Friday, February 25, 2005


I've continued to kick around these ideas, and I am sure that I will continue to do so for a long time. One of the words that I keep returning to is "success." At a different time in my life, I used academics as a large part of how I defined success. In high school, academic success was the path to the ultimate prize - entrance to a good college.

When I realized that I might not actually get into THE school I had set my eyes on, I crumpled. Having learned a little from that experience, I was more laid back in college. I didn't know just what I wanted at "the end", so I enjoyed the ride. I cultivated aspects of my life beyond the classroom and organized sports. I got involved in a very cool non-profit, I formed amazing friendships, I got to know a city, I took up running, I worked, and I fell in love. At the same time, classes were engaging, my peers stimulating, the professors excellent and good grades followed. Academic performance continued to provide ample personal satisfaction, and the recognition allowed me to stamp my resume with something that could quickly signal to potential employers that I had a brain.

But as you wise readers know, GPA doesn't get you very far outside Ivy-covered walls. This has left me with more room than ever to rethink and refine success. Being the person I am, I like to have goals, things to look forward to, things that present challenges, things that expand me. In fact, right now I'm looking at the possibility of hopping back into academia where I could comfortably fall back on defining success by the grades I get, but that definition seems flat now. Likewise the idea of busting through some glass ceiling. This doesn't have to mean that I'm less ambitious or high-achieving. I would like to feel that I'm accomplishing something in the world professionally and engaging in and enjoying the process - but that doesn't have to mean being the top of the class, or climbing the corporate ladder fastest. As opposed to "recognition" or "riches",I think my definition of success is starting to resonnate more harmoniously with the word "richness" - as in depth and dimension.

That said, it's still tempting and easy to fall back on the quantifiable ways of characterizing success. In writing this, I suppose that one of my hopes is that as I continue to roll these ideas around in my head, I gradually smooth some new grooves of thinking about success that are more in tune with what I'm seeking in LIFE.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Southern Living

When I was little, spring’s arrival was heralded by the arrival of purple and yellow in a patch of the front yard. In the days leading up to their bloom, my dad would get me out of bed in the morning with an update on the crocus growth “come look, their shoots poking up through the dead leaves and snow” – and up I would hop, eager to confirm with my own eyes. Of course, this happened in April (and yes, sometimes there was still snow on the ground) – not February!

Having migrated down the east coast over the past seven years, I now find myself in a place where the daffodils are already blooming, the crocuses are up, and the pansies --- well, I’m not sure they ever even died. Apparently, pansies are a “winter flower” --- a term I had previously defined as exotic flowers grown in warm, sweaty greenhouses while the snow fell outside. But today, it IS snowing. The pansies, crocuses, and daffodils are all dusted in white, but best of all, work is closing early. Maybe there are some benefits to living in a place where the flowers come up too early and the city budget doesn’t include snow plows.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Personal Cacophony

The other day, my friend D. was talking about a workshop she attended where all of the participants had to say what they were most proud of accomplishing in the last year. She said that some of the women there said they were most proud of something relating to their families. Yeah, I thought to myself, no surprise, and well they should be proud. Raising children, continuing to develop a relationship with your partner --- neither of those are any small thing. But.

D. was most proud of having established a successful collaborative between three non-profit agencies in Paraguay. Wow.

After parting ways with D., I spent the rest of the evening brooding over what I was most proud of accomplishing in the past year. The things that most readily came to mind all fell under the "personal" category – in particular the growth of my relationship with my boyfriend, and a relatively successful transition to a new city. But these answers didn't satisfy me; they just intensified the brooding. What have I accomplished professionally? The question is still echoing in my head and getting louder with each reverberation.

It's duly noted that I'm creating separate, artificial categories: personal and professional (as if there aren't a million ways that these all overlap and intertwine), but I'd say this particular dichotomy is pretty pervasive in our society, and if not in our society, then at least in my current framework. My generation, or at least I have gotten the message that you can't be stellar at BOTH your professional and your personal life – nope, something has to give. Why, just look at those women who focused so hard on their career and neglected their eggs. Now that they want to have children…well, good luck with that IVF treatment. Oh, and those women who tried to both have a high-powered career AND raise children at the same time, did you enjoy the ride – can you even remember any of it considering how sleep deprived you were? How high are your child's shrink bills? Of course, there is another option – being a mom sans career outside of the home.

