It’s five o’clock on a Wednesday evening, and I’m driving home to my parent’s house. I’m nearing 26, and I live at home. Every time I think of it, it makes me sick. I don’t feel ill at the thought of seeing my parents. No, I feel nauseous at the thought of an empty adulthood looming before me.
It’s five o’clock on a Wednesday evening in September. I’m almost 26. I live at home. I have a ridiculous and boring life. Every day, I stare at a computer screen and pretend to be busy. Every boy I date starts out by asking what I do for fun, and I want to yell at him across the table of whatever hole-in-the-wall restaurant they have chosen to impress my quirky sensibility, “Fun? What do I do for fun? Why do you think I’m dating!?! My life is boring, and I expect you to perk it up a bit. What do I do for fun? I have no idea.” Instead, I spew forth my regular assortment of hobbies. I cook. I dance, but not in any choreographed way. I take long walks with my dogs.
I have such a long list of things that only barely entertain me that I inevitably leave off one or two of the few things that genuinely capture my attention. The boy across the table, probably wearing a polo shirt, and also probably wearing glasses, will then detail his own life, and suddenly, I’ll realize that we have an interest in common. “Hiking?! I love hiking, too,” except now it sounds like a desperate plea for a second date instead of the full-blown interest it actually is. Again, I want to shout at the poor guy, “Oh, fun!? I didn’t realize you meant actual fun. Oh, for fun, I go hiking. I love to hike. I love to smell the flowers, feel the heat, swat at the bugs. Really, I love it. I just wish I could find someone to go with me.” Instead, what comes out is, “Oh, yeah, I like to hike to. I forgot.” And I sound like a ditz. The smart girl inside of me cringes, and the smart guy across the table visibly attempts to stop his eyes from rolling. Usually, he’s successful.
It’s five o’clock on a Wednesday evening, and oddly enough, I’m looking forward to an evening spent preparing for tomorrow’s dinner. I found a recipe today for a cake that requires advance preparation. Luckily, it’s a cake made out of crepes, so I can pass it off as a family dinner. I’ve taken to cooking for my family at least once a week. It’s my feeble attempt to prepare for my married life, whenever that should finally get around to happening.
At five o’clock on a Wednesday evening in September, I don’t turn the air conditioning on in my car, because I like the feel of the warm sun on my bare arms. I have always loved that first moment in a hot car after hours spent in a building full of cold, canned air. Luckily, my office and its regular use of air conditioning allows me the opportunity to retain this childhood fascination with a hot car.
The fifteen minute drive back to my parents’ house gives me just enough time to listen to some music and get over hating my job. Well, get over the concept of hating my job, because I don’t really hate my job. Rather, I hate that it isn’t another job, the job I actually want, deserve, and for which I have been educated and trained. But then, I’ve always had a problem accepting my lot in life, not that I do anything about it. Each day, when I make this drive, I somehow manage to convince myself simultaneously of the facts that I have screwed up my life and that I can do nothing to fix it.
Did I mention that I am 25, live at home, cannot afford to move anywhere, have no boyfriend and am incredibly boring and bored? Of course, anyone with an ounce of intelligence could have figured out the last two long before this point.
Today, I spent about half an hour looking at apartments on Craigslist. I look at apartments in my state, in New York City and in Washington, D.C. During that half an hour, I reassured myself that life is no better anywhere else. That I can no sooner afford to live in my hometown than I can on the East Coast. I did not look at apartments in Boston, because I’ve already lived in Boston, and no one wants to see me repeat that mistake.
Yes, all of this goes through my mind in the fifteen measly minutes I have to myself after I leave work and before I pull into my driveway and begin the quarter-lifer’s version of the second-shift. I don’t have kids to care for, nor do I really have dinner to make (that’s a volunteer job). What I do have to do is put on a happy face for my parents, feed my pets and try not to make my mother cry.
In the time it takes to walk from my now-air-conditioning-cooled sedan to the ice-box cool house, I have tried to wash out of my mind the questions, statements and concerns that will bring tears to her eyes. I vow to avoid talking of moving out, of the collapse of my most recent romantic interlude, of finding a new job, of anything that even remotely relates to getting on with my life.