Right now I’m drinking cold brew coffee with a splash of vanilla almond milk and a squirt of agave nectar and this bonkers-ass sentence is brought to you by This Is Not The Life I Thought I’d Get.
Sometimes I find myself in a completely unfamiliar place, surrounded by everything I know and with which I’m incredibly well-acquainted. I look around with that loose, looking-at-a-Magic-Eye-gaze and a slightly open mouth that no one can see behind a homemade face mask* and think damn is this real life? and David Byrne starts playing in the background somehow and I have to sort of concentrate my way back into reality.
This skepticism with The World Around Me is so multilayered that if I think about it too hard my brain would end up in a Very Weird place but I think I can break it down into a few simple examples that we’ve all shared – or could possibly share? – at some point in our lives.
1. My toothbrush runs on batteries. Batteries power my toothbrush. I turn it ON. If my great-grandpa rose himself up out of the Missouri bootheel dirt he’s buried in and we were chatting and our conversation naturally veered toward our dental health and I told him that my toothbrush needed new batteries he, too, would probably glaze over and start humming “Once in a Lifetime.” My point here is this: a helluva lot that we take for granted is, objectively, nonsensical in the right context.
2. I am not an astronaut. I didn’t even come close to being an astronaut. 13-year-old Julie was obsessed with space. My career goal for a short but intense period of time was to be part of the space program. It was such an obvious career path that my awful grades in math and lack of hand-eye coordination failed to raise any red flags in my adolescent mind. My point here is this: what was once so obvious as true becomes obviously false in no time at all. Same as it ever was.
3. I’ve served people food while wearing inline skates. I’ve edited a newspaper. I’ve been enrolled in a doctoral program. I have unintentionally reinvented myself more than once. My point here is this: I sometimes forget that the hard stop that sometimes occurs between Life Stages doesn’t erase what was before. I forget that I have a Master’s degree. I forget that I chaperoned a trip to Shreveport, Louisiana once. I forget that I was fired from my high school newspaper for failing to turn in articles on time (Yeah, I didn’t “lose the disk it was on.” I never wrote it. Glad to get that one off my chest). My god, what have I done?
Whether you very suddenly realize that your existence is absurd and all this is likely just a large-scale simulation or you find yourself reminiscing about how your past self imagined yourself reminiscing, my point here is this: none of us are living the life we thought we’d live. It’s impossible to. The inanity of Life, with its 180 degree twists and turns, the ebb and flow of careers, friends, lovers, hobbies – that’s what got us here. Not our expectations, predictions or fanciful daydreams.
Suck on that through an illegal plastic straw for a bit.
*”Homemade” as in “I paid** my friend’s mom money to sew them on her machine, not “homemade” as in “I taped page 7 of the LL Bean catalog across my face.”
**”Paid” as in “Magically transmitted money from my cell phone to her cell phone via an app and a technological process that I still do not completely trust and probably never will.”