I’m Only Good At Being Young


On the eve of my 25th birthday, I made a new Spotify playlist called I’m only good at being young. Yes, it’s a riff off of John Mayer’s “Stop this Train,” and say what you will about the guy, he did popularize the phrase “quarter-life crisis,” which describes poignantly and succinctly what is happening to most of us — employed or funemployed; engaged or single or benefiting from a friendship physically but not emotionally; educated and in debt; high on boozy brunch and H&M sales and each other’s young blood.

We’re all young and naïve still… trying to find the in-between. I think of the stats. Only half of recession-era college grads have full-time jobs. We’re not saving for retirement but we want plans with guaranteed income options — we’re invincible as long as we’re alive. I take stock of my own stats. Lucky enough to have a job, but unlucky enough to have graduated in 2009, and thus finding myself behind the income curve. Entering into what feels like it could turn into my first “adult relationship,” whatever that means. Since coming to New York, I’ve entangled my limbs and feelings with others with whom I was certain there would never be a future. Because I was somehow lonely in one of the most densely populated cities in America, or because the heat in their apartments worked better than mine.

Which is why this new thing — these new hands in mine, these new words in my ear — is thrilling, in both the “exciting” and “terrifying” senses of the word. I want desperately not to mess it up. To believe him when he says, “Just because I don’t text you every minute doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about you.” I want to believe him because that’s what I want to say, too, with the added clarification that I’m trying to navigate these tacit, fantastical rules of technology that now govern what should be our most organic relationships.

Speaking of, he took down his OKCupid profile after our first date; I took mine down after our third. But is that really the sign of, well, anything? I feel like I’m living inside a SomeEcard: “Babe, you make me want to deactivate my online dating profile.” It’s silly, but it’s our generation’s version of sweetness. It’s Splenda.

You say we’re too young, but maybe you’re too old to remember. He and I were talking the other night about how there’s an older generation responsible for validating other people’s love, in a legal sense, how sad it is that he and I, after knowing each other a month and a half, could hop a redeye to Vegas and get hitched tomorrow if we were so inclined, or drunk, but how couples who have been committed to one another for decades are at the whim of other people’s religion-washed politics and ignorant fears.

This is the part of being young I’m so good at, the part I never want to lose: the part that puts me on the winning side of history, pushing down hard on the end of some moral arc that MLK, Jr. said would always bend towards justice. The part that doesn’t care what kind of porn you’re into or birth control you use or video games you play, as long as no one actually gets hurt.

That part, and the part with long, shiny hair that boys want to run their fingers through, and strong legs that can walk all over the boroughs of this city taking on a tan but not too much fatigue, and the sharp eyes that can read small print for bosses and parents and other people whom I’m terrified won’t be there one day.

While our blood’s still young, it’s so young it runs. It’s funny, though. I spent so much of my life being old for my age. I’ve referred to myself as an adult runaway before — I’ve worked hard to get as far away from the place where I grew up as possible, ditched jobs that didn’t make me happy, have always been a little too impatient to assume the world.  When I talk about work I say things like, “it will be so different when I’m in charge,” and I spend my days can’t-hardly-waiting for that day to come.

Younger now than we were before. But as the candles on my birthday cake have ticked higher and burned brighter, so has the understanding that life is very long. I have the rest of my life to live the rest of my life. To think about “I love yous” and “I dos” and bridesmaids and honeymoons and mortgages and births and baby names and preschools and curfews and SATs and college admissions and first jobs that are not my own and my parents’ retirement and someday my own and starting a nonprofit and leaving some kind of legacy or something of artistic merit that proves I didn’t do all this living just for me. To think about what it means for there to be things — important things — that would come to a screeching halt the day that my life does. But not today, and not tonight. Tonight, we are young.

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image – Philipp Klinger