An Ode To My Constant State of Panic
Art by Kirsten Hemrich
jesus christ, is praying still an option? i’ve been a devoutly faithless atheist for some time now,
i feel the end is nigh whenever i see the numbers “2019”
how did i get here?
i swear my 19th birthday just happened, the end of that night spent gawkily shimmying onto my dorm’s overhanging ledge to swap spit
(turns out, i have a thing for balconies)
by the time this is published, i’ll be 22
there’s that whole “time flies” saying,
but time didn’t fly.
it hurled the two of us out of some cosmic window and
the only thing standing between me and the “real world” now is 8ish months and a handful of classes
i’m not ready; they must’ve gotten it wrong.
i start every other day with my best friend mary jane, haven’t figured out how to do my taxes,
still laugh at 69 jokes
sure, i’ve been working since 15 but
“career” is very different from “job”;
how does one turn knowledge and experience into measurable monetary worth ?
i haven’t the slightest
they tell you 4th year is amazing, if not nostalgic,
but right now all i can feel is a soul-bruising sense of dread.
as if the tiny grains of sand falling from my own internal hourglass are burrowing under my skin
i’m only a couple weeks into it and people are already demanding confirmation that i’m on the expected track.
they want to know who i’ll work for, where i’ll live,
i mean for christ’s sake, i just goddamn got here !
they’re still questioning if my career choice is ‘sustainable’ or ‘realistic’.
it’s 4th year and it feels like no one over 35 acknowledges the value of my education,
don’t bother trying to understand why i chose the majors i did
i thought at this point i was supposed to have it all figured out.
i had originally planned to be a doctor,
was going to pay my own way through med school,
move somewhere new
end up a successful physician with enough money lying around to buy her mom a car
slowly but surely i’m realizing the reality of what i want for myself and what society wants for me
are two vastly different things and
that’s goddamned terrifying.
since kindergarten i’ve been preparing for a life
i’m only now grasping i wouldn’t choose
transitioning to the final year has been like learning to swim.
at first you just dipped your toes,
you liked it.
you waded a little deeper, then, and
you think, everyone was right, this isn’t bad at all ! i actually quite like it !
but then comes the time for you to really learn.
no more hesitant baby steps,
no more guiding hand for you.
you’re alone and in over your head and panicking and that only makes things worse but you can’t help it can’t help the bitter noxious anxiety that’s eating away at your lungs and bubbling out of your chest and up your throat and it takes everything you have not to scream
the water that once lapped gently at your ankles now presses down on you, tries to gush through your lips and fill you til you pop.
you realize everyone lied,
this is horrible and you weren’t prepared, no matter how many times you practiced for this moment
but, to give them some credit, they couldn’t help but lie.
if those freshly legal adults could feel what it’s like,
could feel the yawning abyss that splits open in your chest at thought of life after graduation
i’m not sure we would have as many students as we do
and to be fair, i’m lucky.
i have a pretty good idea of who i’ll end up working for, and my vision for my post-grad life is like a new coloring page.
it’s a vague, unfinished guess at the future that lacks detail
but the outline is solid
some will say i’m glaringly distorting what it’s like to be a senior.
despite the consistency visible in my life, i can’t help but panic at the thought of being on my own.
admittedly, i’m as much afraid of being an adult and doing adult things as i am of being the only person responsible for me.
aren’t we all ?
i like to think so,
if only to feel less guilty about being a twitching wreck of tension and insomnia
but the world is waiting beyond the crying fits,
biding its time until the daily disquiet passes.
leaving home to attend college was once as unbelievable
as graduating and leaving home for good now is.
struggle and insecurity are inevitable;
the world we live in is rife with obstacles and fresh trauma
right now it feels like i’m 19 again.
swaying from one too many cups of franzia,
ass vulgarly protesting from one too many hours of shaking,
with a fairly substantial concern of falling off an edge i’m not sure i’d come back from.
but instead of a sly looking boy with crinkly eyes to keep my mind off the drop,
i’ve got almost a full year with some of the most incredible people i’ve ever met.
fourth year fuck it right ?