Oh, I Don’t Know

This piece originally appeared on Bed Crumbs.

Time makes you bolder
Children get older
I’m getting older, too.

Tomorrow is my 24th birthday and I’m freaking out just a little bit. This happened last year. This happened the year before that, and the year before that, and so on and so forth. This is par for the course. This is what anxious, perfectionist malcontents get when faced with putting another year behind them and facing a new one with no idea how it will turn out.

By now it is expected. By now I am somewhat prepared.

But that doesn’t make it any less unpleasant. Knowing that it’s coming doesn’t stop it from coming. It’s just recognizing the problem instead of hiding, pretending it doesn’t exist. I spend all of May in a melancholy, anxious state. I dread the 20th. I avoid it at all costs. I tell people that it’s not happening; it’s just another day. I throw a pity party for myself night after night.

Things that I dwell on:
How much I have not accomplished
How much I need to do
How far ahead it seems everyone else is
How scared I am of failure

Things that I forget about:
The amazing things I have made happen for myself
The places I have gone
The stories I have written
The friends I have made

As if the universe just knows, “Landslide” inevitably comes on everywhere I go: in CVS when I’m buying chewable vitamins and Red Bull, in the grocery store while I stand in line without a basket, precariously balancing a bag of kale, a carton of almond milk, three apples, and a jar of peanut butter in my arms. It follows me. I swear. I wish I was making this up.

I listen to music on shuffle on my morning commute and it of course rears its head again. I mean, why shouldn’t it? Statistically speaking, it’s bound to – masochist that I am, I have no fewer than 12 different versions of it synced to my library.

Any other time of the year, this is not really a problem. But this month, I’m struck with feels, and when I say feels, I don’t mean it in the ironic internet slangy way. I mean it in the “I am overwhelmed and have many emotions and I don’t know how else to describe them so I’ll joke about it but I am genuinely so not joking” way.

Sometimes I hit skip immediately, knowing that I don’t want to deal with my emotions at that moment. Often, I think I’m fine. It’s a good song, a brilliant song, a simple song, one of my all-time favorites. Why shouldn’t I be able to listen to it?

But then I feel my throat tighten. My nose starts to tingle, which is always a clear sign. And the tears come, sitting patiently in the bottom of my eyes, daring me to blink, let them escape. I stubbornly refuse and so I play the staring game with no one in particular as I hide behind dark sunglasses. Pull yourself together, I think, cursing myself.

Why does this little three minute song from 1975 hit me so hard right around now? What is it about my birthday that makes it stab at my heart just a little bit more than usual, send chills up my spine, make the hair on my arms stand up, send tingly shock waves across my scalp?

I think, that it’s because “Landslide” is Stevie’s song, but it’s also my song. It’s also yours, if you want it to be.

Because “Landslide” is a song of personal identity, one that, despite knowing that millions of other people feel the same way, you can take ownership of. This is my song. This is my song. As if its lyrics written only for your eyes to read, its melody only sung for your ears to hear. As if you share a brain with Stevie Nicks and she pulled together the mumbled, jumbled racing thoughts in your head and said everything you wanted to say, but better than you ever could.

Hearing our own fears echoed back to us makes us feel less alone. These crises of confidence are not exclusive, but this is how you feel to a T. Do I continue down this path I am on or veer off on another course? What happens if I stay? What happens if I go? Do I keep following my dreams, however foolish they may be? What exactly is it that I want to do with the rest of my life?

Can I do it? Can I sail through the changing ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life?

Oh. I don’t know. I have too many questions and not enough answers.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I have mixed feelings about my birthday because I have mixed feelings about growing up (I want to be a grown up without having to grow up), about feeling like my impatience is getting the best of me. And “Landslide” just echoes all of that. It echoes the constant uncertainty that lingers in the back of your mind.

Twenty-four will be okay. Twenty-three was. Time is making me bolder. It really is. I’m not the same girl I was at 20 or 21 or even 22. I probably won’t be the same girl at 24 as I am right now in this moment.

Reading back over this, I have to laugh just a little. 24. I read that over and over and several times I whispered “Oh God. Oh God, I’m so old.“ But really. I’m not. I’m not even 30. I’m not even in my mid-twenties. Why have I convinced myself and been conditioned to think that I should be a wunderkind, some sort of girl boss by this point in my life? I look at all of my heroes and they are all, for the most part, decades older than me. And still kicking ass. And still stomping through uncharted territory. And still accomplishing great new things. I have so much time. I’m so young.

I found this video the other day. A version of “Landslide” I somehow hadn’t seen. It’s from my birthday, May 20, 2013. I know to some people, it’s just another concert. I wasn’t there. It can’t possibly compare, watching a video on YouTube that just happened to be filmed on my 22nd birthday, to seeing it live, in the flesh, 6 times – three of those times while standing, quite literally, at Stevie Nicks’s feet. It means nothing.

But it means something to me. It does. Somewhere cosmically there’s that connection. And maybe that’s just for weirdos who feel music like I do to understand and maybe you all think I’m a weirdo but that’s okay.

It was enough to, for one night, give me some reassurance. On my birthday, the day I loathe and dread and fear, Stevie Nicks sang this song, the song of her youthful insecurity, the song about how precarious time is, the song that says everything I can’t say. And she turned out pretty okay. I’ll be okay, too.

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