Who We Were
Time flies by. Life brings a lot with it. Would you do it again if you knew how hard it would be?
We were in our early twenties when we started our adventure. Penniless. The only things in our pockets were our dreams. They were the best of times.
A lot can change in two years. I’ve been thinking about what’s happened over the course of my last two and half years. And it can be a little painful to think back over your life because of all the things you would do differently if you had the chance. It’s something called perspective. And since I’m almost twenty-five, I think I’ve been getting a lot more of that than I used to have. I’ve also grown more cautious in a way. Getting older is supposed to do that to you –make you more cautious. As you reach twenty-five, your prefrontal cortex is supposed to develop and sort of settle who you are as a person. It also make you more cautious.
Sometimes, making big leaps in your personal life requires you to lack caution. They require you to throw caution to the wind, as it were, and learn a new sort of way of living. Living without fear.
You can be baptized into this new way of living, without fear, if you choose rightly. If you gamble what you have on the right thing, the right person, the right choice, you can live as if without fear.
I was reading about Mark Twain’s adventures in the west when I was twenty-one. I couldn’t wait to go back to California to have my next big adventure. And I was hell bent on finding what that adventure was going to be –applying to every internship I could find. Someone told me that if you’re likely to get a job after college, it’ll only be because you had an internship. I don’t know if I’d agree with what that someone said given what I know now. And that internship, while it did teach me something, didn’t help much in getting me any sort of employment after graduating. The only thing that got me employment was tenacity on my part. Nobody cared that the summer between my junior and senior year was spent somewhere halfway between my job managing the local aquatics center and in a Victorian house in San Francisco writing magazine articles for a womens’ fashion magazine.
In college I wrote my thesis on Oscar Wilde. He was always a favorite of mine and I believe that he also wrote for a womens' fashion magazine as one of his first jobs in order to be gainfully employed while he self published a few of his poems. So I guess he and I have that in common, only I wasn’t even paid for my internship. It was an unpaid internship working a few hours a week doing the kind of journalism that almost nobody currently makes a living doing. Still, it was just the kind of Mark Twainian adventure I was looking for –being back in the West, in San Francisco –the city I had yet to really discover as a young adult on account of being away for so long at college –writing. I couldn’t wait to say goodbye to the boring gray skies of the East and head home for the summer and see my golden hills once again.
Something else happened when I was twenty-one. I got engaged. Probably not the smartest idea. I didn’t have a job. I was studying English at a school with a small alumni network. And I had not significant professional working experience apart from hosing down buses and cleaning out my professors’ trash bins. Thank God that when you’re twenty-one, how smart an idea is doesn’t really factor into whether or not you follow through with it.
While working for the magazine, the biggest thing I probably realized about myself was that I wasn’t particularly good at writing. My writing genius, at any rate, was horribly unreliable, and actually, after my entire summer there and several different stories that I wrote, only about two pieces were ever even published. Still, almost overnight, I had become an internationally published writer. Internationally published, and internationally unpaid.
My fiance wasn’t too worried about it from what I could tell. We would be spending my senior year of college apart, and we thought about what life would be like when we got married. It seemed a grand, impossible adventure. I wonder if a part of us wondered if it would actually work out. Despite how horribly worried I was at the idea of making it in the real world, I was glad that she could pick up wedding magazines at Barnes & Noble because it made her happy. And it made me happy watching her flip through the magazines and dream about her wedding day. She was only twenty at the time.
So I left home on my own again, and flew across the country to try and finish my last year of school in time for my wedding which would be only three weeks after graduation.
It’s good that I wasn’t married during that school year because I wouldn’t have had time for it. A full course load, a senior thesis, and two part time jobs made me a very busy man. Not to mention five hours of Muay Thai kick boxing a week and an active social life. I was packed to the brim. That only got worse when the job hunting began, sending countless resumes a day and taking sometimes as many as three calls a day to do interviews trying to find the right fit –that fit being a company that wanted to invest in a young college grad with very little experience who hadn’t actually even graduated college and wouldn’t be available to work for a few months yet. Oh, and also he didn’t know where his physical location would be either, once he graduated. It was a pretty hard sell that turned out to be impossible.
