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My Life in Limbo: Getting Through the Twenties

Cinderella never suffered from depression. She was, in fact, irrevocably optimistic even as the servant of her malicious step-family. With only a few woodland creatures to call her friends, this flawless-looking, perpetually benevolent heroine persevered to find her prince and ultimate happiness.

There are several problems with this story. The first, of course, is that it is told to impressionable children. The second is that it is only the beginning of the myth created by society to guide us in planning our lives.  Movies, television, and our beloved fairy tales create a mystical world of impossibilities. We watch them, we love them, we imagine that in some modern way we can be them. And we are told, by teachers, parents, grandparents, and countless others that we can be anything, anything we want. Like a tired fairy tale we are offered a world without limitations, a world where dreams come true. This magical universe casts us as heroes and heroines able to conquer whatever evil may seek to destroy us, prevail against heartbreak to win the undying adoration of our beloved, and always serve as the epitome of beauty and benevolence in whatever village of the universe we may occupy.

As we mature, burdened by the magical expectations, we repeatedly fall victim to the crushing blow of the inevitable disappointment for which our reveries have so aptly primed us. As we grow, we slowly realize that these stories are just that and have no place in reality. We realize that we don’t want what we thought we wanted, that there is no knight in shining armor, no perfect career that fulfills and sustains us, and often it feels, no happy ending in sight.

Once I reached my mid-twenties, the happy mist had completely cleared. My life, now perpetually stuck preclimax, is a stale remnant of youth and hope, and I continue to wait impatiently for the magic to appear. I’m sure members of every generation have encountered this, whether the lonely housewife of the 1950s learning that making his dinner is not as gratifying as she had been led to believe, or the woman of the nineties finding out that entry-level copy writing doesn’t make her feel whole. There are always struggles, few of us expect to land our dream job right out of college or meet the right person only when we’re ready. Often, though, it’s too hard to see the future in positive terms.

One has only to look in any direction to see someone whose dreams have become casualties on the long, hard road to their happy ending. I now wonder whether the positives will ever outweigh the negatives or if I’ll ever feel that my life has begun. Now, I’m still stuck in where-am-I-going limbo. Honestly I don’t even care what destination lies at the end of the road, I just want to get there.

What begins a real, adult life? To me, it’s having a place of one’s own. Living not with parents or roommates, but in a residence put together entirely by and for myself. Secondly, having a career, not just a job. One in which I don’t occupy most of my mental energy by planning my escape. I want a life in which I have enough expendable income to save for things I really want, like a trip to Europe or a down payment on a new car or home. One in which I fall asleep peacefully, looking forward, rather than tossing and turning haunted by what preceded me.

This is what I want and I have no idea how to get there. Cinderella has no advice, no words of wisdom, no game plan to pass on to me. Nor does anyone else. All any recipient of the tired question “what should I do?” can offer is: find out what you want to do. The truth is I don’t know.

I was hoping to get a good job in a new city. I thought that with a bachelor’s degree, I should be able to try on a few industries, support myself (modestly), and go back to grad school when I had more information to make a better decision. Of course every city in my part of the United States, like most, has fewer and fewer entry-level jobs for new grads and more and more new grads to fill them. With this plan dead, I set about trying to create a life for myself in the same old town. The problem is I don’t like the life I scraped together and am still no closer to redesigning it.

Unlike Cinderella, I am depressed. I am stuck in a life I don’t like and there is no fairy godmother to rescue me. I have trouble getting out of bed despite the lousy dreams that fill my nights. Every fear, regret, and life-crushing scenario my subconscious can remember or create inject themselves into my escape from the pain of the waking world. It seems that nothing changes despite what I accomplish or try to accomplish. I don’t know who I am or what I want or what I’m supposed to do. I feel empty and perpetually confused. I want to be successful, but I have no idea at what. Where are the answers? I did not find them in college, in church, nor with family and friends. If there is an answer, it remains hidden somewhere inside the vast labyrinth of myself. The seemingly simple mind and heart within me cannot answer the simplest of questions about which step to next take, and so I remain in limbo.