still really young

For my whole life, I’ve been like, “Well, this sucks. I’ve pretty much amounted to nothing.” 

“Another year gone and I have accomplished nothing for the history books or even meritorious of a footnote.” (That’s me on my fifth birthday.)

Which is weird, because you can’t say that until you’re dying. And even then, you’re probably wrong.

I always feel like I’m too old. 

I think we live in a pushy world (and by we I mostly mean people with enough money to be in that demographic that is defined by its college attendance). I remember when kids were devastated because they didn’t get into an Ivy League college, back when we were 17. I remember when I was sixteen and this thirteen-year-old kid was flipping out at me, yelling, “I got a higher SAT score than you! I don’t even have to know your score to know mine was higher!” 

I don’t remember what I did to offend him. I hadn’t even taken the SAT yet.

And then you go to college and you graduate and you’re supposed to have this career. If you don’t then you’re lazy or a rebellious dreamer or being screwed by the economy and the New York Times will publish five thousand articles, one after the other, about your generation and how fascinatingly doomed and creative and spunky and immature you all are. And how you live in your childhood bedroom with pink bunny wallpaper on all four walls but you have this famous blog so it’s ok!

In the NYT, young people are often famous. This seems to make things better.

(source)

It’s been very clear to me for a very long time that I had to make something of myself. Especially as a young woman. Because we have that chance now. We can’t just give up and become moms or something lame like that. Or if we do, we have to be able to defend it really articulately. Or, even better, write a famous blog about it.

No one is ever “just a mom” anymore. I mean, they are, of course, but I don’t see them. I read a woman’s bio on her site the other day and it was like “Prolific author, national speaker, blogger, organizer, entrepreneur, founder of three companies, commentator on several radio shows, and, of course,  mother and wife!”

Well, shit. 

And that is not uncommon.

I have this deathly fear that one day my bio will say “…of course, mother and wife!” 

There are more girls than boys in college now. There are still not nearly enough female CEOs. There is like one single female hedge fund manager. We obviously need more women politicians so that if the word “vagina” comes up in a congressional hearing or something people won’t faint and claw their eyes out and petition to have the person who uttered the word burned to death at the nearest stake. We need more women Supreme Court justices, maybe so that we could have about half men and half women. That seems, well, just.

And we can get there! If we all do our part!

This is just the beginning! We’re amazing! We’re capable! We are getting all sorts of engineering scholarships! Let’s do this!

(we understand this. source)

I have always wanted to do this. Even when it was also making me feel like I was never good enough. Even when I was jealous of everyone ahead of me and slightly disdainful towards everyone behind me and absolutely sure of what “ahead” and “behind” looked like. Even when I was pretty sure that if I didn’t keep getting ahead quickly, I’d basically suck in every way. I’d basically have failed at existing. I’d basically have wasted every breath of air I’d ever drawn into these lungs I was lucky enough to be born with so that I could run across the friggin’ finish line.

I never remember that I am young.

And the other day I was talking with Bear’s dad, who is this famous professor with a big beard and an arsenal of hilarious stories, and I was telling him about how nervous I was about accomplishing this and that and the other thing because it was really important that I accomplish these things RIGHT NOW and he was like, “I used to hate it when people said this to me, and I really don’t want to be condescending at all, but I have to say this: you are really young.”

And this enormous wave of relief hit me.

Oh my god, I thought, I’m really young. 

I’m really young!

Who knows what I will do! I barely even know myself yet!

I think we live in a showy world. We’re closer than ever to our idols. Sometimes they tweet back at us! We have a chance at things the masses never did before. Like winning reality show contests that get us record deals and modeling deals and the perfect body. Our comments are RIGHT under the end of the article where a brilliant writer has concluded. Sometimes the line between the writing and the commenting is so fine that I miss it completely. I think I’m still reading the carefully edited part, but it’s some guy who’s already yelling that this is stupid and suggesting painful-sounding places for the writer to shove things.

Here in NYC, I am closer to the authors I read as a child and the young people the New York Times profiled so curiously. A young woman rises to sudden internet fame, one of my friends is already friends with her. Lena Dunham makes an HBO TV show, everyone went to school with her, or sees her in their neighborhood. My friend’s friend sort of dated one of the guys in the show, and my friend thinks he’s annoying, since she has to hang out with him a lot.

