twenty-six candles: a coming of age story

you want the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? my life is a dumpster fire. but as time goes on, i’ve realized most other millenials’ lives are also dumpster fires. it’s like a community of burning trash that society tries to ignore and i think that’s so beautiful.

i’ve spent the past 3 years trying to write and rewrite this. it’s the idea of grappling with the arduous transition into adulthood (aforementioned dumpster fire). naively, we just kinda hoped adulting was fake news. sorta like how we hoped snowmageddon happening or trump being elected was fake. but this is very much real. and this is it (the michael jackson experience). today’s narrative is how we maintain our sense of identity through the changing seasons of our lives, while also learning when to take a page out of elsa’s book and let it go. 


 

intro: welcome to adulthood (unfortunately not flavortown). 

at some point you’re going to realize you catapulted into adulthood and you don’t really know how or when it happened but you don’t ask a lot of questions (because who do you even ask? god? your mom? your mom goes to college). you thought adults could schedule their own dentist appointments & have their shit together.

*morgan freeman narrator voice* but they did not, in fact, have their shit together.

if you are a fellow zealot of iconic movie references well then you’ve come to the right place. i’m paralleling the stages of transitioning into an adult using iconic 80s bildungsroman (a boujee term for a coming-of-age story, thx mrs. grab for that 10th grade pre-ap vocab) movies which still carry apropos motifs when applied to our contemporary culture. anyway ignore how pretentious that sentence was & let’s get it started hot & get it started in here.


 

the breakfast club: barry manilow knows you raided his wardrobe.

let’s start with where it all started going downhill. high school. 

it me. 2012 elise. i trust authority & listen to whatever adults tell me to do. the most pressing life decisions i make are the color of my prom dress or if i should take the ap gov exam to get an a in meyer’s class. i get detention once (hypothetically. we all know I never got detention) & meet 4 other people from different cliques but we form a bond. yeah. i’m gonna remember this forever. for. ev. ur.

look at us all. the world is our oyster. and the future is the prized pearl we can’t wait for. we know what to do next because we do as we’re told (also bc we give our 5 year plan presentation actually believing we’ll follow through with) & everyone is telling us “yeet go to college or we’ll shun you” & we believe that’s what we have to do. 

essentially my entire life has been planned out for me & i followed that plan, blindly acquiescing to the societal expectations of conformity, in this order: graduate, go to college, get a job, then work till you die. 

well hate to break it to ya baby boomers/gen-xers but it doesn’t work like that anymore bc you ruined everything for us (including the economy & the environment but y’all ain’t ready to have that conversation yet).

remember how sentimental the last few weeks of high school felt? you were 17 going on 18, baby it’s time to think about the future. no one really tells us that what you feel/think/do will change astronomically. they never show that part of the movie. what happens to the breakfast club after the ending? sure, judd nelson fist pumps, the frame freezes, and you have that simple minds song stuck in your head for like 3 days. are they friends forever or does that day in detention become just a memory of their youth?

so as you’re crying to vitamin c’s graduation on repeat, you’re struck with this nostalgia because high school is familiar and the peak of your life (so far. lol bitch u thought).

we recognize that we had to sacrifice our entire lives up until now for whatever it was society wanted us to do. but we think you’re crazy for making us sign our lives away into student debt when your barry manilow lookin ass knows full well how unprepared we are for real life.


 

st. elmo’s fire: arguably the most underrated brat pack masterpiece.

this is like a magic carpet ride of what-is-even-going-on mixed with an unadulterated love for young rob lowe. after that whole high school phase is over you get to take an arrow to the knee for what comes next.

it’s taken me the last 3 years or so post-grad to accept that some of my biggest life chapters (so far) are over. but tbh they were such personal and emotional chapters with a lot of character arch and plot development. i spent those 4 years of college putting so much energy into writing those chapters that it felt like i wrote the whole book. so imagine my surprise when i was still here, waiting, like the second end credits of a marvel superhero movie.

i finally reached the point where i mentally closed the last chapter, but i’m still nervous to start the next one because i don’t know the plot yet. it’s hard to just say “OK that was a good one, now let’s start the less-structured, open-ended, even more ambiguous, been-rewritten-8-times-already next chapter that’s actually in progress rn.”

this chapter i’m writing now (being 25 going on 26 & boring) is a big ??? mood. maybe i don’t have as many measurable milestones. but life keeps going and i have to get my own health insurance in a few months and rent is due on the first and i’m not going out/being social because miss rona knows i’m immunocompromised. being in your mid to late 20s means a whole lot of making it up as you go along.

the film ends with the gang deciding not to go to st. elmo’s bar (the place they’ve always gone). they go to houlihan’s instead because there’s “not so many kids” there. you might be thinking, “elise stop analyzing this movie like an ap english teacher” but when you think about it metaphorically, they’ve come to a place of acceptance where they’re ready to say “we’re not kids anymore & we’ve got bigger fish to fry.” you have to ask yourself, how can you move forward if you keep looking back?

now we’re looking forward without a map or compass. instead of the usual one-way road you’ve been on and without your dora the explorer map, you come across a fork in the road splitting into 11 directions that are all less traveled & you finally have to make a life-changing decision without siri telling you to take a left in 300 feet.