I've bought in. I've already raised my hands in defeat. I won't blast through any glass ceilings AND be able to nurture children the way that I would like to.

I pay a lot of lip service to how much I value family over all else. Wanting to live close to my family, very real. Admiring women who are stay-at-home moms, also true. But I also remember the reaction I received in college when I told one of the women (who to this day remains a close friend) that ultimately the thing I could most clearly see myself doing – what I most aspired to -- was being a mother, either with or without a career. There was an uneasy silence, and then began the probing questions…

So the frustration that I felt, being most proud of things I've accomplished in my personal life, where does that leave me?

It's an awkward confrontation between what I value (family), and self-conception (I AM a high-achieving go-getter who should want to not just play the game, but win it). I've grown comfortable with this self-characterization, and my frustration about not being proud of anything I've done professionally has me itching to dust off that piece of the puzzle.

Yet the dissonance that I'm feeling has me questioning whether perhaps I've outgrown some of the ways I define who I am.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Silver and Gold

I've managed to keep up with three friends from my childhood; our shared experiences and the association with home has kept us connected as the intensity of each relationship has waxed and waned over the years.

When I left home, it was to attend an all women's college (more on that later I assure you), and the friendships I made there are far more meaningful than my diploma. But, as is the way with ambitious college friends, we've scattered to the winds in search of career, love (being a women's college, romance was a little scarce), adventure and all that post-college life has to offer. My first year in "the real world", my closest friends were living in Burkina Faso, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Philadelphia, Portland, Berkeley, and Boston. None had land in New York where I was fumbling along.

So I made some new friends - which, by the way, is a completely different experience once you venture outside student orientations, shared dorm rooms, sports teams, and class periods. Unlike in college, everyone has her LIFE already -- things outside of your shared experiences, things that can both enrich the friendship but which can also make it harder to find mutual time to spend together or mutual energy to invest in tending the relationship. In any case, I developed a network of a lot of social buddies, and a few closer buddies.

After moving to a new city this fall, it was both exciting and unsettling to leave the network I'd built and cast the net again. There were a few people who I was acquainted with, and one from second grade who I hadn't seen in years. Last night, I spent time with A. and M., two of the "acquaintances". Because I've been here a mere 6 mos., our friendship still has that new feel to it. Yet last night, I found myself blathering on to them about things that just a day earlier I hadn't felt I could talk to anyone about. It wasn't the wine. It was the way that they listened.

I've never liked the saying "make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold", and last night, when these women, these "new friends", shone through in 24 karat brilliance, was a perfect example of why.

Saturday, February 19, 2005


Last night, I attended a performance by the Martha Graham Dance Company. Since I'm not very well versed in modern dance, I relied on the program to inform me. I learned that Martha Graham's dance and choreography were all about "exposing the depths of human emotion through movements that were sharp, angular, jagged, and direct."

Watching the dancers use every single sinewy muscle and ligament in their body, I was mesmerized. I became transfixed on their feet, noticing the way their toes gripped the floor, or one another's bodies.

The last performance featured a dancer costumed in virginal white. Much of her time on stage was spent teetering on one leg -- and I do mean teetering, because she didn't have the rock-solid balance of the other dancers. Maybe she was having an off night, but watching her reminded me of just how hard all of these dancers were working, and how incredibly easy they all made it look.

Her trembling was ironically fitting for the piece, which (according to the program) was meant to express the "quick joy and quick sadness of being in love for the first time." As she wobbled, my vision became myopic and the stage narrowed to just a small circle of light trained on her toes. She needed every single millimeter of each of those ten digits to stay balanced, and even then she swayed.

Right now, I feel like I might be missing a few toes.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Too Much Noise!

What’s worse than having construction done on your house or office?

