One thing I like about my day job is that there is frequently leftover cake in the fridge. Whether it’s from an office birthday or a closing night reception, a big box of cake sits there for a good week after the event. Tempting me.
And I don’t even like cake. I don’t like cake, but I still eat it. My life is a series of contrasts.
Because I’m not cool.
I went to Bakersfield with my mother recently the weekend after my birthday (long story) and ended up at a cowboy bar and a couple dive bars on a Saturday night with her, her friend Cindy and Cindy’s two girls who are my age-ish and who I used to go to girl scouts with when we were little. Around 11:30pm, my mom is talking about getting a nose ring, because she always talks about getting a nose ring, and we point her in the direction of a tattoo parlor that’s still open. There we are, in downtown Bakersfield, music bumping out of bars, greasy guys wandering down the closed-off streets, a lump of cowboy bar-style microwave pizza at the pit of my stomach, and my mom’s too nervous to get a nose ring so I tell her, sure Mom, I’ll get one with you.
I back out at the last minute of course, because I never intended to get one. Lying was the only way to get her to face her fear and get what she wanted.
And then of course she says I chickened out.
I take pictures of her during the process and it looks cute and she can’t talk about anything but the nose ring the whole car ride back to the apartment and the whole car ride back to LA. But I’m a chicken. And I’m supremely not cool. Not as cool as my mom.
I’m a chicken for pretending to want and then backing out of something I never wanted to begin with. I thought about it while we waited (a long while) and thought, well, maybe it would be fun to have a nose ring. Something unexpected, right? But no – a little too much hassle for something that wasn’t on my radar. I’d rather get a tattoo. But I’d need to plan that out more because a tattoo is permanent. And more painful.
So is that bravery or cowardice?
Because I’m 29 and still do not own a proper professional outfit for a job interview, jury duty, or fancy board meeting at the theoretical country club all rich people go to, rich people who might, someday, want to give me money for some of my writing.
I’m not yet the person I should be. I think. I look at my closet and I see a mishmash of clothing of a confused wannabe hipster fraud who is having a severe fashion panic attack due to her weight gain and denial that leggings are not, indeed, appropriate for every situation. This is a superficial example, yes, but it spills into all areas of my life. What sort of identity am I supposed to put together with this hodge-podge of materials and a crippling weight of societal and self-imposed expectations? Am I wearing that sweater because I like it, it’s comfortable, it feels like me, or am I wearing the sweater because it’s the only thing I know I’m comfortable in and I’m afraid to put something else on in case it’s vastly uncomfortable and accentuates all my little imperfections and I have to stand there, before the mirror, and face what that looks like?
Is it confusion or avoidance?
Because someone else had already made the awkward cut in the middle, away from the crusted, stale edges.
I’m an opportunist when it comes to food. If only I were like that with, you know, real opportunities that, you know, mattered.
Is that laziness or seizing the day?
Because I was hungry.
In the end, I’m very hungry. Literally, probably, yes, but metaphorically here. I just turned 29 and while I feel more accustomed to who I am and what this life might mean, I’ve not yet fallen into a comfortable sense of self. Perhaps you never should – it’s one of my biggest fears, to get too comfortable and stop growing and evolving. I’m hungry for more.
I made a 30 Things To Do Before I’m 30 list because, you know, when I start to freak out, I make lists. I feel like, if I make it to the end of the list and really do all those things in less than 12 months, then maybe I’ll be closer to that version of me I always thought I should be.
And if not, there’s always the cake.
Is that an impulse control problem, or, maybe, do we all just need a little bit of sweetness, a little kindness to ourselves, so we have a little more drive to get through the day?
Maybe next time I’ll spring for pancakes instead.