By Hannah Smart
Let’s talk about this snapshot. It was taken a couple of months ago when I was working a freelance gig in Amsterdam. I know that sounds pretty cool, and to be honest, it was. I got a job at an agency I’ve dreamed about working at ever since I began my career years ago. So off to Europe I went to live out my dream.
And in my beautiful apartment overlooking the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, I realized that even when I have everything I think I want I’m still not happy. The career, the shoes, the boys, the Sephora VIB Rouge status — none of this is doing the trick. I know these are definitely first world problems, and I feel like such a basic bitch moaning about intangible, possibly imagined, issues. But y’all asked for the truth, and the truth is that something is missing.
Most nights in Amsterdam, I ordered take out and binged on Netflix after work. That night, I actually took off my sweatpants for once to hang with a co-worker and his friends. We were dancing in the kitchen of his little apartment, me trying to let go and stop worrying about what my hands are supposed to be doing while I dance. At some point, we all piled onto the balcony for a smoke. Except for one girl.
She stayed inside, dancing alone with the lack of grace that comes only with extreme drunkenness. But she looked so happy, waving her arms and legs, spinning in circles. Outside in the crisp fall air, one of the guys whispered to me as we watched her dance: “That is freedom.”
“I’m doing my best, and the older I get, the more I’m starting to like the woman I’ve become — mistakes and all. Every time I get that brief feeling of freedom and peace, I know I’m on the right path.”
Freedom. Being completely present, in the moment and free of worry. Letting go of the weight of yesterday and tomorrow, the never-ending list of responsibilities and wants. Realizing that in this moment, you have everything you need. And everything is beautiful.
I almost never feel like that.
Maybe it’s just human nature to be perpetually discontent. Maybe that’s why we're a species of inventors and creators, always searching and yearning. Maybe I’m having an existential crisis, and because all of my basic needs are met I’m finally reaching the top of Maslow’s hierarchy, attaining self-actualization. Or maybe I’m just not on enough Zoloft. Your guess is as good as mine.
It’s my understanding that this whole project is basically about the story behind the picture, and how our lives look awesome on Instagram but in reality, your 20’s are kind of a shit show. I don’t know about you, but that’s definitely been true for me. On both counts. I mean, look at that photo — I have SO MUCH fun. Just all the time, fun fun fun. Right?
Your 20’s are a time for figuring out who you want to be and worrying less about whether the world is okay with whoever that is. For me, this has been a struggle. I make mistakes, screw up friendships, embarrass myself at work. But I’m doing my best, and the older I get, the more I’m starting to like the woman I’ve become — mistakes and all. Every time I get that brief feeling of freedom and peace, I know I’m on the right path.
My 20’s are almost over and I have no answers for you, no wisdom bombs to drop in this story. But as you figure out the same stuff I’m trying to figure out, how to live and love and be fulfilled, just know that we’re all in this together; every one of us trudging the road to happy destiny.
Hannah Smart is a freelance writer, novice burlesque performer and current parents’-basement-dweller.