The school year did eventually end and I passed Spanish (okay, the teacher cut me some slack). And I still didn’t have any idea about what I was actually going to be doing for a job once I was married. I didn’t know where in the country we would go. Presumably, it wouldn’t be home in the Bay Area. The Bay Area was too competitive, too expensive, and I’d been away too long at this point to have any real connections there any longer.
So, despite my interviews, resume submissions, and constant work ethic, I found myself graduating college with no job (I got offered one single job working in Rome but had to decline because they wanted a single person. Go figure).
I landed my first client a few weeks later, in the Silicon Valley California, on the day of my wedding rehearsal. I was late because of my meeting. I was horrified that I would be getting married and still have no job, no real way of supporting either of us. Where would we go? Where would we live? How would we live? We didn’t know. And when it came time for the wedding, I don’t think we cared much anymore. Suddenly, for the first time in my life, I was truly free. There were zero bills to pay. No tests to take. No college to go to once the summer was over. Me and my now new wife (she was twenty-one I was twenty-two when we got married) had the whole world at our fingertips, and no idea what our life would look like together a week from any given day.
The days of the honeymoon lasted forever. But as they came to a close, the realization that we had nowhere to go, and would have to rely on the generosity of others until we had somewhere to go, began to settle in. So we packed up our bags, and despite my desire to continue moving, to keep traveling, my new wife wanted to head home. She’d heard of a new job possibility for herself, and I had more interviews to go to. So we didn’t keep heading down the road rehashing every great American road story ever told. We went home –to the Bay Area –and started writing our own.
We came home and were welcomed kindly by family and friends. The usual recent college graduate comments were there, including worried family members trying to get you to take job offers that you knew weren’t a good fit for you. I was doubtful, still, that I could pull our future together, and that what we hoped was only a short family visit wouldn’t turn into a never ending loop. I kept doing what I knew how to do. I kept writing. I still wasn’t very good at it. But as I had been paid to write during my senior year of college at one of my jobs, I was now getting paid even more by my one and only client, so that felt pretty good. I worked tirelessly on those articles, and didn’t lose hope that we would figure things out –that we would find a way to make enough money to move out on our own, and start that life we dreamed about.
It’s funny how in life we worry so much about things and then, more often than not, those things we worried so much about end up turning out okay. I think it’s important though not to let that worry bother you so deeply that you can’t enjoy all the things that are going on in your life that are so much more worth your time. No amount of work can create the kind of moments and memories that two young adventurers in love can have together, just finding their way through life and on occasion, the great outdoors.
Yes, I got offered a job shortly after our return home. Yes that job turned into another job, and that client turned into another client and so-on. And that’s all great. But when I look through my garbled memories of these last few years, now that I’m less than two months away from turning twenty-five, I wish to carefully put away the memories of my work and see instead the memories of my wife. I wish I could relive every moment again, and my only consolation over those memories having passed is that new moments will persist for years to come. It’s a painfully wonderful thing.
Somehow, two and half years have passed since we got married. We’re well into our careers now, doing what we always hoped to be doing. But that doesn’t really matter. I think back about how it was that day we were on Pebble Beach in Tahoe without jobs, with only dreams in our pockets. I want to go back to those days. Because every day leads to another adventure –and it’s only better because of who you are with. I have countless happy memories that I wouldn’t have had if I’d taken a safer approach to my life. I’d have missed out on so much if I hadn’t been naive enough to think I knew what I was doing with my life when I was twenty-one years old and making the biggest decision a person of any age can make. I wish every twenty-one year old in the world had the heart that I had when I was that age, and the dreams. I’m hoping that as I turn twenty-five, maybe I can find a way to be more like that twenty-one year old again. And that everything can continue to be an adventure the way it always has been –and that comfort won’t fool me into being less daring. I want to find the courage to take those leaps again that I once took. Out into the unknown, though, never alone.