Before I discovered cold brew coffee, I thought I was tough shit.
When I was in high school I drank a Caribou Coffee Peppermint Mocha thing every morning and my anxiety mostly manifested itself by leading me into a Bon Iver cliff-dive, one starting with the feeling of wanting to be anywhere else, and ending with a scroll through my own well-curated Tumblr page. A photo of a mountain lodge! A teen quote about inadequacy! Ah, feel that calm hit my veins. One day, I’m gonna get the fuck out of here, and I’m going to wear scarves and drink tea, I bet. And I’m gonna listen to some god damn Bon Iver in my poorly-insulated wooden shack.
College comes and fucks you up and somehow, despite your constant flailing, convinces you that you can — or maybe, that you should — have some semblance of control in your life. Those minimum wage summer-job-earnings start burning a hole in your pocket. I am old now! I have an identity and everything! I’m not just going to listen to Justin Vernon’s sad ass music anymore, I’m gonna get a tattoo of his lyrics on “Skinny Love” and I’m going to get this $53 Urban Outfitters “Mahogany and PreCum” scented candle. Money means I can find myself, and other people can find me, too.
And graduation — the thought of graduation gives you anxiety that feels like you’ve just downed 3 cups of cold brew coffee, on an empty stomach, while googling your boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend and envisioning what you’re going to say to her when you finally cross paths. All the time. Growing old and growing anxious means that For Emma: Forever Ago doesn’t just leave me feeling empty and depressed anymore, it leaves me feeling capable of existing within that emptiness for the rest of my adult-ass life. It leaves me binge-searching property values in cities where I might want to live. It leaves me wondering how I applied to 67 summer internships (no, seriously) last year and was turned down from all of them. It leaves me wanting to live lives through my computer screen and the LinkedIn jobs page. Last week, it left me scrolling my Instagram ‘explore’ page for 1.5 hours, uninterrupted, then getting hit with such a burst of exhaustion and self-loathing that I attempted to go on a run (note to others seeking to attempt: running after scrolling the internet in a fit of anxiety is the same feeling as trying to walk when you’ve gotten off a trampoline, but more nauseating.)
It leaves me sitting in the silent section of the library for 7 hours, creating a personal website, and then writing this blog post about it, because I’m not sure how I keep getting into this situation. There are too many identities out there for me to pick, and the only way I know how to explore them is to tattoo myself over and over with them, to pull them up over my hips and walk around in them, to pluck out little bits of my heart and my brain and the median nerve of my wrist and to cliff-dive into them through the annals of Zillow.com.
I can’t even drink coffee anymore without having to lie down. Am I the only one who feels like I’ve somehow lived 95 lives and none, all at once? Is that what 22, A Million is about?