Having construction done on the offices above yours – so that you suffer from listening to all the pounding, drilling, and jack-hammering noises, knowing that you will benefit 0 from these noises.

What’s worse than vibrating from the jack hammering above you?

Vibrating from the construction AND listening to a change machine being used in the cubicle next to yours – whir whir whir, jingle jangle, whir whir whir, jingle jingle jingle jingle, jang jingle jang jang... AAAHHH! I knew I should have taken today as a mental health day.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

More on Word Misuse

It was eighth grade, a time of raging hormones, painful insecurity, and science projects. Let me mention here that while I most absolutely want a houseful of children someday (knock on wood), I already dread helping them with their science projects. I think I may formally cede all science project help to my future husband (knock on wood) in a prenup agreement.

My science project was on acid rain. I monitored the effect of different concentrations of acidity on…well, something…I can’t actually remember now what I dropped the acid on (no, it wasn’t my tongue and it didn’t produce any psychedelic experiences), but that was the basic premise. I put together the requisite three panel free-standing poster, and damn if I didn’t do my best there – trying to bring a little artistic flair to the sciences. Lastly, I wrote up my presentation on note cards. The teacher had strongly recommended that we practice out loud before presenting in front of the class. But it was the night before the project was due, I was tired, and in a moment of manic confidence, I recklessly abandoned this advice.

The next day in front of the class (including my most long-lasting crush), I was eager to be done with this science project once and for all. I began, “Acid rain effects all living org...,” my mind raced, “organisms.” Wait! That wasn’t the right word! “ORGASMS” I shouted, trying to incorrectly correct myself. The moment the second word escaped, my confusion abruptly disappeared. “NO!!” I wailed, “organisms, organisms, organisms!” My shouting was futile, absorbd by the uproar from the class. Even the teacher had lost it, a very large man, squeezed into the small chair and desk in the back of the room, his head tilted back with eyes closed, cracking up. I’ve never felt my face get so very, very hot and red, and I’ve never been more relieved to be done with a presentation than when I returned to my seat that day.

Sweaty Teeth

This year, I went from working in an industry that was all about words, and using them correctly, to one in which words are often misused. Now, I’m not at all above using words incorrectly, or inventing words of my own (one of my favorites as a child was "I amn't", the contraction of "I am not" obviously). Recently, I had an argument about whether the person who cuts paychecks is called a controller or a comptroller (I’d never even heard of “comptroller”). In the end, we were both right – but doesn’t controller fit much better? I mean, come on, what else would you call the person who’s work dictates what lands in your bank account and when?

Anyway, last week I was witness to a real gem of word misuse. The meeting was dragging, everyone was trying to fit their round peg into a square hole, and no one was listening to each other --- until the sharply dressed gentleman began describing the “perspiring dental program” at his organization. I couldn’t gauge how many other people in the room were tuned in enough to catch it, but my little head popped up like the gopher in Caddy Shack. Unfortunately (or probably for the sake of my career, fortunately), I didn’t know anyone well enough to attempt catching an eye in shared amusement. So because things like this become disproportionately funny when left to morph inside my own head, I had to resort to pinching myself, and thinking sad thoughts in order to squelch the image of the big huge sweating teeth that kept rising up in my head. Now, every time I go to brush at work (yes I am a person who believes strongly in oral health) I can’t help but wonder what it would feel like if my teeth could perspire.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


It’s a good thing that we don’t have spy cameras at work (at least I don’t think so). Actually, that reminds me, my previous workplace _did_ have spy cams, which I didn’t notice until my second year there, and once I did notice them, I felt the need to move more quickly between the hallway and the kitchen, and dart in and out of the bathroom (since these were the areas patrolled by the cameras). Anyway, if a camera had been watching me today, it would have recorded my restlessness. Up to the bathroom, back to the kitchen, around the building, fishing for pieces of gum, and generally tapping my fingers and rolling my eyeballs between each millisecond of actual productive work. I think it might just be one of those weeks.

