“Hold on, don’t give up…the fact that you’re staying alive, this is the most important thing – that you will be alive for the inevitable process of change.” –Elsa Kennedy
Fiction. Based on a True Almost Milestone
This journal entry is inspired by true events. Some of the characters, names, businesses, incidents, and certain locations and events have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.
Tomorrow I turn 20.
At the moment I feel both so old and incredibly young. There are things that I wanted to have accomplished by now. There are so many new things I want to try. It feels like I’m at a standstill. Or limbo.
When I was 15, I came up with the infamous Twelve Year Plan. I had the next twelve years planned out. I wanted to go to NYU, get into a medical program at UW, move to New York, and become a practicing neurosurgeon all by 27.
When I was 17, I realized that I wasn’t going to NYU. It wasn’t the end of the world, yet I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I had failed. For the next two years, failure stuck to me like an animated storm cloud that refuses to dissipate. Nothing I did felt good enough, because nothing I did was what I had planned on. After graduation, I packed up my entire life and moved to Utah. I left my family, friends, my home. I say left because I didn’t say goodbye. I fled like a thief in the night, without a word or a trace. Not even a forwarding address.
Halfway through my nineteenth year, I remembered the plan. Go to NYU? Nope. Get into a medical program? I changed my major to English. Move to New York and become a neurosurgeon? Not with these shaky hands. And at first, I felt a pang in my chest. I was already a third of the way through the plan and had accomplished nothing!
But then I hear laughter from outside my door. It’s my roommates and friends, all of whom I would never have met at NYU. And there’s a sense of relief knowing that I was relinquishing my stubbornness and pursuing what I actually wanted to study, and not what I thought sounded more impressive. As much as I wanted the busyness of city life, attending school in the smallest town ever taught me that I didn’t need the city that never rests; I’m restless enough already. Being a neurosurgeon had been my goal since I first cut open my first brain in Biology class. And when I began to learn more about mental illnesses and genetic disorders, my love grew bigger. I wanted to help those who needed my set of skills and expertise. I had thought writing was selfish–it was just for me.
Then I began writing again, and I knew it wasn’t true. Writing helped me connect with others. I wrote for them: my niece, my classmates, younger me. It was a reflection of everything I felt. And as I began to share my writing, I realized that I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else. I mentally decluttered. I threw out my outdated 12-year plan, and instead replaced it with a blank space. That space was left for my future, my happiness, my journey; it wasn’t a plan set in stone, but rather a placeholder for the time being.
I hadn’t planned on meeting my best friend when I moved into my apartment on a sunny day in September. I hadn’t planned on late-night McDonald’s runs and scary movies at one in the morning. I hadn’t anticipated that I would grow to love rap music. I hadn’t planned on revisiting therapy or opening up to my parents. I hadn’t planned on being a full-time student, working a part-time job, and rocking an internship at 19.
So tomorrow when I turn 20, what will I do?
I’ll go to class, go to work, come home to my favorite people, eat cake, and realize how lucky I am to be here. Not in New York, not in med school, not in a prestige hospital. And then, I’m going to take it one day at a time. Who knows what 20 will bring.