Quarter life crisis

It’s embarrassing. And I don’t even get a fancy red car and a mistress out of it.

My birthday was yesterday (a Sunday made significant for the rest of the city by its unrelenting rain), and now I am officially twenty-five.

Isn’t it strange to be one age one day and then another the next? It doesn’t seem right. I’m pretty willing to give up linear time for one of those Native American models that goes in the shape of a conch shell or whatever. How great would it be to stop marching along day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year? Sometimes I get the sense that we’re all just marching right up to the edge of death and jumping off. Like robot soldiers. And, as are most things that involve robot soldiers, it’s upsetting. (I should admit here that there are plenty of instances in which robot soldiers are more awesome than upsetting. That was unfair of me.)

Since I turned sixteen, birthdays have been bad. Because at ten, I thought that by the time I turned sixteen I would be a famous concert pianist. And possibly also a famous slam poet. And possibly also a whale trainer. I could be wrong about that last one. But I was sure I’d be famous. And then I turned sixteen, and nothing happened. I mean, stuff happened, but it didn’t involve killer whales or glass pianos with golden feet.

And now, nine years later, I’m twenty-five, and there are STILL no whales.

And sometimes I think my ten-year-old self must not have known what to ask for. Clearly, her understanding of the world left something to be desired. She based that whole whale thing on a stuffed animal someone gave her. One that she named Midnight, of all things.

But often, on birthdays, I believe her. I remember what high hopes she had for me, her future self, and I feel like I’ve let her down. She was positive that she would only get more beautiful, more confident, and more fabulous. I often struggle to feel like I’m those things. I’m often anxious, where she was sure of me.

I’m also hopeful, though. Like Pandora’s box. All the dark, scary, fanged things fly up in her face, and then, gently, at the very end, hope flutters out in the shape of a tiny bright blue butterfly. I’ve always loved that. Pandora is just a growing up story. You think you can keep good and bad separate, but in reality, they’re tangled up together. They fly in a flock. They complement one another. You have to keep learning how to live with them. You get more creative.

My family came in from New Jersey and we played Apples to Apples. My brother brought his girlfriend and my friend Laura came down from the Bronx.

(my brother Gabe likes to pose)

(so does my dad. He thought my very stylish lamp looked ridiculous and is pretending to be burned by its brightness, for some reason)

(my mom gave me a collection of journal entries about me. Where do you think my impulse to constantly write about my life comes from?)

Then we all went out for pastrami sandwiches.

(the rain did something hilarious to my brother Jake’s hair)

Here are some things that have happened since my last birthday:

I started this blog. I got to know Bear’s family. I decided to become a freelance writer, rather than any number of more practical, structured things, and I started actually doing that. I moved into a new apartment. I got better at cooking. I co-led high holiday services and a lot of bar and bat mitzvahs. I got married. I started a second blog. I got to know Bear better. I joined an amazing writing group. I cut off my hair. I felt gorgeous. I felt sexy. I ordered cake with my meal. I got freelance work. I got a job offer. I made friends. I got to the point where I could run on the treadmill for less laughable amounts of time without welcoming the thought of death. I felt healthier. I felt like I was going places. I felt like I was already somewhere good.

I can’t tell if that’s a lot or not. But I think it might be.

On Sunday morning I woke up and wrote in my journal. About how often and eagerly my mind tells me that I should be doing something more. About how many times I want to run away with Bear and stand somewhere high up and beautiful and be reminded over and over that the things that people strive so desperately for in this city are not the things that really matter. About how delicate happiness feels and how frightened I am of the future and how much I wish I trusted myself more. I am twenty-five and sometimes I feel like my life is over. Like I’ve missed my chance.

Sometimes I feel like I have everything. Sometimes, randomly, I am slammed by joy. I can’t believe how lucky I am. I think I am cool.

I’m twenty-five. My life is still beginning. And you know what? It always will be. I’m OK with being the only one around on the conch cycle. As long as I can keep learning stuff, I’ll be new and full of promise. I might do something surprising. Like train a whale. Or maybe not. There are other things, too, that sound pretty awesome.

(cake!)

*  *  *

Un-roast: Today I love the way I feel when I’m writing. I feel cool. And also pretty hot.

My Women Eating Cake announcement is up on Secrets of Moms Who Dare to Tell All. I am not a mom, but I definitely have some secrets that I’m daring enough to tell all. Check out the blog if you’re a mom or think you might be one some day. Thanks, Liz!

