I need my blog to not be a manifesto of the aimlessness of my mid-20s. I tweeted something to this effect the other day because I could feel the negativity pulling me downward and turning everything I wanted to write into extended essays on how and why my life sucks. That’s not my intention with starting this blog, which I’ve created to document my year as a graduate student in the UK, beginning with the months of preparation leading up to it. It stems from the simple fact that I regret not writing more about my time abroad as an undergraduate. Although it’s nice, in a way, to keep some memories to yourself, to have some part of your life secret and private, there are times when I wish I had a clearer picture of what it was really like.
I also have a tendency to remember things along some sort of artistic line — through a song, say, or through a photograph. These are more than memories or projections; these are the manifestations of a feeling and a sentiment, of a place, of a person. A face. An accent. A street. In this way The Verve’s A Northern Soul is not just an album I listened to a lot while I was in Brighton; it’s North Street. The bank I used to pass, with the one stone where young men (presumably) had scribbled in permanent marker “we are the mods” — the history of the Mods & Rockers that I wasn’t even there to see, the search for Quadrophenia Alley — the Subway I would pass that did not smell like any Subway in the United States. The concrete jungle lack of charm of this particular area, the darted runs across the street ahead of the buses. The music doesn’t conjure these memories; it is these memories.
I’ve kept journals of some sort for as long as I can remember, with varying degrees of success. I’m past the phase now where I feel the need to recount minute-by-minute what I’ve done with my day. It makes for a tedious read, and it doesn’t do much in the end to convey feelings. Some people never want to talk about how they feel; I’m the opposite. I’m rather an open book, one could say. I’m fair to bursting with the need to always express how I feel and to search — and, yes, sometimes pry into — others so that I understand how they feel. I don’t want to get up in the morning and write, “Okay, I got up at 9:08AM, popped into the shower, went to class.”
What I do want, what I need, is that space to let people into my life, at least a little bit. I’m not vain enough to imagine that many people will care too terribly much, or to imagine that my feelings are so important that everyone who stumbles across this blog will want that access to them, however limited or free with my thoughts I may be. As I reach a break in this whole process (with my loan application being a bit stalled), I have more time to ponder what these changes mean for me and for others. I’ve always been one to believe in education for education’s sake, but my inability to provide a ready-made answer to the question, “What do you wish to do with Social Anthropology?” has left me not a little frustrated. I understand that I need to have a purpose, to have plans, and sometimes, yes, it worries me that the longer I’m out of college, the longer I live on my own, experience life in all its ups and downs, the less sure I am of myself and my goals. I’m left with one intangible end: to be happy. How to make myself happy, whether it involves a relationship, a family, a certain job, a certain lifestyle, is beyond me. But I know what I don’t want. And maybe it’s through all these negative experiences and interactions that I will come to have a better understanding.
I don’t have an end game beyond that. I don’t have a life plan, nor should I — after all, I am only 24. I only know certain truths: that I wake up every morning in the comfort of my bed in a safe neighbourhood in a wealthy county in Northern Virginia. That I get in my car or I get on the train and I see the wealth everywhere. I get off in Bethesda, in another wealthy county, and I go into my 12-story building. I call it “yuppieville” sometimes fondly, but often with resentment. I see the Lexus, the Mercedes, the expensive suit. I don’t need any of that — I don’t want it. I don’t want to sit in an office at an occupation I do not like, let alone love, passing people on the street discussing their utterly middle-class existence. It’s not that everyone I meet is like this; it’s not that DC doesn’t have other options. But I feel stifled, every day that I spend in this environment, and I know — in the long run — that it’s not for me. Is it the city? The residents? The proximity to wealth and governing bodies? The job?
Suppose I look back in a year and ever wonder why I was so obsessed with figuring everything out — will I feel foolish? There’s nothing revolutionary, after all, about being a young professional who doesn’t know what to do with one’s life. I can at least say with some surety that I’m implementing important changes, that I’m pushing myself to reach that elusive goal to be happy. If I figure it out… maybe you’ll know, maybe I’ll document it, maybe I’ll try to explain it. And maybe this will have been for naught, because it’s something I want to keep to myself, the source of so much feeling.