"Twenty-Five"

Twenty-five is a weird age. A vestige of what used to be. The truth is that the unraveling that happens right around this time is a series of painful nudges with periodic spells of quiet desperation, a loss of control and a sinister realization that caffeine does indeed come in a cheaper pill form (and yes, you will succumb to them at some point). You realize it’s time to start a new chapter, but it is hard to pinpoint exactly when the previous one ended–and at which point you consented to things being so different.

I can remember now, with a clarity that makes me exhale deeply and shift in my seat, when New York began for me. When I first saw New York I was eighteen, and it was summertime. The streets reeked with rotting trash. I walked hand-in-hand with a boy I barely knew, that I had met in an Uber pool on the way to some warehouse in Bushwick (“If you ever need anything from the men’s section at Opening Ceremony, just let me know baby girl”). We walked along the pavements of Alphabet City, eating melting ice creams in the sticky heat as we passed by chain link fences and neighborhood cookouts. God, what was his name? It was clear that I was infatuated. Not with him, but with New York. In a city where only the very rich and the very poor survive, it was pure thrill that made you grow young and full of glory. Anything was possible and everything was within reach. I just had to reach out and grab it. But I never did. I know now that almost everyone at that age in New York City feels something similar–a euphoric jealousy of some sorts–knowing that nothing is yours, but anything could be. There was no place like it. For a while there, I faked a good winning streak.

Since then, I have been back. Numerous times. Months at time. But it never felt the same. The only thing I can hope for now is that I find a lifelong learner in myself in a world that is–and will always be– bigger than me. Bigger than New York. Bigger than LA, where I currently reside. Bigger than San Francisco, where I hope to be soon.

But during my time here, I’ve made a habit of constantly consuming new information and perspectives from credible sources. I constantly expect to pivot and readjust accordingly. I constantly expect to be thrown off this wieldy, unruly path that I find myself. What I realize now coming out of school is that the ideal that we must “find our purpose and do it for a living” is often a dangerous one. It's okay to just go to work. It’s okay to not get it right. It’s okay to work a 9 to 5, struggle to pay rent, and be too tired when you get home. The better I understand context and nuance, the more I realize the fatal flaws within mental paradigms that have thus far governed my stupid, stupid choices. I find myself still attached to them at times, but slowly, I am learning the merits of being educated over being right.

After all, there are so many things left to learn, so many mistakes left to be made and so many relationships left to be cherished. Slowly but surely, I am realizing you never truly know if what you're doing is the right thing. Life is and has always been trial and error at best and iffy guesswork at worst. Good or bad, it is always an opportunity for learning, always a chance to figure out what is most right for you. That invincibility that once existed has now almost fully faded–and in its place remains the eerie feeling that I am more fallible than ever. Strangely though, I stand proudly in this. I’m a fallible human trying to adapt to my rapidly changing reality. It feels wobbly and uncomfortable, but anything else seems to be falling for the oldest, cheapest trick in the book: that we are anything other than simply human.

With love,
Ashleigh

 

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