Last night while I was on the New Jersey Transit heading back to my hotel from my second ever visit to New York City, I realized I was surrounded by high school aged girls who must have been heading home from a day in the city. The two young ladies in front of me chatted at an electric pace, waving their small hands adorned with turquoise tipped fake nails to emphasize topics about things like how the guidance counselor is “more like my brother than my teacher. I mean, we’ll be friends for at least 20 years. He’ll probably come to my wedding.” The girl next to me who couldn’t have been older than 19, had flawless makeup, an army of shopping bags from Forever 21, and shuffled through songs on classic albums such as Christina Aguilera’s “Stripped,” The Backstreet Boys’ “Black and Blue,” The Spice Girls’ “Spice” and TLC’s greatest hits on her iPhone. I’d like to make that sentence shorter, but I didn’t want to leave any of those great artists out. I mean that with a nearly unconditional sincerity, because while it seems that I am judging these people, I realize I am actually describing myself as a teenager, and it is true that I still listen to all those albums to this day. Of course, there was a part of me that was mildly offended that someone 4-8 years younger than me was listening to the hits that I shared with my middle school friends in the late 90s, but hey, the music is still around for a reason. I guess.
So what. I regarded these girls as frivolous maybe. Sophomoric, perhaps. I was like that at one point. And still am I’m sure. (Case in point by admitting that I still love the Spice Girls). Sometimes I feel uncomfortable when I’m around women in their 30s. Like I’m talking about things I don’t really know about. And I’m sure when I’m in my 30s I’ll observe women in their 20s and feel the same way I do right now about girls in their late teens.
Eventually I directed my attention away from the girl next to me, so that she wouldn’t catch me staring at her iPhone, and looked out the window. Then, through the reflection, I noticed yet another teenager. This one was seated directly behind me, and she was writing in her journal. The cover of the journal said “You’ve CAT to be KITTEN me right MEOW,” and as she wrote, she smiled.
And then I thought about the first time I went to New York City, just four years ago, and how between the moment I bought my plane ticket and the moment I made it to the hotel in SoHo, I was nearly MURDERED by own anticipation. A week of pure ecstatic impatience. I flew in with my friend Spencer, and there we were, two kids from Iowa who hadn’t spent much time outside of a landlocked region without an adult. We wrote a lot of poetry. I’ve got pages of it. We would write a sentence and then hand it back, completing each other’s thoughts. When I left I couldn’t wait to get back. Yesterday I stepped out of Penn Station and looked around at all the buildings, and the traffic, and the people, and immediately felt a great sense of dread. So I bucked up, acknowledged that I wasn’t going to be able to avoid certain hassles and headed south on Broadway. I met up with some friends, and they took care of me and I had a great time.
When I was a teenager, I looked at being an adult as something I could conquer. Material things I could check off a list. Car keys, cell phone, credit card, birth control. Check. Everything I associated with being an adult could fit in my purse and the future was simply an errand. Now my life is filled with errands and I understand why my mom never wanted to go grocery shopping.
Sometimes I relate anticipation with a feeling of relentless exhaustion, and I don’t know why, so I chalk it up to “aging.” Sometimes I have to fake it til I feel it when it comes to looking forward to something, because I just don’t get worked up the way I used to.* I’m trying to climb my way into adulthood, but at the same time, I’m scared to get out of the pool. So I guess the only thing to do is grab my purse, find my confidence, and stay humble.
*Unless I’m about to go experience some nature. Then I’ll get all worked up, because nature is the shit.