42 Comments »

Kate on March 7th 2011 in life

42 Responses to “Quarter life crisis”

  1. Bekah responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 12:13 pm #

    I love this post because I was the same way as a little girl. I often feel like I’m still that little girl… But I just turned twenty three weeks ago, and it was the first birthday I haven’t been excited for. Of course, I’ve always wanted to be a grown up too, which is the strangest part. I used to write letters to myself when I was little, to open when I turned certain ages, saying things like “I hope you’re still skinny. I hope you’re pretty. I hope you’re successful.” Blahblahblah. So on my 20th, I wrote to myself again… But instead of that I wrote about what really makes me happy (my job) and how it doesn’t really matter what I’m doing as long as I remember how happy I am now. In other news, I love the way I feel when I write too! Kinda like Carrie Bradshaw. :) :)

  2. Ally responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 12:13 pm #

    I had one of these same days not terribly long ago

    http://tequillavsmockingbird.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/

  3. Erinleigh responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 12:19 pm #

    Just wanted to say that you look absolutely stunning & Beautiful Kate! I especially love the last pic of you smiling so happily at your birthday cake! I can’t wait for my own birthday now! 32 Here I come! LOL

    Happy Belated :)

  4. Samantha responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    Happy Birthday.
    When I was younger I always thought that on the stroke of midnight I would get magical powers, my fairy god mother would come, or that my real family (who just happened to be royalty) would come back to get me because they had to send me in hiding due to some evil witch. It never happened. I feel lied to by every cartoon and Disney movie that I ever saw, but secretly I still hold out that maybe, just maybe it will come true.

  5. Barbara responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 12:28 pm #

    Thanks for all the pictures! Pulling at my heartstrings!

    You know, I’m over sixty, and I still feel like my life is still beginning. So much stuff to do and look forward to…

  6. Kate responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    @Bekah
    I love that you write to yourself, and I love that you changed the message recently. I write to my future self in my journal, asking questions like, “Dear Kate, age 27, what’s your favorite food?” It’s really dorky, but also so much fun.

  7. Kate responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 12:36 pm #

    @Ally
    Thanks for sharing your post!

  8. Christin@purplebirdblog responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 12:38 pm #

    I love your sassy kicked up eyebrow. Happy birthday!!! xoxo

  9. Kate responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 12:40 pm #

    @Christin
    There’s a real chance it’s actually a genetic deformity, but I’ll take the compliment.

    xoxo!

  10. B1 responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 12:40 pm #

    You’re a pisces! So am I! That explains why I like the way you think!

    Happy Belated Birthday!

  11. Gaby responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    Happy Birthday Kate!! You were so secretive about it on the interwebs, wish I had know!
    I fall into the same trap of always feeling like I’m not doing enough or haven’t accomplished enough. I’ve discovered the word “should” is far too prominent in my vocabulary. I’m working really hard to catch myself even using the word, I’m turning it into a profanity. There’s no such thing as “should have” “should be” “should feel” “should do” etc etc etc. The list goes on. But we are who we are and exactly as we are meant to be, live in the present and love what you have, do, feel, think, and are. Plus you’re just being silly, look at you! You’re a beautiful successful writer, great friend, wife, daughter, synagogue member, NY civilian, you contribute so much! And looking at all those adorable pictures of you and Bear and your family members, you are loved and you love! Nothing more important than that :)
    Hope you had a wonderful day and enjoyed your cake!!

  12. Dana Udall-Weiner responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    What a year you’ve had! I love the pictures of you and your family, as they add depth and intimacy to your words. And I am excited to see where you will go, since you are 25 and have so many years ahead. (I sound quite ancient when I say that, I know.) Happy belated b-day, Kate. May life, even with its disappointments, be good to you.

  13. Kate responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    @Dana and Gaby
    Thank you so much. Such kind words!

    And Gaby, I love what you’re doing with “should.” Hope it catches on.

  14. Megs responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 12:53 pm #

    I just turned 30 a couple of months ago. Everyone kept telling me that they loved their 30′s. That everything seemed to come together for them. So far, it’s kind of true. I think your 20′s are kind of like the “junior high” phase of adulthood. Awkward. Uncomfortable. A mess. Fair warning: 29 can be pretty dang brutal so try and enjoy 26 thru 28 okay?

  15. Virginia responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    Happy birthday beautiful!

    I so relate to this post. I had a really hard time turning 26, because it suddenly hit me that my child prodigy days were definitely over. And I was pretty good at some stuff, but I hadn’t really been any kind of prodigy. It’s weird how those early expectations follow us around for a long time.

    But somehow, I’m feeling really good about turning 30 (in less than two months). I don’t know if it’s because I’ve let some of those early expectations go, or if I’ve gotten closer to a few of them, and that’s enough. But I love your (and the Native Americans’) idea of time as a conch shell. There is something very comforting about that!

  16. Kate responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 12:57 pm #

    @Megs
    That is so comforting. Seriously.