Work isn’t terribly stimulating, so when I don’t have any pressing deadlines, I search for other ways to occupy my brain. But since there are so many limiting factors – most of all that I’m at work – I can’t do something useful, like learn a new language, and instead I end up with bubbles of energy that go to waste. On days like this, it’s a must to exercise at the beginning of the day and after work – or risk exploding with restless energy.

Next Monday I really will be starting a new language – Dutch of all things! – in lessons twice a week after work but in the meantime, it’s going to be more gum chewing and laps around the building.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Engagement Elves

I figure that this is an appropriate story to tell today, seeing how it’s Valentine’s and all. This past Friday, my boyfriend’s friend proposed to his girlfriend, and my boyfriend and I got to be the Engagement Elves. For those of you who don’t know, Engagement Elves are the people who scurry around behind the scenes to help ensure that the proposal comes off with utmost smoothness, and that the proposer gets maximum return on the “how did you do all of this?” amazement-factor.

At 9 pm the proposal supplies were dropped off by the proposer – supplies included votives, scented candles (in pink, red, and white), champagne (in a plastic trash bag of ice), champagne flutes, iPod, and digital camera. As Engagement Elves, it was our duty to use these supplies to create a romantic ambiance in an undergraduate common room. Now, you may be thinking that not even the most talented Engagement Elves could transform a stale-pizza-smelling, wood-and-stained-nubby-upholster-furniture-filled, TV-fixed-on- the-wall room into a space worthy of a asking a woman to spend the rest of your life with you, but allow me to explain. There was actually very little we had to do for this particular couple (aside from lighting those scented candles because all college common rooms really DO smell like stale pizza). The couple both attended this undergraduate institution and shared their first kiss in the very 8th floor common room we were charged with embellishing. Cute, right?

At 10 pm we arrived at the dorm building. There, our greatest challenge was getting by the strict work-study student manning the front desk. Of course, we were lacking the proper student-ID cards, but fortunately, the little diamond bells we were wearing on our toes clued him into our mission. With a little persuasion, he let us through. As Engagement Elves, we also did our duty and got him to agreed to let the blindfolded girl and the nervous-looking boy who we expected to arrive in 20 minutes in without a hassle.
Fortunately, the room was empty when we arrived. We got busy cleaning up, and arranging candles.

At 10:30, the couple arrived. We hid by the recycle bins and watched them walk by, she with her blindfold and arms stretched out in front of her, he with an arm confidently wrapped around her waist, guiding her. He flashed us a big grin as they passed, and I think I actually gave him a double thumbs up (though giddy as I was, I’m not sure).

When the door to the common room opened just a few minutes later, we Engagement Elves were called in to help the newly engaged couple celebrate. Their happiness and excitement was overwhelming, and the smile I wore for the rest of the evening made my cheeks hurt.

Sunday, February 13, 2005


I'm in the middle of cleaning my apartment - right between the dusting, windexing, and Fantastic-ing and the vacuuming and mopping. I'm trying to get the place spruced up for a prospective realtor's inspection. When I dusted the silly picture from a recent wedding of me in a bridesmaid dress hiked up my leg while my boyfriend put on the garter he had caught, I thought about perhaps sticking it in a drawer until after the realtor has made his visit.

Unlike the room of my friend D. who has traveled all over the world, is from California, and has pictures of all her friends and family pasted on the walls, tucked into bookshelves, and dusting her bureau and desk, I have a few select photos and personal mementos sprinkled around my apartment. Of course, one of the limiting factors in what I display is space itself. Influenced, I'm sure, by the shaker-inspired aesthetic of my house growing up, I don't like clutter.

This summer, I'm thrilled to be moving in with my boyfriend. However, I haven't lived with anyone since sophomore year in college, and we both have some reservations about how we're going to respond to sharing our personal space. I can be pretty anal about how things get done and where things go, and there are times when I have a real need to control my space and what it projects when people visit it (as evidenced by my urge to remove the ever-so-slightly risqué picture of myself). My boyfriend, on the other hand, likes to spread. You know, mark his territory with a few socks here, a jacket draped over a chair there, books open on the desk, papers on the coffee table... did I mention I don't like clutter?