We are so close to what we are supposed to be that we can almost reach out and touch it.

And sometimes I think we’re supposed to be everything, since we have been given so many chances.

But I am young, apparently. I have other chances. More time.

OK, I’m actually pretty young. 

Bear’s dad says I’m young. So I might be.

And I might be for a while.

And when I’m finally not, I hope I will have enjoyed the time that I was young, when my body was all springy and cooperative and I could have sex in so many different positions and I could walk up a flight of stairs without any trouble at all.

Along the way, I will probably accomplish things. I probably already have. And probably, by the time I’m not young anymore, I will have some totally different things to care about.

Take that, pushy world!

And yes, that kid probably got a higher score than me on the SAT. But really? I’ve done OK. I still remember this: zenith, apex, apogee.

I have some time to get to them.

(too soon. source)

*  *  *

Unroast: Today I love the way I have grown increasingly willing to not wear sleeves.

32 Comments »

Kate on August 1st 2012 in feminism, life, new york, work

32 Responses to “still really young”

  1. Hannah responded on 01 Aug 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    This literally could not have been more timely. We look around ourselves and there’s such pressure to have everything figured out. It’s exhausting.

    And you’re exactly right. “I probably already have [accomplished something].” Just because I’m not sure what doesn’t negate that fact. But there is so much more time for doing.
    We really are young.

    Now I just have to say it over and over and over so that one day, I can believe it, and let go…

  2. Donella Demma responded on 01 Aug 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    ‘We can’t just give up and become moms or something lame like that.’ LAME?

  3. Melanie responded on 01 Aug 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    Great post Kate! I think my idea of having a successful life is so vastly different than what other people think I should be doing. I bought a house all on my own. I have a job that affords me a diet where I can buy meat that is local and not filled with hormones. I am surrounded by great friends. I just got out of a really short relationship that was fun while it lasted, and now I’m ready to move on. I feel successful because I live life on a daily basis and try to suck all of the life out of it I can.

    As for that SAT kid, I scored higher on the SAT’s when I was 8, then most people do when they’re in high school. That stuff is totally meaningless in the scheme of things.

  4. Kate responded on 01 Aug 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    @Donella
    Tongue in cheek– read the post i’ve linked there

  5. Kate responded on 01 Aug 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    I actually want to clarify this a little more– not directed so much at Donella as at everyone–
    I hate clarifying a lot, in general, because it gets so tedious and silly, but:
    There’s a huge part of me that WISHES I could “just” be a mom and wife. That’s why I struggle with this so much. I hate that stuff feels so divided up this way. With mom and wife on the side of insignificance. I think it’s ridiculous. And at the same time, I can’t seem to shake the sense that unless I do something “more” I won’t have counted. I won’t have done my part. I think I wrote about this in more detail in the piece I linked to about feminism.

  6. Kate responded on 01 Aug 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    @Melanie
    I love this about you. That you define success your own way, and that you have it. Your life sounds so good to me.
    Bear and I also have been trying to only eat meat without hormones. It’s so much more expensive, but he’s gotten really vehement about it :-)

  7. Stacey responded on 01 Aug 2012 at 2:30 pm #

    This was the perfect thing for me to read today. My 10-year high school reunion was last weekend, and even though I didn’t go, it’s been tormenting me for months. Every time I think about it, I beat myself up, saying things like, “You’ve been out of high school for ten years! And out of college for seven! And what have you done with your life? Nothing! You don’t have a successful career. You clean houses part-time. What an embarrassing job for a college graduate.”

    Then I always have to remind myself that having a big important career is not really what makes for a happy life – I have an awesome husband, a supportive family, and wonderful friends, and when I really focus on all those people, I realize it couldn’t matter less what kind of career I have or whether I have a “successful” life.

  8. Kristina responded on 01 Aug 2012 at 3:04 pm #

    “I think I’m still reading the carefully edited part, but it’s some guy who’s already yelling that this is stupid and suggesting painful-sounding places for the writer to shove things.”

    this made me “HA” out loud at my desk. But seriously, I think most 20 something’s can relate to this constant state of exhaustion where we are striving to achieve more and faster than the other person can. Like one of your other articles talked about, let’s end the feud to compare ourselves to others and just take a moment to breathe. Phew!