  17. Kate responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    @Virginia
    Exactly! A lot of my identity has been based on being really precocious. I can’t be precocious anymore. I may just have to be, well, good at being myself.

  18. Ellie Di responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 1:00 pm #

    I’m just hitting this point, too, where I feel like I alternately want to scream and tear my hair out one minute then feel perfectly happy the next. At 27, I figured I’d passed right by having a so-called quarter-life crisis, but it turns out I was wrong. I’m struggling with feeling like a failure, like life’s passed me by, like I want to run away from it all, and yet I feel like everything’s okay. So weird.

  19. Jessica responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    I completely understand! I am also having a quarter life crisis, as my 25th birthday inches closer. (ahh!) When I was a kid, I thought for sure by now I’d be done with grad school, singing all over the place. I thought I’d be a size 2, and making lots of money. Then life happened. I still try to force my path to look like my peer’s, only resulting in never ending frustration…

    I’m trying to work on accepting life for the journey, and remember there’s really no set path that equates success, but it sure is hard when you set up expectations for yourself as a kid only to fall short as an adult.

    Thank you as well for this blog. I’ve not posted before, but am a regular reader and appreciate so much of what you have to say! Happy Birthday :)

  20. Raven responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 1:29 pm #

    Belated natal felicitations! :)

    I felt as you did at 25, or really, I started to feel it when I changed from #-teen to twenty-something, and realized I’d never done a single thing to be the prodigy my parents expected me to be. Maybe I could have been, but I never felt motivated to really do anything of note. In fact, I didn’t until after my daughter was born, I was living on my own without a job, and suddenly found myself re-evaluating who I was and what was important. I suddenly cared about politics, activism, and my education again. I put myself through community college to finish the A.A. I had begun at 16, and only recently finished my B.A. in Anthropology after a long break to work for a few years.

    Now I’m writing, and though I don’t make much, I’ve found ways to trade skills and time to have a somewhat secure space to work on healing my body. So this post really touched me. I’m seven years your senior, but I completely understand where you’re at, and this? This just totally resonated:

    “Pandora is just a growing up story. You think you can keep good and bad separate, but in reality, they’re tangled up together. They fly in a flock. They complement one another. You have to keep learning how to live with them. You get more creative.”

    May this swirl on the conch cycle be a joyous one filled with discovery!

  21. Autumn responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 3:08 pm #

    Happy birthday!

    You know, without having met you I’m guessing that you’re someone–like most reflective people–who will only grow richer with age. May 25 bring you joy, growth, cake, and a solid dose of unexpected delights along the way.

  22. bethany actually responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 3:16 pm #

    Happy birthday! I’m a March baby too; my 36th birthday is this Friday. And I’m here to tell you, that although I remember 25 as being pretty good, it was around the time I hit 30 that I realized I truly liked myself and I had confidence enough to not give a rip what most people thought of me. I think you’ve had a fantastic year and will find 25 treats you well, but life has even better in store for you. You just wait. :-)

  23. Laurel responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 3:17 pm #

    Love the pictures.

  24. Liz Nord responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 3:57 pm #

    Happy Birthday, Kate!

    I love the pictures.

    xx

  25. Noora responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    Happy birthday!

    I remember when my twenty-fifth birthday was approaching, I was freaking out so much – I was still in school, single, kind of doing nothing with my life… but twenty-five turned out to be AWESOME. I loved being twenty-five!

    And now I love being twenty-seven, and I’m still single, graduated but unemployed, but whereas a few years ago I was living for other people, I’m now living for ME. It feels amazing. I don’t have to, for instance, get married and have kids because others expect it “at my age”. If I do those things, it will be because I feel ready to and when I feel ready to do them. :)

  26. Kate responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 4:21 pm #

    @Noora
    Good for you!

  27. janetha @ meals and moves responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 4:48 pm #

    happy birthday! wow, a lot has happened with you in the past year. i love the reminiscing. i am going to be 28. i don’t want to talk about it.

  28. Mandy responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 5:43 pm #

    Kate@

    First of all, Happy Birthday, my dear! And know that you really are beautiful and fabulous. You are also a very talented writer, and just as important, you use your superpower for good–you’re kind, genereous and brave enough to put yourself out there every time you write a new entry for your blog. You are one gutsy woman, and I really admire you for it.
    And, if I could clone my self-confidence (which feels pretty vast at the moment) I’d wrap it up as a present for your birthday.
    Unfortunately, self-confidence, and the ability to trust yourself, seems to be something that each person has to learn how to do on their own.
    Annoying, isn’t it?
    Maybe it’s a good thing I can’t give you my self-confidence. Because, like many things in life, it’s much sweeter when you’ve earned your own. Fortunately, you seem to be well on your way.
    And, I’d be danged proud to have you as a friend.

