Terrible Twenties

Trials and tribulations of the modern twenty-something because no matter what adults say, your twenties are f*cking hard.
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Oh hi you little 22 year old turd. #tbt

Who am I kidding? I loved being 22. I never hurt so bad. I never made so many mistakes. But fuck, fuck, fuck….it sure was fun.

Stumped.

Oh Christ, can’t I just get through the week in peace?

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I saw a picture of this gorgeous bag grace my Instagram feed this morning and thought, “Maybe I need something like this for work meetings.”

After seeing lovely leather goods, I often have similar musings.

I’m almost 29 years old and there are so many superficial ways that I don’t act like an adult. I still get ample use out of my vintage t-shirt collection, have a Hello Kitty notepad, enjoy television programming aimed at middle schoolers, and I am still holding strong to my nose ring.

And while I do things like max out my IRA contributions, purchase a car by myself, and clean my apartment on a regular basis, I still don’t always carry myself the way I envision an adult would.

Most notably, I use a backpack to transport my very expensive laptop to client meetings and work functions, hence the interest in the adult lady bag. That’s the type of bag I envision a grown up professional woman carrying and, while it’s something I think I probably need, I can never see myself realistically wearing it any time soon. 

I’ve always been a backpack kind of girl for as long as I can remember, despite rejecting them for more feminine totes bags on and off through college and various jobs thereafter.

In elementary school I loosened the straps so that my royal purple Jansport hung damn near to my knees, as to not deviate from conformity. And, in middle school, you could hear me coming from a mile away on account of the many, many Claire’s keychains and Sanrio trinkets tied to the zippers of my navy blue Kipling bag. I had begged and pleaded with my mom to buy that bag, citing a laundry list of reasons why the padded straps and multiple compartments were absolutely necessary to handle seventh grade academia. I conveniently omitted the part where I desperately wanted the gorilla keychain, signifying a status symbol in my private all-girls school.

Just as recently as three years ago, I somehow walked out of a men’s only boutique with a purchase for myself. I was so enamored by the beautiful man with the Hitler Youth haircut, who owned the store, that I had to buy something. I chose a backpack because I knew I’d actually use it. And I have.

I’m not sure why I see nice, or decidedly adult things, like this bag, and have trouble with idea of incorporating it into my life. It’s a strange dichotomous feeling of both yearning to be that woman with killer pumps and matching power bag, and not wanting to change my fundamental genetic aversion to anything fancy. Or, is it a genetic aversion to admitting to growing up?

Look, I know it’s just a stupid overpriced handbag that I could afford if I REALLY wanted (and OMG it’s not even really that nice), but I can’t help but think that I how I feel about it is an indicator of how I think about myself. 

I guess even though I know how to do the important adult things that matter, I don’t want to look the part because then it’s real and I’ve lost that version of myself. I’m just not ready to give up the girl with the backpack with too many keychains because she just couldn’t pick her favorite.

My traumatic story featured on The Billfold.

Portrait of an only child struggling to stay culturally relevant. #nationalsiblingday

Asker elmoonio Asks:
Hi Heather, I have quite enjoyed getting to know your online persona. You resonate with me in a way Hannah Horvath just cannot grasp (although she often gets damn close). My question is for you as a fellow writer: the pieces I have written that I like best touch on personal subject matter. My question is how do you reconcile putting yourself out there, and the idea that things you write about might embarrass your family? Or potentially dissuade a more corporate job opportunity in the future?
terribletwenties terribletwenties Said:

I like this question, and not just because you buttered me up by telling me that I’m doing things better than Hannah Horvath (although I should hope so; I have a few years on the character).

I’m glad that you’ve enjoyed getting to know my online persona and, while it’s not a complete 360 view into my personality, it’s pretty much who I am in real life. If I can’t keep it together as a nice buttoned up adult person in real social settings, then how on Earth could I here, behind the safe digital walls as the Internet. Transparency is my personal blessing and curse.

In the almost four years of writing this blog, I have found the pieces of writing that resonate the most with others are the ones that are the most meaningful for me, which encourages me to continually find ways share on deeper levels, while letting my writing evolve. I’m very interested in shared experiences and feelings that span generations.

I don’t think twice about putting myself out there; it doesn’t really feel as though I have a choice. If I didn’t do it, then I wouldn’t be me.

Embarrassing my family isn’t a huge concern for me. I was raised in a very open and honest home with parents who have always seen me as an individual, both talented and flawed. I suspect nothing on this blog surprises them. 

As far as employers, I have very little worry for me personally. For one thing, I work in content, editorial, and social media. In most cases, my blog would be seen as part of my portfolio. But, now that you have me considering this, I’d say that I am extremely proud of my writing and what I have been able to accomplish with this blog. If a current or potential employer took issue with any aspect of this part of my life, it would be a red flag for me. I have no desire to work with or for anyone who doesn’t understand and respect the meaning and intentions of a personal blog. Also, I have a nose ring and four visible tattoos; I think it’s safe to say I will never be working in a law firm or a bank. 