  9. Emily responded on 01 Aug 2012 at 4:00 pm #

    so true

  10. daphne responded on 01 Aug 2012 at 5:15 pm #

    The great thing is, even when you’re 35, or 45, or 55, or 65 — you can always do something else, something more, something less — and “make something of yourself.” It can be something new! It can be picking up an old dream. My dad is 66 and is going for a world record in Master’s-level pole-vaulting. Let me say that again: HE IS 66 AND GOING FOR A WORLD RECORD IN POLE-VAULTING.

    You can do anything, anytime. You’re still young, but it doesn’t matter — you can do anything, anytime.

  11. Kristina responded on 01 Aug 2012 at 5:32 pm #

    Daphne, your dad is rockin!! very true about being able to do something new no matter what age you are.

  12. Katrina Blanchalle responded on 01 Aug 2012 at 6:36 pm #

    Oh, I laughed SO MUCH at this. You ARE young, you crazy, hilarious, baby woman, you. And full of talent and brilliance and energy and ideas. But I know what you mean about all this pressure to do and accomplish and be and prove. I had an imaginary conversation with my late grandmother this very morning about this sort of thing.
    GM: Are you telling me that we all suffraged and marched and went through strikes and our daughters burned their bras and fought for equal rights and equal pay and equal sports, and now you young things buy frilly lingerie and do housework and don’t even bother to get a job half the time?
    KB: Yeah.
    GM: What was the point of our years of fighting to get everything men had, if you don’t even appreciate it?
    KB: We don’t necessarily want everything men have. We just like having the choice and the freedom to get some of those things if we want them.
    GM: Oh, for heaven’s sake.
    KB: But we really do appreciate it…

  13. Soohyun responded on 01 Aug 2012 at 6:42 pm #

    This post absolutely moved my heart much. After vigorous two years in college, my twenty-year life seemed pointless — I had done nothing notable to “the history” and just fooling around. I’ve been rethinking about my future career/plan and I started to get worried about “not going to happen”. But when my cousin, who is 6 years older than me, told me that I still “have time”, I was surprised like you did. Then I realized I am facing so many possibility. We are so full of privileges that some people in same age might not have it. Perhaps we don’t know how much we are lucky because of some bad people “fencing around” our vision to be limited.

  14. SolariC responded on 01 Aug 2012 at 8:12 pm #

    I’m around your age, and I’m actually glad I haven’t already conquered the world, or even just done all the things I’m interested in doing. I figure that when I get to them eventually, I’ll do a better job at them if I’m older and more experienced. It’s a nice feeling to replace the inevitable pressure that our pushy world (as you cleverly phrased it) puts on us.

  15. Kate responded on 01 Aug 2012 at 8:13 pm #

    @SolariC
    I’m actually starting to feel more like that– that I’ll probably do a better job later anyway!

  16. Kate responded on 01 Aug 2012 at 8:14 pm #

    @Katrina
    This was amazing!! And I loved everything you called me.

  17. Debra responded on 01 Aug 2012 at 8:34 pm #

    A smart friend of mine who is quite a bit older than I am once told me when I was in the throes of this that the worst thing about most everyone’s twenties is having to worry about whether or not you’re going to be famous. That once you get to your thirties and realize you’re not, that knowledge is actually a great relief–like permission to get on with your life. Now that I’m there, I can see what she meant!
    Great blog by the way. I have no idea how I came by it, but read the whole thing last weekend and found it super absorbing. For what it’s worth, I didn’t realize how young you actually were for quite awhile and was kind of surprised at first… you’re pretty famous for 26.