    Un-roast: I love my wicked, knowing grin!

  29. Suzanne responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 8:38 pm #

    happy birthday you lovely spring chicken (seriously…you’re 13 years younger than me) ease into your new year and enjoy enjoy enjoy! and trust that you are most definitely bringing light into other people’s lives with your awesome blog. now go eat some damn cake! hahahahahahahahahaha

  30. Wei-Wei responded on 07 Mar 2011 at 11:15 pm #

    Happy birthday, love.

  31. AlisonM responded on 08 Mar 2011 at 6:21 am #

    Happy birthday Kate. You look f*cking gorgeous when you laugh, with that cute short hair and those sexy dangly earrings. I know that’s not a particularly spiritual or intelligent insight, but it’s the one I want to make right now :)

  32. Rita responded on 08 Mar 2011 at 8:10 am #

    Happy birthday!!
    I hope when I reach 25, I’m 23 now, good things happen to me too… Right now I’m still feeling, oh so lost. thanks for sharing a bit of you. :)

  33. Liz responded on 08 Mar 2011 at 9:18 am #

    First of all- Happy Birthday!

    I just started reading your blog not too long ago, and just following your life journey has done fabulous things for my state of mind (you’re so encouraging!). But this entry in particular I thought needed me to make a comment.

    I go through days like this I would say bi-weekly. I keep thinking about all the things I haven’t done yet (I’m not a famous actress/writer/director/muppeteer/whatever) and I forget all the things I’ve already done. And I mean, I think it’s a good thing to keep goals- even lofty ones- but if I forget what I’ve already gotten so far, then the goals just start to weigh me down.

    So basically I’m saying thank you for reminding me to check in and appreciate where I’ve been before I get discouraged about the long road ahead to wherever the heck it is I’m going.

    Keep writing and being your beautiful self. Thanks so much.

  34. nova responded on 08 Mar 2011 at 9:19 pm #

    Honestly, I think that the key to stop fearing age and death is to get to know people older than yourself. I’m 28 and I work and live with guys who are 10 years older than myself and they’re the same as I am.

    I also spend time with a woman in her 40s. And … she’s the same as me!

    I don’t know, it’s eye opening. You still have drives, goals, energy, vigor, opportunities, new experiences…

    there’s so much time. Keep trying new things and doing what you feel is right. Make your life good and it will be awesome. :)

    Keep your chin up.

  35. Julie responded on 08 Mar 2011 at 11:01 pm #

    I can really relate to all the things you said about your younger self. I am turning 17 in 5 days and my life is not turning out at all the way I wanted. All the things I used to imagine for myself seem so ridiculous and impossible. Birthdays are such a scary thing. I’ll be an adult in one more year and I still don’t even feel like a teenager.

    I needed to hear all of these things. Thank you for writing. :D

  36. Eat the Damn Cake » So smokin’ contradictory responded on 09 Mar 2011 at 11:26 am #

    [...] when someone succeeds wildly instead of me, I just quietly have them killed. You know that famous whale trainer girl? That little “accident” with Free Wilfred? Yeah. I know a guy. Who can talk to whales. [...]

  37. Rachel responded on 09 Mar 2011 at 3:56 pm #

    I feel the same way. I’m going to turn 25 in 4 months and cannot even fathom being that old. 25=65 in my brain. Like you said, I feel like my life is over. Like I better hurry up and do it all now because shortly all my time will be up.

    I hope I get over this feeling soon.

  38. Kate responded on 09 Mar 2011 at 4:03 pm #

    @Rachel
    we should throw a quarter life crisis party.

  39. monika responded on 14 Mar 2011 at 8:27 pm #

    i love this Kate:
    how many times I want to run away with Bear and stand somewhere high up and beautiful and be reminded over and over that the things that people strive so desperately for in this city are not the things that really matter.

    i hope you get to do that soon.
    celebrate being older and wiser.

  40. Eat the Damn Cake » Waiting responded on 06 Apr 2011 at 11:36 am #

    [...] I turned 25 a few weeks ago, it felt a little traumatic. It seems like the world doesn’t know what to do with its twenty-somethings anymore. This is [...]

  41. Eat the Damn Cake » 27 responded on 21 Mar 2013 at 1:10 pm #

    [...] This is the post I wrote when I turned 25. I wrote this piece about turning 26. Sometimes I wonder if I ever learn anything. [...]

  42. Eat the Damn Cake » woman gets hit by truck, dies responded on 03 Dec 2013 at 2:15 pm #

    [...] I wish I understood things better. What I should do, in order to make the most of my time, mainly. I get mad at myself for not having already done everything I want to do, just in case. [...]