Needing to feel something.
Wanting to feel numb.
At twenty-three, I have either become a walking contradiction, or I have always been one and am just now figuring out exactly how many contradictions are blended together within me. Some days I wake up, and getting out of bed sounds like the scariest thing in the world. I want to stay bundled up, snuggled deep inside my nest of blankets with the teddy bear I’ve held close since I was a little girl who waved backwards when saying goodbye. Other mornings come with watery sunlight spilling in stripes onto my pillows, and I feel like the universe is tugging at me from the inside out. Suddenly, I cannot wait to press the soles of my feet to the floor and begin a new day.
People scoff when they hear the phrase “quarter-life crisis.” What crisis? I’m young, I just graduated college! I have the entire world at my fingertips! Don’t I feel invincible? Aren’t I ready to take everything I’ve learned in the first two decades of my life and change the world? Certainly, at what is meant to be the most life-changing time of my life, I don’t feel like I’m experiencing a real crisis? Surely, I must be invigorated!
I am. But I am so much more, too.
In my body it feels like electricity sparking through my limbs and overheating my circuitry. It feels like sweaty palms and fingers fidgeting with my jewelry until my fingertips smell like metal. It feels like butterflies that don’t belong here but blossom in my tummy anyway and never sleep, nerves that have no place, no reason, no origin. I want to run, hard, until my body screams and I’m spent. I want to swing at an Everlast bag the way Sandra Bullock does in Miss Congeniality, but without the boxing gloves so I can see my knuckles turn pink and feel crescent indents in my palms.
In my head it sounds like constant doubt, constant reassurance followed by more of the former. Am I settling? Am I not challenging myself enough? No, I’m not settling, I’m right where I should be. I’m challenging myself every day… aren’t I? I’m okay, right? It could all be worse, couldn’t it? I’m actually doing great, I’m not giving myself enough credit… or maybe I’m giving myself too much credit, maybe I need some new perspective, maybe I should just get over myself. Maybe I’m failing. Maybe I’m succeeding. Maybe I just don’t know where I am right now. Maybe I’m supposed to know. Maybe I’m not. Maybe I shouldn’t think so much. Maybe I’m not thinking enough.
This is when I feel everything. This is when I wish I felt numb, before my head implodes, before my rib cage shatters, before I scream so hard my face turns crimson.
There are some days when I never wake up. Days when I just go through the motions with my eyes half closed, with my spirit hiding at the end of some hallway somewhere in my head, refusing to stretch, refusing to take up space and be bright. I turn my face toward gray skies and wish for a downpour, wish for rain to fall in sheets and soak me completely through, wish for thunder to shake my bones, wonder what it would be like if I became a human lightning rod. I stare at my bedroom ceiling and count the firework patterns crafted out of white paint; I let the silence drown me for a while and I feel like nothing else exists on the other side of my apartment walls.
This is when I feel nothing. This is when I need to feel something, before I break apart, before I vanish into thin air because sometimes it feels like I am a whisper of myself that could evaporate in a blink.
A quarter-life crisis feels like having everything sorted and having nothing together at the same time. It feels like moments of brilliance followed by moments of turmoil. It’s made up of frustration and confusion and self-doubt and laughter and nonchalance and deep breaths and sparkling eyes. It’s like holding a handful of sand and squeezing tight to keep every grain, but losing some anyway and not being able to do anything about it because that’s just how it works. I feel invincible, but I’ve also never felt more vulnerable in my life. I am excited to go out and change the world, but I’m also terrified because I am only one person with what some would consider to be modest dreams at best. I am absolutely invigorated, but I’m a little freaked out, too, and sometimes I just have to feel freaked out.
I am learning that all of this is okay.
I am a walking contradiction – but isn’t everyone? A quarter-life crisis could just as easily be a thirtysomething crisis, a mid-life crisis, a crisis that comes at the end of one’s life when they suddenly feel like they’ve missed too many chances, not taken enough risks. These emotions and sensations are not unique to me, nor are they unique to any single individual. Even the most put-together people have experienced these feelings at some point in their life, even if they never speak a word about it to anyone.
I have experienced overwhelming joy and outrageous panic in the same day. I have fiercely envied the social media highlight reels of friends while simultaneously sharing my own celebrations on my own dashboards. I have embraced my independence in one moment, and I have broken down in tears out of pure loneliness in another moment. I have overanalyzed how I may stack up against my peers, and I have repeatedly acknowledged the fact that every path is different. In the last six months, I have handwritten, quietly whispered, fervently declared, and silently reminded myself everything is going to be okay thousands of times, if only to feel like I have some grasp on reality.
In the end, feeling everything or nothing at all – even feeling numb – is reassurance that I am human. In the end, a quarter-life crisis is just one human relearning how to trust life’s process.