  18. Alpana Trivedi responded on 01 Aug 2012 at 9:41 pm #

    Kate, I think I have the opposite problem. At 32, I still feel that I “have enough time.” But I’m afraid that’s what makes me procrastinate on many things I want to accomplish. I keep wanting to wait for “the right time.” I want to write a book of poems. Being back in port from deployment, I have plenty of free time. But somehow I end up wasting time. Right now, my excuse is that I have to move out of the barracks and into an apartment. I never wanted to get an apartment in the first place, but because I’m an E5, the Navy won’t let me stay on base indefinitely. Now I’m thinking how I’m going to coordinate bus routes to get to places I need to go. It’s funny, most sailors WANT a place of their own (and a car). I feel that having too much stuff will mean more headaches (and more work and less free time). And when I have free time it’s….”Well, I have all the time in the world…I’m still young.” Sorry I distracted a little from your post. But I agree that it’s never too late to make a fresh start. Also, we’re being bombarded with the message that we have to keep competing with someone better and what we do is never good enough. Many people associate success with things they wouldn’t have chosen of their own accord.

  19. Patricia responded on 01 Aug 2012 at 10:36 pm #

    I am 47 and still have not decided what I want to do with my life! I have been and done many things that at the time seemed ordinary but when I tell people I was a forest fire fighter and dangled from helicopters, or that I was a followspot operator and got to work with The Nylons and KD Lang it seems like a big deal to them. I have been a wife and a mother for over 20 years and am now a Grandma. Life only loses the adventure if you let it. I learned to ride a ripstik a couple of years ago, and am taking up spinning fire this summer. I am also considering belly dancing and roller derby!

  20. Val responded on 02 Aug 2012 at 1:17 am #

    Oh my gosh. This so reminds me of how I kept feeling and feeling like what I was doing was just a prelude to my real life, to what I was supposed to be doing.

    And then one beautiful morning it hit me. I was exactly where I belonged.

    Okay, I was also like 40 years old too, which seems somewhat young to me now 10 years later.

    Plus this also seems weird to me–I know how much I love all the people in my life–my children and their spouses and those precious grandchildren, my sister and brother and their kids, my other nieces and nephews, my friends. And my husband, of all people. Today I told him as we grew up, I’d wondered if years would go by and we’d get tired of each other. I told him, “I’m not tired of you. I like you even more.”

    He laughed. I asked him if he was tired of me? He obligingly said, “Never.” (see how smart he is?!)

    And yet in the last few years I notice more and more how crazy all these people are about ME.

    ME? Boring old annoying me? Yes. Life is weird, Kate. That much I do know. Hang on for the ride. I look forward to seeing where-all life takes YOU. love, Val

  21. sami responded on 02 Aug 2012 at 1:42 am #

    @Melanie @Kate Oh gosh! Is it weird that I feel the need to immediately exclaim “you have hormones in your meat there?!”? I feel a bit sheltered in Australia- hormones are not allowed to be added to any meat here, and it’s been that way for decades. Not that it matters to me as I’m vegetarian, but the disparity between us and you guys is crazy… I genuinely did not realise the food situation there was still like that. Wow. It must take much more thought and effort and money to do grocery shopping there. That is seriously lame.

    Anyway I think I am the opposite everyone, I always feel younger than I am. I’ll be 29 at the end of the month but I sure don’t feel it. I forget that time is ticking by. I’ll wake up one day soon and be 80 years old! I wonder if it’s because I have zero urge to have babies. I am missing a biological clock. I also have no ambition, career-wise. If my job pays the bills and I like turning up to work most days then I’m content.

    On the flipside I panic sometimes because I think I SHOULD be ambitious. I SHOULD want a ‘proper’ career, or to travel, or have kids, or something… but I don’t :( maybe I am broken?

    PS you should definitely come live in Australia and eat our food. It is excellent. Everything here is excellent!

  22. Kate responded on 02 Aug 2012 at 6:18 am #

    “We obviously need more women politicians so that if the word “vagina” comes up in a congressional hearing or something people won’t faint and claw their eyes out and petition to have the person who uttered the word burned to death at the nearest stake. ”

    I need to discuss this. I don’t get women’s need to say the word ‘vagina’ and it to have it be okay. Are we okay with the word ‘penis’? Because I’ve never heard anyone use it. Unless I”m living some supremely sheltered existence and in the real world, men discuss penises (peni?) all the time, and women are all like ‘hey, thats not fair, when I say vagina you break down!’. WHY MUST WE DISCUSS BODY PARTS IN AN OPEN FORUM? I cannot see how this is a feminist issue, and I consider myself a feminist. I went to see the Vagina Monologues and thought it was brilliant – NOT because the word vagina was used in various creative ways, but because it told the stories of women. I think we should all love all parts of our bodies, and all parts of men’s bodies, and just deal with the person they carry. Maybe I’m just being hypersensitive about this, I don’t know. But I really don’t understand what contribution the word ‘vagina’ makes to feminism. Personally, I think we have bigger fish to fry.

