I’m currently 27 years old. I also currently weigh about 30 pounds more than I would like to weigh. This is the first thing I expect anyone to notice about me.
I own a particular pair of pants I like in waist sizes 34, 36 & 38 because I always want to look good even when my stress-eating puts me at 1,000 calories over my strict, self-imposed diet for 5–7 days in a row. That’s how many days it takes for me to destructively alter my body in a way that requires my favorite styles to be more forgiving. On some days, I’m convinced happiness simply means a body mass index calculation of less than 25 and a consistent waist size of 32. I would aspire to be taller than 5'9" as well, but I’m not a wizard.
I thought I’d be making close to $70,000 a year by now because one of the top 10 business schools in the country had me convinced of that from the year 2007 to the year 2011. My undergraduate GPA is about 0.8 points lower than I would like it to be, though, so perhaps my earning potential is calibrated accordingly. I attribute my current career status to luck and/or fate in 100% of job interviews because most people born between 1980 and 1990 have been raised to think that they are the makers of their own fortunes.
I was born in a small place — an island, in fact. The nationwide population there has never exceeded 1.3 million and the country’s square mileage rounds out at about 1,841 (4,768 km if I’m staying true to my measurement roots). It is subtly segregated, frustratingly corrupt, dangerous for its poorer residents, definitively tropical, and beautiful in ways only postcard designers can imagine. My family and I moved away from this small place when I was 12 years old to go to a metropolitan area 6 times the size. My father secured a job near a Texas suburb where the median sales price for a home is $370,000. This was the dream, and we had to chase it.
I haven’t been to my island home for almost 10 years. I also haven’t truly felt at home for closer to 15 years, but I suspect that I’ll never feel that way while conscious and in this particular universe. I wonder how much of that displacement is due to simply aging and slowly realizing that one must create one’s own definition of “home.” I’ve been procrastinating on that.
Maybe feeling at home requires owning a home. I would save more money to break my trend of renting since I’m currently subject to a 2–3% increase every time I renew my lease, but I am far too good at making things like a $1,000 tax return disappear by way of a few too many indulgences ( buying groceries 4 times a week and eating out 5 times a week).
I’m convinced I’ve reached a higher plane of being simply because my indulgences are no longer tied to pop culture and a need to “collect” my personality. In high school, I wore my 500 DVDs and 3 video-game consoles like social bargaining chips, but I now have almost 0 material wants due to reading approximately 1,700 think pieces about “living in the moment.”
My moments are busy, even when I try to simplify them. They always involve 10–12 browser tabs, 7 queued podcasts, 30–50 job applications, and 2–4 unanswered text messages. I became a texting monk after adding about $500 to my family’s data-related mobile spending during the years 2014 and 2015. Those were “sad years” that involved losing 75 pounds in an unhealthy obsession with disliking myself as well as regaining 50 of those pounds working at 2 stressful office jobs and going on about 50–70 bad dates. Stressful experiences add at least 500 calories of snacking to my daily diet. They also prompt the consumption of at least 3 cups of coffee during a typical workday with all the sugary fixings in my bold attempts to make 24 hours become 72. Almost none of this imaginary “bonus time” is allocated for healthy amounts of sleep.
I only sleep for about 5 hours on my most peaceful nights. My fitness tracker informs me that I am “restless” about 12–20 times during a typical bout of anxiety-laden slumber (my default). For this and more intangible reasons, I linger in bed for 30 minutes each morning after hitting my snooze button 4–5 times. Lately, this time has been spent pining for an escape from reality and feeling my extra 30 pounds overshadow my loose grasp on self-love. I always set my alarm for 6:00 AM with the intention of getting a solid 35 minutes on the elliptical. The goal is to burn 400–500 calories at a heart rate of 165 bpm. This, in my mind, is all I need to be happy. Maybe I could get those 30 morning minutes back and use them to journal. I do want to be a writer, after all.
I think I’m currently trying to write 3 pages a week. No, maybe it’s 500 words a day. In any case, I’m lapsing in almost impressive ways (if I’m “grading” myself). Even when the writing is prompted by someone else, I give myself a deadline that is 3 days earlier than what’s practical. I end up sending 3 follow-up emails within those 3 days explaining myself before delivering the final product. At this point, I wonder if structured procrastination is a part of my process. I’m grateful to have the connections that I do, and I’m also grateful that the words do often end up on the page/screen in a way that fulfills me. I count 5 things per day that make me happy before I let in the 35 things that I allow to make me unhappy, and my progress as a “sometimes writer of things” is always in that top 5 list.
It’s easy to become self-centered in modern creative pursuits. I currently have 8 writing samples I’d proudly show someone who could hire me. I sent 1 column submission to the wrong email address in 2015 and instantly threw away 8 hours of what I thought was great work. I have written 2 advice columns and 2 pop-culture pieces for 2 different websites. I have felt competent drafting 0 posts and in love with 100% of them once they hit the web. So far, I have forged 3–5 solid friendships with fellow writers and editors in faraway places by way of my published work on the 2 aforementioned websites. I share links to my work with my 267 Facebook friends, my 1,134 Twitter followers, and 298 fellow Instagram users. This includes 51 podcast episodes I recorded over 3 years that are all in 1 iTunes feed and supported by a collective $200 annual subscription to WordPress and Soundcloud. I recently created 1 Facebook page to do even more self-promotion for my podcasts and I feel tapped out. We are all creating and mentioning so much content that one must essentially treat ego as a pillar of marketing to be seen or heard.
It’s not all bad, though.
Some recent developments have given me a new perspective, the main one being that I am now a part of a set. I am spending my days as a happy half instead of a burdened whole. 30 extra minutes in bed on mornings become more healing than harmful when you feel the sleepy, warm embrace of another. It was necessary to work on both physical and emotional self-love before that warm embrace could be truly appreciated, but getting there has made me feel unbelievably lucky and accomplished for my mere 27 years of existence.
It’s not that I need my other half to address my existing list of things, nor that she needs me to address hers. We are always doing the work of navigating our individual existences, but we now have the love and understanding of an entirely separate, empathetic being to help us weather the harsher episodes.
There is a new list of things that are infused with potential — 2 dogs, 1 consolidated bookshelf, 2 desks to allow for individual work spaces, 1 shared lease. These are the makings of a home full of love as we have currently defined it. These things are also subject to change at any moment, but it’s nice to focus on life’s little rewards when they occasionally feel within reach.