Welcome my friend and fellow author, Laura Chapman (Hard Hats & Doormats), to the Age is Just a Number blog series. In the humorous and heartfelt post below, Laura talks about all she hoped to accomplish before turning 25 and how she reconciled hitting the milestone birthday without achieving it all even a couple of years later. (From me to you Laura – you’re doing great!)
I anticipated a quarter-life crisis when I was turning 25. I was single, in a job I didn’t love and living in my brothers’ basement with two cats (who are amazing, but kind of cliché for a spinster in training). I certainly hadn’t accomplished anything on the to-do list I’d created my senior year of college.
According to my life plan (which I rescued from the trash folder on Google Drive to refresh my memory for this post), by the age of 25, I was supposed to have:
• Worked at two newspapers—one small, one mid-level—as a news/features reporter
• Quit my newspaper job to pursue my master’s degree (in mass communications or literature, because both of those are so useful), and be one year into the program at this point
• Taken a new job as a graduate assistant
• Spent a summer studying abroad in England
• Followed that up with eight weeks traveling Europe (and according to my notes, this was for pleasure and research for another book)
• Written four books
• Landed a literary agent
Yeah, I was nowhere close to achieving any of these things. The only thing I’d done remotely close to this was writing the first draft of Hard Hats and Doormats. At that point I had no idea how much more work it was going to take before publication date.
So there I was, 24 going on 25, prepared for an epic meltdown of tears, self-pity and a lot of asking, “Why me? Where did I go wrong?” And it didn’t happen.
Instead, I took the day off from work. I went to Omaha to visit my parents, who took me out for a lunch of pizza and beer. Then my mom and I went for coffee, followed by cupcakes and a sushi dinner. I received sweet texts and phone calls (not to mention the annual reminder of casual acquaintances from Facebook), and felt pretty good about my life. I was only 25 after all. I had plenty of time to get my act together.
Fast-forward one year. I was turning 26. Still single, still at the same job and still living with my bromates. But since turning 25 wasn’t nothin’ but a thang, I was cavalier about becoming 26. It was only a year later, and I didn’t have that many more things I was supposed to check off of my life plan list. Aside from writing—and publishing—two more books, receiving my master’s degree and starting my “someday own a bookstore just like Nora Roberts’s Turn the Page only make it my own” fund.
So for my birthday I cleaned the house, invited a bunch of people over and set up games in our backyard for a good old-fashioned summer barbecue to celebrate me, myself and I. People came, I scored two sets of stick-on mustaches and two princess wands. My mom even made a bunch of desserts (including an amazing caramel apple cheesecake) and I capped off the night with cocktails.
It had been a pretty decent day. But once I returned home, put on my pajamas and curled up on my chair with the cats it hit me: I was a year older and nowhere closer to being the woman I always wanted. I wasn’t sure I even wanted all of that fanfare and worse I had no clue of what I wanted to do with myself. Sure, I still wanted to be a writer and a successful one. But by now, I’d realized it was going to be much harder than I ever anticipated. I still wanted to find great romance and independence, but I had no clue where to start on either front.
So I cried. Not just a little sniffle, but a full-on Kim Kardashian-style cry. I probably would have gotten away with my epic moment of self-pity if my little sister hadn’t shown up. She was locked out of her apartment and needed a place to crash for the night. Instead of finding a place to sleep, she ended up spending the next while (let’s be generous and say 30 minutes) listening to me go on and on about everything bugging me in my life. I probably should have been embarrassed, but I was too far gone.
I wish I could say the crying helped, but it didn’t. It didn’t hurt anything either, though, which hopefully counts for something.
In the two years since my birthday weep-a-thon, my life has changed quite a bit. I have a new job, not one I love, but one I like. I’m still single, but the cats and I have our own place now, and we like it. I’ve published a novel and two shorts. I’ve written two more novels, and as you’re reading this, I’m hopefully working on the first draft of number four (Happy NaNoWriMo, everyone!).
Nothing has gone exactly, or even remotely, close to the plan I’d naively drafted when I was 21. Sometimes I still give in to the urge for a pity party, but I’m doing a better job at living in the moment. Or at least managing my expectations about what the next moment might hold.
Laura Chapman is a former journalist-turned author and blogger based in Nebraska. A graduate of the University of Nebraska, she is a devoted fan of football, British film, writing in bars and her cats, Jane and Bingley.
Connect with Laura:
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/hard-hats-and-doormats-laura-chapman/1117661135?ean=2940148851479
How Do You Know? – December 2nd.
What if you were approaching the end of your thirties and all of the life milestones you took for granted in your youth suddenly seemed out of reach?
On the eve of her thirty-ninth birthday, Maggie Piper doesn’t look, act, or feel much different than she did at twenty-nine, but with her fortieth birthday speeding towards her like a freight train, she wonders if she should. The fear of a slowing metabolism, wrinkling of her skin, and the ticking of her biological clock leaves Maggie torn between a desire to settle down like most of her similarly-aged peers and concern that all is not perfect in her existing relationship. When a spontaneous request for a temporary “break” from her live-in boyfriend results in a “break-up,” Maggie finds herself single once again and only twelve months from the big 4.0. In the profound yet bumpy year that follows, Maggie will learn, sometimes painfully, that life doesn’t always happen on a schedule, there are no deadlines in love, and age really is just a number.