 

big: feeling like you’re 12 but passing for 30. also you’re depressed.

are you a millennial recently turned adult? do you feel like tom hanks & have no idea what’s going on but are technically doing adult things and just excited to get a paycheck but still not sure how health insurance and deductibles work? (minus the under 26ers who are still riding out their parents coverage) do you jocosely brand yourself as ‘an old person because i’d rather stay home & watch love is blind on netflix than go out and party’?

i honestly don’t know if anyone who’s reading this will relate. but i’ve been feeling lost since being left to fend for myself in the real world. like i should know more life things. like how to replace the battery in my key fob or set up a 401k. 

well, now it’s time for silly stories with larry. let’s rewind to summer ‘17.

i did not have a plan after graduation (still don’t). i was cripplingly depressed. the first six months post-grad, i literally (literally) didn’t have a job. i moved back home to my parents’ house and laid in bed with my dogs all day. almost every day. i usually cried.

i’m a virgo and i’m sure mercury was in gatorade for those six months so that’s the cop-out i’m rolling with. jokes aside. how did i get to this point. crying with my dogs & puke/crying in a parking garage (at which point a passerby stopped to help, reassuring me that she had medical experience bc she went to wazzu).

my entire life up until graduation had been pre-planned for me. i didn’t have anyone telling me what to do next anymore so i didn’t do anything next. i had no idea what to do. i couldn’t even half-ass the good ‘ole college try. i gave it the no-assed college dropout try. the only thing i really knew how to do was defer my student loans, but even then, it’s because my therapist told me how. y’know that scene where tom hanks spends his first night in a seedy hotel room and cries? that was my entire first year (okay two) post-grad.

life is different now. i’m different now. i don’t experience things for the first time nearly as much as i used to. unless you count making noise complaints about your neighbor’s dog or having an energy bill. but i miss that feeling. life is routine and uniform and non-deviating. we have to get up in the morning and work the job we consistently work and that’s it. that’s your life.

contrary to prior belief, life is actually not an episode of friends where you all live together & go to the coffee shop 4 times a day. actually, the only part they got right was that bangin intro verse, “so no one told you life was gonna be this way, your job’s a joke you’re broke… yadda yadda… when it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year.” I don’t even know how people are actively social. by the time i’m home from work I’m like “well better hit the hay soon” & fall asleep by 9pm watching the good place.

the old me used to do shit like hang out with people on weeknights for wine wednesdays. now i’m worried about taking extra strength tylenol on an empty stomach and how to increase my iron levels. i mean, i don’t want to say my life isn’t as thrilling as it used to be, but i watch videos of people cutting soap for fun now. so things could probably be going better.


 


conclusion: find what makes you happy & (ideally) marry rob lowe.

branding yourself out there in the job market is 10% luck, 20% skill, and 70% bullshitting to make some gainz. in one interview, this hipster macklemore lookin ass told me i’m not talented enough at design. one woman literally hung up mid-interview when i said i didn’t have much html/css experience. another interviewer spent the full hour & 15 minutes telling me about doors. finding your vocation is no cake walk. it’s more akin to the fire coal walk from the beach day episode of the office.


we see people out there talkin bout “let’s get this bread” while all you’re getting is a stale communion wafer. (rest assured, i am among the communion wafer community). finding a “real” job (bc who hasn’t said ‘well once i get a real job…’) relevant to your degree/career path is such an impossibly carking endeavor. 


however, i’m going to break the ice. maybe you need to hear this, maybe you don’t (but please read it anyway and validate me/my writing). here it is (and hear me out): you can fail. you can hit rock bottom. you can lose your way & not know where you’re going because your gps hasn’t rerouted you yet. you can start over. you can be human.

people don’t often share their failures, especially on social media platforms, but i’m going to. for no reason other than the hope that you find some sense of solace or validation.

a year after i graduated from plu, i took the first job i could find, which turned out to be a marketing assistant for commercial real estate. right kind of job, wrong kind of industry. i sat in front of a computer doing nothing for 8 hours a day. i really wish i was exaggerating. i started drinking tea for something to do and got up to like 8 cups a day. one time i left for 45 minutes to just get some exercise running up and down the stairwell and no one noticed. 

doing nothing is actually a lot more exhausting than having a lot to do. it made me so lethargic that i constantly called out sick because it was too exhausting to be there. i literally spent my daily commute crying to ABBA’s greatest hits.

so last year, to escape that hell, i used my tax return to book a flight to peru. y’all know how much i love traveling so what better way to lift me out of a depressive episode than traveling across the world. for the first time in years i felt happy and hopeful. i knew it was the right choice for me.

unfortunately, my boss did not. when i told her i was taking a trip for my mental health, she fired me. (well technically she terminated the contract through the staffing agency) with a solid 30 minute notice. 

i failed. at one of the world’s easiest jobs. i really failed. which is not something elise anderson does. 

but there’s humanity in all of us. maybe you don’t gotta catch ’em all. maybe you’re good with just squirtle & jigglypuff. but 
y’know what’s not a maybe? that it is okay to fail. on my last day at that boring ass temp job, the *only* female broker in the company says: “i once got fired from a goddamn taco time. guess what. i’m still here & if i can survive the day i just had, you can survive too. so cry it out and be sad. go get a facial or a massage. then tomorrow get up & get right back to it. because you’re meant for greater things than this.”


i failed. i’m comfortable saying that now. i couldn’t dedicate myself enough to care about a job i didn’t believe in. 

but i won, too. now i know i can’t work where:


  • the company branding used one color
  • i never got to talk to anyone

  • the people working there are so wealthy they grocery shop exclusively at trader joe’s, wear monogrammed clothes, & complain about having to sell one of their multiple boats

  • there’s zero diversity & poc??

  • some of them voted for trump & still don’t regret it??

 


we don’t like to admit our faults or downfalls to the world. especially with the title of adult imposed on us. alas, riddle me this, batman. why do we fall? so we learn to pick ourselves up. if you never fall, you’ll never know how to pick yourself up.

it’s okay if your life isn’t what you thought it would be, as long as you keep trying to be the person you hope to be. 

xoxo, gossip gorl

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