Tag Archives: post-grad life

On post-grad doubts and newfound permanence

Des MoinesA bulk of my friends will graduate from college in May; they’re buzzing with talk of trips, abroad experiences, new cities, new worlds, uncertain everything, practically. Meanwhile, I’ve been meditating on what it means to stay put. To establish a self in one place: Des Moines.

There’s something about travel that compels me to capture everything, whether in photo form or in writing. I re-read all the emails I sent my family from Turkey in January 2014. Without warning, the nagging misconception of life writing hit me, one I’ve long fought: “Nothing exciting ever happens to you. Who would want to read about your life, especially now?”

Well before I studied life writing, I believed my own world too boring, too mundane to be worthwhile in writing. Yet in the natural transience of college — the organization-sponsored trips, the yearly move to some new room or apartment, the (near) necessity of study abroad — even my routine world felt exciting. I’m finally realizing college Taylor cheerfully doled out that nice, little nugget of advice but never really experienced it.

801 GrandHere I am, though, battling my own writing philosophy.

I’m experiencing permanence in new, riveting, frightening clarity every day. I ordered checks with my big-kid downtown address on them. I’m not thinking about where I’ll move at the start of the semester. My life no longer operates in five-month bursts of extreme stress followed by agonizing down time, one of the post-grad adjustments I hadn’t expected to struggle with so much.

And I’m honestly excited about all of it. But without the promise of some upcoming trip or move, I find myself wondering once again why I write about my life. If I’m “good enough” for it.

I never expected gaining more control in my life would fuel this menacing, pesky doubt regarding something I once considered a cornerstone, even a writing philosophy, as I mentioned earlier. It turns out you can exist in a permanent environment yet feel completely unmoored, betrayed by your own guiding force.

“Touristing in the motherland.” It’s a caption I like to write on Twitter with my latest wannabe-artsy photo of Des Moines, snapped typically on my late-night wandering in the city. I’m not traveling in the near future, but I’m making the effort to explore my home with the intent of discovering something new about me, about it, every time.

Capturing, say, the same building from different angles is a tangible, physical reminder that permanence and discovery aren’t exclusive. They coexist, and they’re worth capturing — whether in photography or writing.

Unpacking certainty and the self

Boxes pepper my childhood home, one in that room, two in the next, three in the other, stacked haphazardly, neither belonging nor entirely out of place. I can’t bring myself to unpack them. They’ve become, weirdly, an anchor in my life, in an era defined by change.

The boxes — each an amalgamation of stories and selves, priorities and mistakes — never move. A hodgepodge home for items nestled in the same unlikely jigsaw pattern.

Cardboard boxes bend, tear, rip, puncture. Typically a beacon of transience, of physical and psychological shifting, they’ve become my unexpected bulwark. The other day, I removed my Turkish prayer beads from their territory in one box. Immediately I had to put them back, to restore order in the one realm over which I have control and certainty.

I’m not sure where I’ll call home in a month, but for now, I’m sure the vanilla-scented pink prayer beads go between the jar of Turkey memorabilia and that novelty shot glass from two birthdays ago. Minute moments of certainty keep my overwhelming uncertainty at bay, at least for a little while.

In the past three months, change has pervaded my life, shattering a lifelong belief. “I like change,” I’ve proudly proclaimed up until now, touting my ability to move among cities, disciplines and languages (Arabic, anyone?) with grace.

Yet here I am, doubting what I considered an integral part of my being. Add turning 22, graduating from college, starting the best job ever in my favorite city in the world and moving back into my parents’ house, and every day begins to resemble a moderate existential crisis, an uprooting of my entire existence.

That’s why I like the boxes, why I sometimes wander into a room purely to admire their sameness.

Maybe, though, writing this entry is a step toward unpacking. With every sentence, every concession and admission, I unpack a bit of myself, realizing along the way that some notions, ideas and beliefs no longer fit — and that’s fine.

Finding comfort in fleeting moments of certainty

There are many things I don’t know. Where I’ll be working or living next month (well, I hope by next month, anyway). Why I can’t remember which section of Des Moines’ skywalk system is closed even though I trek through it four times a week. I don’t even know how to say, “I don’t know,” in Arabic (something that’s more useful than, say, my knowledge of the word for “peach”).

Amid all my post-grad angst and uncertainty, I find unexpected comfort in the things I know — the cerebral and the tangible. Moment to moment, I flip from extreme confidence to paralyzing fear. I capture the whole experience in writing, whether in my journal, here on my blog or on Twitter. There’s something intoxicating, dizzying, about capturing my identity as it exists, suspended in a single moment and mind — knowing I’ll never be there again.

For now, I’ll take a brief break from my uncertainties (for the next 300-some words, that is) and write about the things I know, some more existential than others.

I know all the words to the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” theme song, and I’m not talking about the mainstream version. I can rap the extended version, including the verse about sipping orange juice out of a champagne glass. “Ice Ice Baby” is next on my list, and I’ve already got the, “Yo, VIP, let’s kick it,” part down.

I know I’m a writer. Not an aspiring writer. Not a hopeful writer. A writer.

I know I’ll probably never be fluent in Arabic, but I’m going to keep learning it.

Thanks to Amy Poehler and her brilliant memoir, Yes Please, I know saying “no” should be the end of discussion, not the start of negotiation.

Fun fact: I know all the words to Kevin Gnapoor’s rap from “Mean Girls.” Whenever I need a pep talk, I turn to my favorite line: “All you sucka emcees ain’t got nothin’ on me, on my grades, on my lines. You can’t touch Kevin G.”

I know I don’t have to have my life figured out right now.