Since I currently live in my hometown, I run the risk of encountering people I went to high school with on a near-daily basis (if I bother to venture out of my apartment). Even though my graduating class was pretty big, I’m not chummy with many of my peers that chose to stick around town. Still, inevitably, I will run into someone who wants to chat, and they ask that dreaded question: “So, what do you do now?”
And my insides curdle every time I have to answer: “I’m a secretary.”
Now, I’m aware that I’ve accomplished a lot in the last two years. Living in Costa Rica, working as a writer, moving back home, and becoming financially independent again in just a few months–those are all big accomplishments. And I’m also not trying to diss the secretaries of the world. I’m one of them, and we do a pretty thankless job for a pretty small payout.
But–BUT–the people from high school all knew me back before the economy shit on all of our hopes and dreams and bank accounts. They remember me rocking all of the Honors English tests and talking about writing the Next Great American Novel. But I’m not writing a novel. I’m not even sure that I want to anymore. And I also don’t have a yacht, nor do I live in the city like I always planned. I never wanted to stay in my hometown, but right now I’m kind of stuck here. It blows, and most of my fellow townies are probably in similar situations, feeling the same feelings.
We don’t talk about that though. I never see aquaintances from school and ask “How has the economy screwed you over?” or “What soul-sucking job are you working while you fruitlessly pursue your passion on the side?”
On the exterior, it’s all pleasantries and smiles and “How are you”s, but underneath, we all know this is what’s happening:
High School Girl: Kaitlin! Hi! How have you been?
Me: Oh, you know…just working, life. Are you living here in town?
High School Girl: No, I’m just visiting my parents. I live in [Awesome Place] now, working as a [Really Cool Professional Thing]. What are you doing?
Me:…I’m a secretary here in Hometown. But I blog a lot on the side!
High School Girl: Cool… Did you see my Facebook update? I’m engaged!
High School Girl: *shows me the ring* Oh, did you hear that I won the lottery?
I’m not sure where the need to impress the people we knew in our youth comes from, but I do feel it a lot, and I know I’m not the only one who does.
And the crazy thing is, I feel totally stupid for feeling this way. WHY do I care what anyone thinks? What purpose does mentally beating myself up over it serve? My time would be much better spent continuing my ongoing (grueling, disappointing, over-a-year-long) hunt for writing jobs in Chicago.
And more importantly, shoudn’t I be happy for the people I meet who are doing well?
I’ll go ahead and answer that one now: yes. Yes, I should be happy for them. In fact, I’m always happy and supportive when my friends do well. But I won’t lie–I am a bit jealous of them too. I’d like to be the cool one gallivanting around the city and writing for a living. That’s what I was doing in Costa Rica, and although it didn’t pay well, writing is much more fufilling than answering phone calls all day. I take more pride in it.
What I don’t like is the competitiveness that I feel in some of my interactions with people, but maybe I’m the one creating and feeding that feeling? I don’t know. It’s confusing and frustrating, and hopefully someone else can relate to that. Everyone knows at least one over-achiever who’s currently rocking at life, making six figures, and kicking straight ass while the rest of us are over here like
I can’t help but feel like I’ve failed somehow. At something. I’m not entirely sure where my shit went wrong, but it’s definitely rolling downhill–and I’m at the bottom of that hill. And I’m wearing white pants.
I’m 25. I’m supposed to be successful now, right? I’ve missed my chance at being a child prodigy, but I still have time to be a wunderkind. I still have time to prove my high school counselor who told me to major in something “more practical than English” wrong. But the clock is ticking.
I’m slowly realizing that I’m never going to become the grownup version of myself that I envisioned when I was younger. I’m never going to be cool, for starters, nor will I ever be taller than 5′ 3″. I probably won’t walk any read carpets or win any oscars for Best Original Screen Play. I will never have complete control over my hair, and I probably won’t be able to eat less than 4 pieces of pizza in one sitting. I will never be prom queen (or even go to prom, for that matter).
I won’t become a fashionista–in fact, I’m doing pretty well on my self-presentation when my glasses don’t have mascara marks. So, with that out there, I might as well just admit to myself that I will not be a competitor on America’s Next Top Model (5’7″ and under) either. (But if I were, I would be the nice, older-but-wiser one in the house, who wins all of the mini contests but gets voted off in the top 4 or 5, and totally doesn’t cry when she leaves.)
I will never have it all together. Although, to be honest, I don’t know anyone who actually does. The people who seem to have it all together on the outside usually have some kind of turmoil brewing beneath the surface of their shiney lives, like sad sparkley iceburgs.
I guess I just need to work on making progress when I can, and being happy for others (which I genuinely am–most of the time). And I really need to work on being happy with myself.