old /ōld/, adj.

A conversation Candle Boy and I had during my birthday weekend:

Me: Do you remember that one quote from Lord of the Rings? Where Sam and Frodo are heading away from the Shire, and then Sam stops and says something like, ‘This is the farthest I’ve ever been from home.’

Him: Yeah, what about it? (Unsure if he remembered because he’s a LOTR fan, or because we watched The Fellowship of the Rings just before New Year’s.)

Me: This moment is the oldest I’ve ever been…

In case sarcasm doesn’t translate well over blog posts, that was said with a healthy dose of melodramatic flair. Candle Boy shot me a well-deserved side-eye for that comment.

Post-grad years are weird. I wrote a couple blog posts about this immediately after graduation, but then got swept up into the frenetic energy of it all and stopped actively writing about it. This past weekend, I had a moment to think back on this past year-and-a-half and turn my attention to the next year-and-a-half—and these years are still weird.

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I spy with my little eye, the Campanile. | Photo by Courtney Cheng

I feel old, but also young. The boots I assume to be two years old are actually four years old, because if I bought them as a junior in college, that means they’ve been around for four years, not two. As I spend that time thinking about my boots, my Facebook newsfeed informs me that another one of my high school classmates is engaged, two more friends have new jobs, and another three are off to grad school to pursue Ph.Ds. My next thumb scroll, however, brings me to an entire length of friends tagging each other in dumb memes often featuring Spongebob.

In those moments (after I’ve had a small chuckle over the meme), it’s hard to not make the comparisons and wonder, “Am I accomplishing too little? Am I not working hard enough? Should I be doing x, y, and now, rather than later?” Our entire life, through college graduation, was essentially built on comparisons. We were all scored under the same curve in class, and the number value of our grades made it as simple as counting to rank ourselves among our peers.

Replying to these thoughts with the very generic, typical “everyone’s on their own path” remark feels lackluster. It’s unconvincing, particularly if there are clear, quantifiable ways you aren’t measuring up to your peers in regards to salary, rank, degree, or relationship status.

Do you move back home if your earning potential is lower, so you can save as much money as your peers who are able to save plenty, even when they’re renting (or owning) their own place? What does it mean to feel, or be, ready to decide that you’re at the right moment in your life to invest more time and money into another degree? How do you know you’re making the right steps in your relationship if you’ve been dating x years but don’t have certain plans to get married, but all your friends were married after less than x years of dating?

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Photo by Courtney Cheng

In my monthly video chats with two of my freshman year floormates, we talk a lot about where we are in our lives. Are we happy with where we are? Are we satisfied with what we’re doing? Where do we want to go from here, to become more content?

They’re both living at home. I’m living away from home. One is in the process of applying to medical school, the other is working and earning another degree, and I’m just working.

I can’t say this with 100% certainty, but I have a deep feeling that each of us, if asked individually, would say that the other two of our trio was accomplishing more than we were. We’d identify something that our other two friends were doing better than us or had under greater control than us, and we’d use that as the benchmark to say, “They’re doing so much better than me.”

At least, that’s how I feel a lot.

This is never out of resentment. The close nature of our relationship makes this feeling take a shape more similar to that of encouragement or motivation—but on the back end, when I’m feeling a little worse about myself, the sentiment does transform into anxiety, fear, and self-doubt. What if I’m not doing enough? What if I’m just not good enough?

If they read this, I know they’ll say to me, “Woman, shut up, you’re the one who’s always had your shit the most together out of all of us, you’re on top of it. You’re slaying.”

I suppose, as I get older (particularly in the next year-and-a-half) the best lesson I can learn is to give myself this pep talk as well as they’d give it to me.

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