There’s a saying that I tell myself when I’m feeling stuck:
“There are people you haven’t met yet who will love you.”
Earlier this week, my friend Olivia and I spent three hours chatting in a coffeehouse two towns over from my own. When we left to go home, the conversation didn’t feel over, it was just time to go. Olivia and I know each other from Boston University, but we’re from the same county in New York. I met her in June, and while we’ve spent time together I didn’t really know a ton about her personally. The whole time we were there we were getting to know each other better, lifting each other’s curtains, reflecting on high school memories in Westchester and talking about our BU friends and recollections.
There’s something so interesting about talking to someone who grew up so close to you, but you didn’t meet them until you both moved somewhere new.
I met Olivia through my friend Hailey, who I didn’t become good friends with until March. Hailey is now one of my warmest, most special pals, and I’m living with her next year.
It’s strange to me that a year ago I didn’t really know either of them. And now I love them.
I think a lot of my restlessness stems from one of my biggest personal oversights: I always think I know everything and everyone I’m ever going to know.
I always think I’m at the end.
My present consistently feels stagnant, like the best and the worst things have already happened to me and nothing crucial can happen again. I will not meet any new important people, because how can anyone in the world be more important than who I know now?
It’s a big, dark blindspot and somehow every time my life takes a key turn I’m surprised. Wow, there’s more left?
Of course there’s more left, me! You’re 20! Or 18! Or 14! Or whatever age you are where you think you could possibly have experienced all that is in store for you.
I don’t know how I felt this in high school, when I was 16 and 17, before I even knew where I was going to college, before I stepped foot in Boston, in Warren Towers, on the esplanade, into Back Bay Station, into Allston. Into every place that felt like change whether I wanted it to or not.
I don’t know how I’m feeling this at 20, before I’ve finished college, before I’ve gone abroad, before I even entirely know what I want to do with my life. How I can feel like this when so many of my roots are still tightly buried in Croton on Hudson, New York and I know it can’t be like that forever?
I’m currently reading the fifth book of the “My Struggle” series by Karl Ove Knausgaard, which is about Karl Ove himself when he was 19 and going to writing school in Norway. The plot chronicles his life into his mid-20s. He struggles with addiction, rejection, insecurity and my favorite, restlessness. I can’t remember the last time I resonated so deeply with a book. His style of writing is so immersive and detailed, I find myself highlighting descriptions he creates of parties, people and feelings that are so entirely accurate, but I don’t think I could ever formulate them like he can.
I’m also watching “Red Oaks,” which is an Amazon original series about a 20-year-old NYU student named David, who works at a country club in 1985 during a summer when he’s home from college. His major is undeclared and his dad pushes him to be an accounting major, but he hates it, and hopes to change his major to something that interests him (film studies, art history etc.) Each episode drips with summer’s energy, as David teaches tennis, is constantly embarrassed by his parents, struggles to maintain his long-term relationship and gets too drunk at parties with his co-workers. For lack of better words: it perfectly captures what it feels like to be twenty in your hometown living with your parents after being away.
These two works are extremely different. “My Struggle” is harrowing and pretty somber, while “Red Oaks” is lighthearted and witty. When I read “My Struggle,” the images in my head are grey. I see Karl Ove in a small, bleak Norwegian town where it constantly rains, where a fog sits and waits. In each episode of “Red Oaks,” the visuals are bright and amiable; from David’s crisp white tennis uniform, to vibrant 80s pilates attire, to the viridescent cut grass of the golf course.
But they each perfectly capture what it feels like to fail, what it feels like to think you might be stuck in one place forever. To run from your fear of boredom and lack of fulfillment. When you’re twenty there are so many possibilities that it almost feels like there are no possibilities if you tip one toe out of line.
But it’s just not true.
Recently, my boyfriend mentioned in passing that this time of our lives is so impermanent. I’m not sure how much I can resonate with popular High School graduate-to-be narratives, even if I still enjoy them. I’m past that now. I think I’m becoming some annoying niche consumer who just wants to read about and watch other confused 20 year olds. Maybe that’s not the worst thing. If anything, these plots and characters are very comforting in times of high anxiety.
I’m trying to see opportunity in uncertainty instead of impending doom.
There are rich stories to be told about impermanence and knowing nothing.
I know nothing.
I have yet to meet so many people who I will love and who will love me.
I could maybe experience everything.