It occurs to me that my 24th year on this planet is two-thirds complete. This year, 24, was supposed to be the best year. Twenty-four has been my favorite number as long as I can recall, and I was bound and determined that this year would match that standard I’ve set over the years for 24.
This seems like the kind of thing one would do the day before she turns 25, but I have to pause and reflect now, just less than four months from my 25th birthday, to evaluate my progress. Have I had the best year ever? What has happened this year? What can I improve before the year is up? And does any of this “lucky number” stuff really have any significance?
When I turned 24, I was working in my hallway cubicle at DU here in Memphis (it took me a minute to remember that birthday at all – ironic). That day I received two bouquets of flowers, from my mom and from Mandy and Carla. I cried that day because of the beautiful people in my life who remembered me, 750 miles away. I went home to Michigan for a visit soon after that, so my tears were laced with forthcoming joy.
Since that day last August, I have done a handful of things… I moved from a hallway cube to my own office. I was given my first real, salaried job for a company about which I care a great deal. I had a momentary fling (just long enough to realize I didn’t want any more than that). I found a man online and dated him for three months. Now we’ve broken up. In the span of those three months, I became enamored with the city of Birmingham, drove across Mississippi and Alabama several times, had a nine-hour phone conversation about nothing and everything, was almost swayed into cheating by someone close by, came down with pneumonia and spent a week in pain and started competing in a local trivia league with some coworkers/friends. I met some great locals at a social media event, but I talk to few of them now, though I read about all their lives through twitter. I spent too much time looking for an apartment, but I finally found one and am ready to sign the lease and make myself a “real life” here in Tennessee. I started seeing a therapist to help deal with my depression and other issues. I got my health back on track and spent a lot of time sweating at the gym. I cried quite a few tears (though mostly in the past two months). I planned and scheduled a trip to Ireland. I thought seriously about committing suicide. I gave two guided tours of the city. I went to the Memphis Zoo three times. I experienced my first airport layover and flight cancelation. I learned to tolerate (maybe even like) cheap beer in a can.
When I met Dennis in January, I thought my 24th year had been a great success. To have found someone with whom I had so much in common, to whom I had so much to say, around whom I felt so at ease – it was amazing. It felt different from relationships past. But it ended the same. Do I feel as though this turn of events has ruined my 24th year? No. Marred it? Significantly. Can I rise again and reclaim this year, make it a success? Sure. Will I? That remains to be seen. It’s easy enough to say, “This year’s been a great success!” But do I believe myself when I say that? Not yet.
Everything seemed to come easier for me in Michigan. Eventually, the going would’ve gotten tougher, when my temporary job at DU ended and I was left with my online copy-editing work for my second job. I would’ve gotten depressed and contemplated the possibility that I’d never leave my mother’s house again. But that’s not what happened. I ended up here, in Tennessee, in a completely random turn of events that I still can’t quite believe ever happened. One minute, I was (not really) pondering my next step in life, and the next I was being offered an internship-turned-part-time-job in the land of Elvis. Utter insanity.
So it’s been more difficult here. More difficult to feel at home, to identify myself and find a niche, to make friends, to find a safe place to live, to make any move at all. It’s frightening being far from home. Even when you never need to use that safety net that is friends, family and proximity, you still know it’s there – you feel it underneath you. I don’t feel it here. I know my parents would drop everything and fly to Tennessee if they knew I was in trouble. But would it be too late? If I sign a lease with the wrong apartment complex, will my life be turned upside down? I never worried about that in Michigan, but in Memphis, it’s like a dark cloud looming over every decision-making process. Maybe it’s because I know I won’t stay here forever. Maybe it’s because I’m unhappy. Maybe I can wave away the dark cloud once the decision’s made, the deed is done and there’s no turning back.
But back to my life in general. I don’t know what these last four months of my 24th year will hold. I know these post-Dennis days already have allowed me to establish and reclaim some much-needed friendships. But I’m still very much alone here. Moving into my new apartment will be a big change, and I hope it’s big enough to turn things around. And these other things I will guarantee: I will get outside more. I will get back to my workout routine (which has suffered since Pneumonia ’09) in the new apartment’s fitness center. I will make an effort to ride my bike to work at least two days a week once I’ve moved. I will patronize the farmer’s market near my office once it’s open and buy as many fresh local fruits and veggies as I can. I will purchase more organic food. I will find a local group, club or class to join in an attempt to meet new people and hopefully form some friendships. I will go to bed at a decent hour (no more late-night phone conversations – a blessing and a curse) and make an effort to rise earlier. I will invest time planning my trip to Ireland and preparing for what I hope will be a great adventure. The trip itself may happen after I turn 25, but it still counts, at least in my book. =)
Now, I know lucky numbers mean nothing. And, hell, 25 could be my best year – who knows? I’ve spent a lot of time fixating on my dislike of odd numbers and asymmetry, so I know my love of 24 comes straight from my paranoia and OCD. I’ve spent many years adding up numbers on clocks and getting excited every time it’s 8:26 (my birthday). I’ve also done things like choose concert seats (13-E) and plane seats (13-B) because they had personal significance (I was almost always #13 in school because my last name started with H, E is the first letter of my name and B was how the “13” would look whenever I wrote it with my hideous elementary-school penmanship). Did it land me a better seat? Would 17-C have been better still? For some reason, these numbers and letters give me peace of mind, like a self-applied placebo for what ails me. It’s silly, I know, but it works. If a plane seat with significance is unavailable, I’ll go for an even-numbered row. If a TV’s volume is represented by digits, I’ll go up or down two notches just to keep it on an even number. But will I die if 18 is too soft and 20 is too loud, so I have to leave it on 19? No. That’s a pretty big step in and of itself.
So, here I am, rounding the bend of year 24, and I’m in limbo. Can I salvage the last four months? Is my first job and the hope of love now lost enough to say this was a good year? Is there more good or bad to come, or just more of this in-between? Stay tuned.