Then again, right now he lives with a bunch of slobs. Seriously, the fraternity house he lived in during college was neater than his current digs. Every time I watch him get frustrated with the disorder and filth, a part of me is reassured that our cleanliness and neatness thresholds are more similar than I credit. Trite I know. At one point during my first visit to my boyfriend's home, I was helping his mother clean up after dinner. The rest of the family had headed out to the back yard, and as we began soaping the plates the squeals from the youngest siblings heightened and the laughter got louder. Wiping her hands dry, she turned to me and said, "There will be plenty of time to do these dishes later, but you only get to be a part of their childhood once." She has it right, no doubt. We made obstacles courses, and ran around in the twilight until everyone's sides hurt from laughing.

And with that, I'm off to watch Bri Van de Camp polish her silver to a gleaming shine -- because we all know that vacuuming and mopping can wait, but a new episode of Desperate Housewives needs to be watched before it becomes a re-run.

Thursday, February 10, 2005


Tutoring: Once a week I tutor a fourth grader. She’s got wonderfully long black hair, the sweetest shy smile, and she really likes pink. When we see each other we both light up. Our mutual fondness has been built very quietly over the school year. I’ve worked in mentoring/tutoring roles before and usually there are a few kids that I relate to, if not because I see part of myself in them than because they remind me of someone I know/knew growing up. The reflection of something familiar is the in-road to forming a friendship. However, with this little girl, I’ve yet to find that hook. She and her mother and sister immigrated from Mexico about two years ago. From what I’ve pieced together, here she lives with her mother, father, and nine other siblings, some of who’s names she seemed to have trouble remembering. I haven’t been able to figure out what her dad does for a living – since she doesn’t know – but it’s something that allows the family to travel to various US cities. She has a brother (who’s apparently a twin) with an uncle in China, and lots more family still in Mexico. The fuzzy image I have about her home life and the limited amount of time we spend with together, and her difficulty expressing her thoughts in English (I unfortunately don’t speak Spanish) have all made it tough for me to find my hook. And yet, we light up each time we see each other. We happily scootch our chairs close as we conquer word problems, multiplication tables, and reading. When we play “educational games” we sometimes laugh, a little.

She struggles with school work, and while I’m having fun figuring out the ten different ways to solve “what time the train arrives at the station” and marveling at just how cool math is, her mind is tying itself in knots trying to remember 2x6. It’s a good exercise in patience, and creative thinking – trying to elicit the correct answer by repeating yourself is NOT effective. I have no idea what kind of support she gets in school, and I’m also a little out of touch with what qualifies as fourth grade academic competence, but I hope that someone recognizes that she needs extra help and is reaching out to her. During our hour and a half, there are always exciting small triumphs, moments when it seems that a concept suddenly crystallizes – though the clarity usually dissolves by the next problem.

When her mom comes to pick her up, we smile at each other and I ask her eagerly, “So I’ll see you next week, right?”, and then wave at the trio as they stroll away. I yearn to understand this girl’s life better and pull her out of her shell just a little bit more, but in the meantime, our friendship is testament to the power of simple human connection that happens when both people come to the table with their palms up.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


