It’s Not Settling If You’re (Mostly) Happy, Right?


While we lay in bed, my new boyfriend examines my skin. “Look at all these beauty marks,” he jokes, drawing lines from one dark freckle to another. They’re all over me, the effects of hours laying around in the sun with little to no sunscreen.

“You mean my sun damage?”

“No. Beauty marks.” He bends his head to kiss one, then another.

I am starting to find more and more of these little moles dotting my skin. I look closely at them in the mirror some mornings and they’re there, multiplying. My skin is starting to look like that of my mom’s, my aunts’. And then I realize that I am not much younger now than they were when I was a child.

I am not a child anymore. I can’t even consider myself “young.” I’m an adult, I’m fresh off my 27th birthday. When my aunt was 27, she had three children in school. When my grandmothers were 27, they already had a brood of children, a home of their own, stood all day baking and cooking and having babies.

That wasn’t quite the path I had chosen for myself, though I think sometimes my mom looks at me and wonders why I’m not married yet, or why I can’t keep a boyfriend longer than seven months. But the life I have created for myself is a good one, and it’s full of lovely people and fancy drinks and dresses and people to help me get over the rough spots, just as I help them.

I don’t think I’m at all near where my seven-year-old self dreamed she’d be, and definitely not in the glamorous world 17-year-old Kara yearned for. I wanted to be a famous editor in New York City, swinging my shopping bags and wearing fancy shoes and writing novels in between running a magazine.

It was around 24 when I realized that was never going to happen, and that that was OK.

“If we we’re going to do something amazing, we’d have done it already,” I said to him that year. He was at his computer, moping over his lack of greatness, whining that he hadn’t done anything of merit – no Oscar-winning screenplays, no great works of art – yet in his life. We’d come of age knowing we were the best, the brightest. Our creative minds were constantly spewing up ideas. We challenged each other. I worked in the middle of this loud boisterous club; we agonized over column inches, over synonyms. Our stories sometimes bled red with edits and we fixed them and celebrated every time they magically turned into real newspaper print overnight.

We knew we were good, that we were smart and funny and talented, and we thought that our combined forces would take over the world.

We all ended up writing copy for Facebook.

I look back on that as the meanest thing I ever said. I couldn’t help it. It was true, and it is true. We’re all as good as we were, and maybe better after having been knocked down off our college pedestals by shitty jobs and the fact that writing books in our spare time doesn’t pay for the internet bills or offer you insurance.

But that doesn’t mean that a steady paycheck and the ability to go to the doctor when you need to, or spend $100 at Target on groceries for yourself and not fret about your bank account, is bad. It’s nice, actually. It’s no red carpet or high-glitz or seeing your name in print in the “New Yorker,” but it’s not a bad life. It’s not settling if you’re mostly happy, is it?

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