    Otherwise, great peice! I can totally relate to what you’re feeling!

  23. Abby responded on 02 Aug 2012 at 10:45 am #

    …This pretty much sums up my feelings about a lot of things. I mean, I’m still in college, but I feel like the second I get out of college I HAVE to do something amazing and accomplished. Or even before. I get so wrapped up in my own head and worried that I’m wasting my life, but I’m still young.

    Something that I realized last night was that I’m a perfectionist, even in areas that it won’t help me. And I think I’m a bit of a ‘life perfectionist’ too—I HAVE to be successful, and I HAVE to get an acting job before I’m 24 or else I’ll be a failure. But I’m 18. It’s hard to remember it, but I have so much life ahead of me. Sometimes it feels like that time is slipping away…but it’s not. It’s just waiting for me.(Sometimes I feel like my rambling makes no sense…but eh, it makes sense to me.)

  24. Kate responded on 02 Aug 2012 at 11:02 am #

    @Kate
    I don’t feel like it’s actually a big discussion :-)
    It’s just a quick symbolic thing. Sometimes, the word is relevant, and if it’s so horrifying to people, that probably isn’t a good sign.

  25. Kate responded on 02 Aug 2012 at 11:03 am #

    @Val
    You describe this beautifully. A prelude to my real life– that’s exactly it.
    And I love that it resolved itself for you.

  26. Rapunzel responded on 02 Aug 2012 at 11:41 am #

    I’m 26 and I’ve had to admit in the last year or two that I have absolutely no clue what to do with my life. It’s a scary place to be, to me. I went to college, got a degree that I loved, then I went into the work world and after working a few different jobs over a couple of years I figured out I just don’t like it anymore. Well damn, now what? I have no clue! Every career or idea that I come up with just isn’t very interesting to me. It’s unnerving not having any goals, and meanwhile I work at a minimum wage crap job with no prospects of moving up or even getting a raise.

    There are a lot of things I know I *don’t* want to do though, so I suppose…that’s a start? Process of elimination? *shrugs*

  27. Rose responded on 02 Aug 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    @kate She needed to be able to say vagina because the bill on the floor was about reproductive rights. Rep. Brown said, “Finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no,’” to make a point about how invasive and coercive legally mandated sonograms are.

    After being censored, she made the observation, ““if I can’t say the word vagina, why are we legislating vaginas?”

    So the point isn’t to be able to say the word for giggles, but rather to point out that people who feel comfortable passing laws to tell other people what they can/cannot do with their bodies, don’t even feel comfortable hearing from the people who’s bodies they are legislating.

    The context is important here.

  28. Sooz responded on 02 Aug 2012 at 3:29 pm #

    I am going to be 40 very soon. I am not young. AND I have not accomplished much….according to the world. BUT. I have lived through childhood abuse, an abusive marriage, born four beautiful lively challenging interesting children, sustained a successful second marriage for 14 years and SURVIVED. Why isn’t that enough? Why do I need to feel that I have not done enough b/c I’m not famous or wealthy or ambitious? I don’t want to accomplish anything else. I want to enjoy my life and breath and sit and be present.
    Very interesting post.

  29. Kate responded on 02 Aug 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    @Sooz
    It IS enough.It should be enough. And if it feels like enough, then it actually is.

  30. Sheryl responded on 02 Aug 2012 at 7:08 pm #

    You’ve just given me a new favourite part of being young. The millions of sex positions our bodies can handle. I laughed so hard, but I love it.

    Also, as far as being able to say the word “vagina” goes … in everyday normal legislation I’d agree that it’s completely unnecessary. But when we’re talking about reproduction? We should be able to use appropriate terminology of the parts that the government is trying to legislate.

  31. Kate responded on 24 Aug 2012 at 6:05 am #

    @Rose thanks that does help put it into context.

  32. Eat the Damn Cake » the extreme importance of letting yourself be occasionally ugly responded on 03 Sep 2012 at 12:35 pm #

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