Growing up, I didn’t have any cousins, or aunts, or uncles, or grandparents who were less than a nine hour car ride away. I hate to say it, but at the time, what bothered me most about this arrangement was that seeing extended family usually meant I had to be tortured in an airplane or car first. (As a child I got _violently_ motion sick if I was in any sort of moving vehicle for longer than about 1 hour, on a good day). On the other hand, the infrequency of seeing one another made visits to (and visits from) grandparents and cousins all the more treasured. Since we didn’t see each other so often, it meant that there was a lot of giddiness and excitement, and spoiling all around, and there was never enough time for anyone to get on anyone else’s nerves (at least not too much).
Sure there are cousins that I don’t feel all that close to, and there are some who are best-friend-cousin material, but I really truly like my extended maternal and paternal family. And for that I feel pretty lucky. In the past four years, I’ve had the good fortune to land in cities where extended family lives. The downside of this is that I’m farther away from my parents, but the upside is that I get to experience what it feels like to be part of a clan.
Most recently (as in last week), one of my cousins gave birth to her second child. Not only was I around to share the excitement of the family as we watched her belly grow, but I got to be at her baby shower, where she shared what it’s really like to be pregnant with me in a way that you can only do with people you have some intimacy with. (Pregnancy in general, and in particular what happens to your body, is a source of endless fascination, so I was thrilled).And now that the healthy baby has arrived I’m going to be able to meet him when he’s still teeny tiny --- he’ll probably even still have that new baby smell! Living closer to extended family and being able to take part/witness these very exciting life events, I realize how much I was missing. There aren’t a whole lot of absolutes that make up the tent of my future, but one of the stakes I’m putting in the ground is that I WILL be within a short driving distance from immediate family. I think that if I don’t make it an explicit #1 priority now, it’s one of those things that might get eaten up and swept away as I follow career opportunities and/or romance.

Monday, February 07, 2005


Scene: Victoria's Secret clearance bins
Characters: 3 teen girls (probably about 14 years old), and me

Girl 1: What size am I?
Girl 2: I don't know probably like a 32A.
Girl 3: 32 is the distance around your chest, right?
Girl 2: Yeah.
Girl 2: So yeah, you're probably like a 32A, but you can always get something a little bigger, and like stuff it with tissue paper or something. But that's a little sketch.
Girl 3: Yeah, that's totally sketch, you don't want to pay for something that you have to stuff.
Girl 1: Oh god, my mom's calling me again on my cell phone.


On Friday night, I had plans to meet people for dinner in another part of town. Since I don't have a car biking is one of the ways I get around. Recently the roads have been too icy for my liking, so I've been taking public transportation or cabs, but on Friday night the weather had warmed and I had allowed myself enough time to haul my bike out of the apartment bike room and pedal to my destination.

To access the bike room, you have to go around the side of the building, go up three widely spaced concrete steps, down a flight of about 12 more steps, and then use a special punch key (that costs $50 to have duplicated) to unlock the broad heavy metal door. When I swung open the door on Friday, I was expecting to see the usual tangle of spokes, brightly colored metal frames, tricked out bikes, and old ten speeds. The bikes in the far back of the room usually stand fully upright, while those closest to the door are all the way on their side - so every time I open the door it's like my presence has frozen the domino effect in action. After you've extricated your bike from the game, a little push usually sends the door on its way to a firm closure. Lately, the door's been requiring an extra nudge to shut it all the way, though.

On Friday evening, I swung open the door (which was ajar) and seemed to have caught the bikes in a game of hide and seek. Only a few of the old ten speeds huddled in a small bunch in the middle of the concrete floor. The concrete floor...What the hell? I can never see the floor down here. For a split second I thought that maybe someone had organized the room. I poked my head in a little further and craned to see into the two side caverns of the room that I've never paid much attention to because there too much of a hassle to reach (stepping over all the bikes on the floor and all). Not many bikes in there either. Any bikes that weren't completely rusted, had been striped of seats and wheels. The ENTIRE bike room had been stolen.

After confirming with one more glance around the room, I got the hell out of there. I have an active imagination and feared that the bike thief/ves may have been lying in wait for an unsuspecting rider like me to further violate. As soon as I was up those steps my fear turned to seething anger. Who does that?! Who goes around trying the doors of apartment buildings, finds one ajar, and then milks it for all it's worth. And this took a little bit of planning - at least if he/she/they took all the bikes (probably about 50) in one hit. They'd have had to carry them up those steps and presumably load them into a truck.

Given the circumstances, I took the fatalistic approach. I live in a city where the homicide rate is disgustingly high, and I figure that recovering bikes is not a priority among the force. I don't expect I'll ever see my bike again, nor will the perpetrator likely ever be caught. A report has been filed, so there's that but in the meantime, I'm in the market for a new ride.

