Last week, I was cutting my friend Tania’s hair and, per the code of playing hairdresser, we decided to talk about LIFE. A shit-ton of LIFE was going on around me and I really didn’t know what to do about it. Coincidentally, identical life-stuff was happening to Tania, so we figured some things out together.
Tania and I are both from Seattle and both in that weird limbo between childhood and adulthood that’s called your late teens. The place where you suddenly have to choose between the comfort of your family and the excitement of making your way in the world on your own. Tania’s parents had recently come to visit her for the weekend, and after they left she bawled on the BART train, because saying goodbye to parents is sad (and crying on public transportation is when you know you’re really sad). “In San Francisco, I have everything I need for me to be happy,” she told me, “but when my parents come, it’s like the whole picture is complete. I have everything in one place.” I responded with one million amens. I wish I could have it all too: to stay a kid in my family and fly the coop to chase after my life dreams. But I have to make a decision.
This decision is particularly urgent right now, because, like I mentioned last week, I was planning to stay in California for the summer, working and making art, then my mom told me that she wants/needs me to spend the summer with her instead. In our haircutting focus zone, Tania and I talked about our guilt over growing up. It’s like, right now we’re deciding whether to look at our lives through the lens of being a family member or the lens of an individual. And we risk hurting some feelings. Do our families expect us to return to our hometown after we graduate? A lot of people I grew up with are in that situation. After college they’ll likely return to the town they grew up in, pick up their lives there, and keep on going that way. I could do that pretty easily, but since this is ME we’re talking about, there’s a lot I want to do outside of those boundaries. I have a lot of dreams about tearing shit up all around the world that will never happen if I stay within my known version of life that includes my mom and the Seattle scene I’m used to. I know growing out of the daughter role may come easily to some people…but those people might not be friends with their moms like I am.
I’ll start my junior year of college this fall. I’ve already had two totally dismal summers at home waiting for school to start, when I was not productive or happy or very much fun. After two summers of fruitless creative employment and internship searches in my hometown that resulted in freelance jobs that weren’t very meaningful, I’m over it. I worked my ass off to find jobs in my areas of interest that never wanted me in Seattle, but here in Oakland, mostly because I have a network provided by my school, there is plenty of opportunity. That’s just the facts, for the specific kinds of things that I, specifically, am trying to accomplish. Seattle is settling. California is everything. That is the truth of my life, as it is, April 18, 2012.
My mom called me again, later on last week. I hadn’t talked to her since she unloaded all of the heaviness with regard to my summer decision. She seemed a lot calmer this time; she assured me that, with a little shifting around, she’d be OK without my presence at home this summer. She’d have to rent our house to make up the difference financially, but she can find somewhere temporary and comfortable to live until she makes her next move. There’s also the possibility that I could take my dog Sammy down here for the summer, which would unload about half of the guilt about not being with my family this summer. And also, AHHH MY DOG WOULD BE HERE!!!
I was so tormented over my decision all week. Then I put it in perspective: my mother just got a new job that she’s happy with, she’s in a committed relationship, she’s fine. She’s totally fine. We’re both fine! Things have been exponentially worse before! In fact, in many ways, for both of us, this is the best it has ever been. My family is, for better and worse, pretty experienced at getting through spots of financial insecurity. Houses change (and have done so eight times), priorities get modified, responsibilities shift. I’ll take on even more of them. But we can deal with it, one more time.
I know I can’t have everything, and that life isn’t meant to be complete when you’re 19. Everybody is sacrificing something here; and to create my autonomous life, I have to redefine my role as a daughter. You know how most of my diaries so far have been about how kickass my life is? And how HAPPY I am doing what I LOVE? Well, I was repressing some of the realities entailed by growing into that happiness, things I knew in the back of my mind but was scared to acknowledge, to you or myself. Living the dream still = LIVING, and living = LIFE, and LIFE = UNFAIR and HARD, sometimes. But these problems are side effects of dream-chasin’ and maturity-gainin’, and I don’t want to complain. Just to explain. It’s not easy. It can get very sad sometimes. I can’t fully live this life while maintaining my former one. Adapt and keep trying is all I can do. ♦