I have moved to the Seattle area.
It’s a fresh start for me, again, just like going to college was. I thought one of my close college friends was moving here too but he recently decided to stay on the east coast for his girlfriend. So I’m here with a good handful of starter friends but no one I know well.It’s an extremely vulnerable time in my life again.
When I first got to Brown, I remember feeling to the most nervous I’d ever been, desperate to make friends and make something of myself on campus. I really needed the $60k+/year tuition to be worth my parents’ money. And I also needed to become someone who wasn’t in vague danger of getting a little too depressed one day and deciding to end it all. You can imagine that I wasn’t the most easy-going of freshman.
I did end up accomplishing what I set out to do that fateful year. A couple breakups, some stressful classes and job applications, and many years later, I have had the privilege of moving away from friends I care about and miss. It’s strange to frame it that way, but it’s true. I’d much rather lose something precious that regret never having had it in the first place.
And now I live in the PNW. I’m not depressed, like I was as a teenager. I’m not anxious, like I was all throughout 2020. I got my own place, bought my own furniture, and am making my own friends. I’ll buy a car soon. The foundations of a great life are right here in front of me and I don’t intend to waste them.
Foundations for what though? What am I looking to build here? In college everyone knew the place and the people and the culture was temporary. We looked for something concrete and portable to take away: knowledge and industry connections and jobs across the country. Friends who may not come with us to our new cities, but would remain in our lives indefinitely. Memories of college times not easily replicated in the future. Personal development that would catapult us to the next part of our lives with gusto.
Now…I’m a twenty something, and I’ve graduated college. What next? One part of me is amazed that I got this far. I haven’t killed myself yet! It’s a low bar, but one that I struggled with for a long time in my teens.
I think, next, is doing things I will look back upon proudly when I am older and not as inclined to do. Here are a few directives I have for myself.
- Health – preserve mental, physical, emotional and social health. Avoid unnecessary or excessive stress. Find ways to have fun exercising and doing other things that are good for you. Listen to your feelings. Take the risk and initiative of connecting with other people. Especially family; especially friends.
- Strength – build mental, physical, emotional and social strength. Build habits and thought patterns that make you more resilient to bad stuff happening to you. Fortify your body against rapid or severe decline later on. Develop a strong sense of self that doesn’t crumple in the face of challenges, and build friendships that also help you stand strong.
- Financial base – buy quality items in your home, and reduce friction between you and activities that are great for you (cooking, seeing friends, sleeping well, house chores). Invest everything else. Dig into the numbers and figure out exactly how much saved you need to never invest for retirement ever again, and chart a swift path to that reality without losing sight of present goals and enjoyment of life. You’re lucky you can contemplate coastFIRE at all, let alone being able to enjoy life at the same time.
- Idealism – don’t lose the enthusiasm and wonder for life you had as a child and teen. You still have it now, and it deserves a chance to flourish against the pallor of cynicism and learned helplessness. Make things that help people in your free time, and see if you can make it your full time job too. Act out the relationships you want. Become the person you want to be, tempered by who you truly are.
Concretely: right now I am happy to live out my corporate software engineer life in a tech city. I didn’t expect to like my job so much, and to genuinely believe that it makes me a better person. I’m forced to be less self-sufficient and trust other people to help me through what I can’t do alone. I have to work in a team, and accept my own mistakes and failings along with those of other people. I have to show up every work day and do my best over weeks and weeks of working on the same project. I’ve got to believe that I belong in tech, no matter what it is that I’m learning that day and no matter what is going to happen the next day.
I’m excited about who I am now. I have an easier time making small talk, making friends, and being confident about myself even when I don’t know what I’m doing yet. I’ve got direction, and enough time and energy to course correct when it feels like I’m straying from what makes sense to me. I don’t run away from my problems even when they are scary.
Some of those said problems are a little urgent though. First of all, my fatigue is still there, dragging me down after any social hangout or mildly taxing activity in my day. This morning I had brunch with a friend and a few of his friends. We walked around a little and then I went home. I ended up needing a 4 hour nap and a quiet evening to recover. Mall browsing and grocery runs are fun – but are they really all I can handle any given weekend night? I know this isn’t normal. But like mild depression, it is hard to characterize and eliminate.
Second, I have yet to come out as queer publicly online. My parents know. My friends know, and in person, I don’t try to hide it all (though it doesn’t come up often). I have a rainbow flag on my twitter page. But on facebook? On a website that people from my past actually use? No. This blog is fine, no one reads it. But I need to be seen and I need to be able to do it without being scared that my parents will implode, and in turn wreck my life for a year or something.
Well, I’ve got time. Maybe not as much time as I think I do in my twenties, but enough that I don’t need to run around like I’m on fire like I did in college.
I’ll be 24 in December. I’m feeling quite ready for it.