This, in conjunction with a gun-point robbery at the deli I frequent at work, has completely eroded my sense of safety. I moved here from New York City - a place that I had drafted in my young psyche as one filled with drug dealers, guns, and violence, thanks in part to my Dad's description of the Big Apple in the 1970s and early 80s(when it was a more dangerous place). Maybe I was just lucky there and unlucky here, but I've been more fearful here than anywhere else I've lived before. My building's in a very nice area, and there is a private security patrol a few blocks away. But never before have I looked at bushes solely as hiding places for "bad people." I'd like to think that my fear is irrational, and that it will dissipate as I get to know this city as I did New York, but given these recent events, I'm sadly more confident that my fear is warranted. Investing in some more self defense classes and a new lock for my apartment maybe more practical than hoping to ever feel at ease in this city.

Friday, February 04, 2005


I turned 25 on Tuesday, February 1, 2005. Turning 16 signified the official kick off of the tick toc countdown to my driver's test. At 18 the knowledge that I could vote gave my birthday a solid feel - think mahogany gavel landing lightly on Feb. 1, 1998 thereby pronouncing me a full, contributing citizen of the USA. Then there was 21, does much need to be said about that? But now, what does it mean to be nestled in the thick of my 20s?

In high school, a dear family friend, who is a few years older than me, took me out Christmas shopping. She was in college at the time, and for that alone I idolized her. Returning from our outing in the early evening, we were rumbling along in her appropriately beat up Volvo station wagon, making the turn from Rte. 1 onto an unlit side road. We were in Maine, so it was dark and cold. The kind of dark and cold that makes everything stand out in crisp relief. The headlights of the few other cars on the road glittered in twirling stars through the windshield as my friend told me: "love is a really wonderful thing, and if sex is part of that, well, that can be really great too."

About five years later, I was with the same friend. This time we were at a small diner propped on the stilts of a wharf downtown. We were discussing life, catching up on where we'd been in the last year and where we thought we might be headed. At some point in the conversation she said: "Your twenties are all about making mistakes. Whatever you do in your twenties, you can look back and say 'ah, but I was in my twenties!'"

So, here I am, settled into my twenties, and sometimes it does feel like a trial run for real life, which will start at some undetermined time, oh, say, probably when I turn 30. I suppose by "real life" I mean one that's anchored - to a place and to a person. There are times when all I want to do is hurry up and get there, most of all so that those twinges of homesickness/displacement that I sometimes feel when I walk into my own quiet apartment will go away. I'm not lonely per se, but knowing that I'm in a transitional stage of life does affect my psyche --- and those of most of my twentysomething friends as well.

What I heard my firend say, when she said this was a time for mistake-making, was that this is a time for trying on all sorts of different hats. So far, I’ve tried on a few, walked around in them a bit, and decided to return them to the hat stand. But its pretty fun, getting to see myself in these various roles, imagining where I might land if I stuck with it. However, nothing I’ve tried on yet has satisfactorily revved my pulse. I recognize that there’s no such thing as a job that’s perfect, but I’m not someone who’s interested in settling for boredom.

I'm keenly aware of how fast this time of complete self-exploration, self-indulgence, and freedom from any meaningful responsibility is passing. It's definitely "real life" too, and pretty damn uncluttered, relatively speaking. It's a pretty sweet spot, at least from my vantage point "in the field". There's a lot I'd like to pack into this unfettered time - living abroad, more school, and maybe a little more recklessness, and I'm starting to see it might not all happen just the way I imagined. But there's a lot to look forward to, a lot of possibility, and not much has had to be sacrificed yet. Will it ever be so simple again? Probably not.

Then again, my mom, who's in her mid-fifties, recently told me that she's more content with where she is now than ever before. Indeed, she and my father are living a pretty good life these days, by all accounts. So whether my twenties really are all about making mistakes, or being in a constant state of transition, or utter self-absorption, or being lost and floating in a sea of potential potential, the jury's out. But in the meantime, I'm enjoying the trial run, not least of all because I have a feeling it's only going to keep getting better from here.