I spent a year writing a single project. I spent about two years involved in a long-distance romance, I learned just enough of chemistry to pass the class, and I’ve been hungover on a cruise in the Caribbean. Adulting is hard and being twenty-two in D.C., by far, is one of the hardest things I have ever done. Joined by the inconsistent presence of an unwelcome guest, Angst, however, turns the already difficult task of growing up into a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.
It would be too easy for there to be a manual or a how-to guide on adulting, but I know there is not a day that passes that I don’t wish for one. How do you pay taxes? Finance a car? What’s a carafe? I have all the typical questions a 22-year-old has that could just as easily be answered by Google as they could by my mother. But, there is no Google for the questions that she cannot answer. Who am I? Where am I going? What do I want to be doing in five years? I ask myself those questions often, but never come to any solutions. Without answers, I usually end up having to make room in my life for my “good friend,” Existential Angst.
Angst and I have been frenemies for quite a while–they love me; I hate them. But, every now and then, they come to visit and the span of time between visits is just long enough that we have to be reacquainted. (As such, I am fortunate enough to be able to say this most recent visit was a short one; I know it because I’m actually able to write about it.) Existential Angst is quite the dramatic name, but that is exactly what I have picked for them as we were never formally introduced; I just realized one day I had company for a much longer time than I was anticipating. I cannot say for sure when I found us sharing a life together. But, reflecting on my incredibly restless adolescence, I will simply say fourteen is when I first noticed, and I am still working on life with them in the Capital.
Washington, D.C. in the spring is quite the sight to behold. If you are anything like me and marvel at the sight of milk white azaleas variegated with purple suited for royalty, or find yourself particularly enthralled at the leaf of the not-quite-scarlet, not-quite-burgundy Japanese maple, you will find April and May in D.C. to truly be a spring awakening. How fitting is it then that I managed to rid myself of my infrequent houseguest, Angst, to write, right as the dogwoods started barking? Not just fitting, but relieving and lucky.
I love writing. These visits always mute me creatively, which tends to do a number on my confidence. Some days, it’s hard just to affirm my ability as is. Likening it to garden upkeep, cultivating a flowering or fruitful one is not an easy task. Pulling weeds is tedious and pruning branches often takes time I don’t always have (or don’t feel like I have). Though reassuring myself of my own skills I am sure is just a part of the territory of being 22 and probably well beyond, it is also very easy to grow tired of these tasks, especially reminding yourself, in spite of your thoughts, that you deserve your blessings.
I have learned a lot this year about sitting with my heavier emotions, turning into them, leaning into them. However you want to phrase it, I’ve learned that this kind of embrace is much more effective than shaming myself for feeling something that isn’t exactly positive. Obvious, I know, but consider how common it is for people to pretend they are fine when they’re clearly not. It takes a bit of unlearning. I don’t think I can count the times I have had to learn that refusing to acknowledge a problem does not do away with it. But, in these repetitive lessons, it was then that I learned to truly write. Every time I return to my childhood home, I read my journals filled with doodles, scribbles and crossed-out words, and every time I read them, I cringe. I am not the most perfect writer or artist, but I am much better now than at 14, much like I am much better now at dealing with Angst as a restless teen.
If you’re not as dramatic as I am, or merely a different type of dramatic, you might have a different name for your guest–writer’s block, lack of confidence, or perhaps even feeling fuzzy. As a writer, my inspiration and desire definitely ebb and flow. Getting a visit from my aforementioned friend while creatively constructing is something akin to snuffing out a candle as it burns bright; it is sudden, taking a little bit of time to adjust to the lack of light that once filled the room. For that, I’m thankful for screen backlighting, and even more thankful for growth. If I were to stop writing because of inconvenience, I would likely never get anything written. But sometimes, it is useful to write things that no eyes other than mine will ever lay upon. Sometimes I simply put words on paper or on a screen headed in no one direction, but instead venture wherever they very well please. In these moments, my house feels a little less crowded, and my garden feels a little bit greener.
It’s interesting to me how emotions, especially mine, can mirror the weather outside. It seems like the only days in which I feel like my world is ending is when there’s a storm rolling through, attempting to usher in the apocalypse. On days when it is 78 degrees, breezy, and sunny, I very much resemble the azaleas and maple trees I so admire, doing anything and everything I can to spend as much time fully flowering as I can. With every new bloom comes new life, pollination and germination. As much as I don’t want to admit it, I very much owe something to these flowers and to unwelcome visits from guests like Existential Angst. They have taught me that I am intaking light and growing. They have taught me that if you have something to say, you should say it, even if you don’t know how as chances are someone else needs to hear it. I have something to say. And, they have taught me about balance in life. The morning glory may thrive in the winter, but an orchid will die if it gets too much sun. The blooms and freezes of being 22 years old may not be as regularly scheduled as the revolutions of the Earth around the Sun, but I am excited to see what is birthed in this bloom, both internally and externally. I know Existential Angst will be back. They always comes back, attempting to block my light and my art. I accept that is what they do, but I would be doing myself and my writing a disservice if I didn’t stretch my vines to the Sun anyway.