Do I censor myself? Absolutely. But it’s not due to fear of overexposure. I include salacious details where it adds value to the story, but never for shock value. Will I write about my sex life in detail here? No, probably not. But, I sure do respect the women who do. They are some of the most fantastic writers I know.

At the end of the day, I think it’s important to write openly, honestly, and to expose yourself only to the degree that feels comfortable. Everyone has their limits, and it’s important to respect your boundaries while pushing them at them time.

I hope this answers your question!

xo,

Heather

If you don’t have a best friend who pushes you to dress like an adult lady person. You need a new best friend.

Everyone’s family had a go-to Italian restaurant growing up. This was mine. When I was really little I loved playing on the Pac-Man machine because I thought I was really good at the game. Turns out I was really just a master of the demo.

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(My paternal grandparents looking like real-life movie stars.)

I’ve never been more acutely aware of the realities of aging. Not just growing older, shifting priorities, fluctuating metabolisms, and increasingly earlier bedtimes. I’m particularly distracted by the painful logistics of a maxed out life.

My grandmother isn’t doing well. Mentally she’s sharp as a tack. My father recently questioned the whereabouts of a vase, and without hesitation, she directed him to an obscure hiding place in the living room. But, she’s in such tremendous pain, not just physically, but aching for her displaced independence, modesty and humility. Her suffering stems from a loss that makes a cracked pelvis seem like an irritating bruise.

This weekend my boyfriend told me that I project such a tough and impenetrable exterior and, for the most part, it’s true. But he said that despite my strength, when something cracks me, I crumble. And, he’s right.

My grandmother was cut from the same sensible stoicism or, rather, I was made from hers. But like me, when something breaks her, she’s broken. Last night, I saw the beast that broke my grandmother — time. She’s almost ninety-five years old, and the weight of a century is resting heavy on her arthritic shoulders, gnarled into large knots.

And, it terrified me.

I’ve finally reached a level of maturity of bittersweet understanding of what it means to be at the end of your life. Watching my father and his sister care for and worry about my grandmother feels like a punch in the gut. I can’t help but think big thoughts about having to go through the same generational motions with my own parents, and eventually my own hypothetical children doing so for me. If it’s all so cyclical and natural why does the very thought paralyze me? 

Imagining my parents’ inevitable decline is too much to bear and, for the first time in my life, being an only child isn’t all that cute. My parents will forever remain forty years-old in my mind, the way a friend’s kid brother will always be a kid no matter how old he becomes. And it’s only when I look through the old photos from a time when they were the most beautiful couple in the room that I notice the new lines, gray hairs, dimmed irises, and marred skin. And I worry. I worry so much.

I’ve developed a personal ritual over the last few years; when I visit my grandmother’s house I pull out all the photo albums. I look at them all, touch the corners, flip them over to read the date inked in my grandmother’s slanted cursive. My father likes this ritual too. We look at the same photos every time, and they never stop making us laugh at silly haircuts, smile at those who have passed, and gawk at how little us cousins used to be.

My favorite album is always left for last like a decadent dessert. It contains exclusively black and white photographs of my grandparents and their life in early 1940’s Boston, right before they moved to Los Angeles when my father was two years old in 1947. Turning the pages I can’t help but lose my breath at these handsome strange twenty-somethings from another time. I desperately scour their faces to find myself, catching a glimpse in the curve of a nose or curl in the hair. They were so young and beautiful.

We’re all so young and beautiful. Funny to think that eventually we’ll wake up and we just won’t be anymore. It’s a beautifully morbid thing to say now, but it won’t always feel that way. One day the people in our photos will seem like old friends you once knew very well. Or maybe, it will be the opposite; the photos will feel like mirrors and reflections will render unrecognizable.

I don’t know yet.

In the limited conversation she was able to have last night, my grandmother advised us to enjoy being young, and reassured us that she had most definitely enjoyed it. I felt at peace for her, but not for myself.

Am I? Did I? I’m spiraling into selfish hole of self-doubt and potential regret. 

Should I have tried to live in New York like I always thought I would? Have I spent too much time working, and not enough time wondering? Was I frivolous with money? Have I kissed enough boys? Have I looked so much that I never leapt? Am I too concerned with holding onto moments that don’t matter, and ignoring the ones that do? Were there enough mistakes, missteps, and broken feelings?

I think about my children and grandchildren coming over to my house to look into the photo boxes they’ve looked at a hundred time before, still finding joy at how young and pretty my friends and I looked posing with our vodka sodas in a dark bar. Who is that girl with the red lipstick? They never knew her. She’s a faintly familiar stranger.

My father walked me out to my car last night. I looked up at him and instantly felt ten years old again. I threw my arms around his waist and held him tighter and longer than I have in a very long time. 

"Dad, don’t get old," I pleaded.

"But, I’m already old," he said patting my back.