looking uncomfortable in their suits. And I’m imagining young college grads looks equally uncomfortable in equally ill-fitted suits. Some things don’t change.)

I got home last night, plagued by the storm of thoughts that comes with trying to rationalize existence and the correct path forward into the looming future, and looked around my house. My room, to someone who didn’t know me, would be appalling: clothes strewn everywhere, my dresser stacked with books, lotions, and jewelry not put away.

The same child who swore she’d have no white walls also imagined that she’d grow up to be the neatest, most organized person who ever lived. (She was very imaginative.) Instead, I find myself grown (but grown up? no) and no more tidy. Apparently, we can’t keep all of the promises we make to ourselves.

I should start making lists. Lists of things I imagine I’ll be some day, and lists of things that I am right now, because I don’t ever want that to slip away, even as I grow and change, the metamorphosis into middle-age happening more rapidly than I could ever imagine.

In the meantime, I guess I’ll start working on making and keeping promises to myself. I’ll try to morph into Monica Gellar, although I have a sneaking suspicion it’s just not going to happen.

Maybe I’ll just have to realign my perception of my future self: instead of being Monica, I’ll just have to get rich enough to be able to afford a cleaning service. They won’t even have to scrub (I can do that), they’ll just have to pick up the clutter I leave in my wake. See? The future looks brighter already.

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