By Emily Hammerman
I am 24 years old. I have a well-paying job in advertising, a four-year relationship with a man I adore and an ongoing role in a hip-hop dance company in the magical city of Chicago. Life is going very well.
Or at least, that’s what all my friends tell me as I mope and complain and sip a $6 latte at some bougie, urban coffee shop.
“You’re doing so incredibly well for your age,” they tell me. “Don’t you know how many people are without work and still paying off student loans?”
I don’t know. Because it’s never felt productive to compare myself to anyone but the version of Emily I want to be.
And when I compare my routine life of sitting at a desk for eight hours a day only to come home to discuss the pressing issue of what rendition of meat and vegetables we’re going to stir around in a pan for dinner to that mega-productive superhero of a human being I seek to be, I realize, sadly, I turned out pretty ordinary after all.
All these hopes and dreams of living an extraordinary life have come crashing down in flames. Dreams of putting my film degree to use, spending hours on end running around a film set and scribbling down storylines on stained whiteboards. What happened to volunteering in another country? What happened to dating around? What about my plan to publish a book and then help adapt the movie it inspires? What happened to my life?
“I realize, sadly, I turned out pretty ordinary after all.”
Again, I am 24 years old. I know I live a pretty privileged life. But I waste way too much time thinking like a sour 75-year-old with major life regrets, talking like it’s too late to change careers or date different people or move across the world. I know it’s not. But it’s less of the imaginary clock that’s keeping me from regrouping, and more about the fact that I do truly love all aspects of my life.
My job is in a creative field. I get to write taglines for well-known brands and brainstorm exciting concepts for huge retailers. I’m learning skills that are 100 percent transferrable to different industries, I remind myself, and networking with professionals who would be more than willing to connect me with their contacts.
I’m also crazy about my boyfriend. We met years ago working at a summer camp, and what started as a fun fling quickly evolved into a healthy, comfortable, loving relationship — a relationship I see lasting a lifetime, complete with vows and children and all that grown-up jazz.
Lastly, I believe Chicago is the most exciting city to spend your 20’s in. A Midwestern girl at heart, this place has all the opportunity and liveliness of New York City with the warmth of home sweet home.
So what’s the issue?
“I waste way too much time thinking like a sour 75-year-old with major life regrets, talking like it’s too late to change careers or date different people or move across the world. ”
I’ve come to learn about myself that no matter where I am, what I’m doing or who I’m doing it with, I will always yearn for more. I am completely overwhelmed by the idea of choice and of all the different outcomes certain choices may bring. Why? Because I know that each potential path I venture down might lead me to discover yet another layer of Emily — a deeper layer to study and appreciate and help guide me.
I could continue to live in Chicago with my boyfriend, working in advertising until I croak, and call it a wonderful life. And it really would be. But I could also move to Rome, fall in love with some hotcake of an Italian and paint for a living. Or I could pursue a career in production by moving to Los Angeles and crush hard on the barista who prepares my latte each morning. Or Australia. Or Maine. Or Israel. To write. To teach. To act. With that guy. Or this one. Or no one.
There are so many alternate middles and ends to the story of my life. And with each passing day that I grow older, I can’t help but worry that by choosing to live one, I am denying myself the experience of another. How can I become Emily the superhero when I’m only capable of one life?
Honestly, I can’t. I am by no means a superhero. No matter how hard I wish it, I will never be able to rewind and take on a new role, a new job, a new life. All I can do is move forward with eagerness and enthusiasm. And that is so completely OK.
Because these feelings of longing are what make me who I am. I use them to fuel my creativity and generate new perceptions. They are fodder for the writer in me and the passion in my relationships. They give me weight and energy and insight and motivation. I love these feelings. Because they’ve made me love myself.
Emily Hammerman continues to look forward to all the adventures the rest of her life may hold. She works as a copywriter at an ad agency in Chicago.