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Contrary to expectations….

December 31, 2009

For so long, my goal in life was to get from baseline survival to twenty five, with no standards or hopes for what twenty five would look like and no conception of who I wanted to be beyond twenty five.

I was a bright kid. Bright in a started-college-as-a-high-school-freshman type of way, bright and a little scattered and definitely still channeling my father’s belief that we, that is to say he and I, are brilliant and entitled.

The funny thing about having these feelings in a place where nobody goes farther than the next town’s gas station is that you learn to live with a kind of collectively-inspired savior complex. People expect things of you. All this changes when you get to somewhere else.

Rather than being the favored daughter of a community, you become uppity. You have a big head, you need to be put in your place, you are a bad egg. This is the thing that’s so confusing about the city. “Do well–” we are told, “but not too well.” In other words, never outshine a city boy.

Well, I outshone him. Or at least took his scholarship. Only in this case, he was a she and was beautiful and accomplished and charming. And I, awkward and ugly and already unbalanced and brilliant, won a scholarship that she coveted. She took me aside on the landing to the department building one day and told me magnanimously that it was fine that I won the scholarship. “After all,” she added, “you’ll be dead by the time you’re twenty five. People like you die young.”

And so it began — her words set off a panic that I only have five more years. I packed what I could into those five, continued to do things early and fast, and expected that I would drop dead or commit suicide by my twenty fifth birthday.

As you might guess, the birthday passed without event. But post expectations, I find myself trying to figure out how to fill this space that was filled by my anxiety over my own mortality. So here I am, not-dead and buying a suit and spray painting furniture, looking at my possibilities. I feel exceptionally and accidentally privileged.

Also bewildered.

Ed note: Originally posted December 19, 2009.

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