Self-Portrait at 27

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This is your first summer not out in the sun, and it is hard.

This time last year, you were paddling a canoe up in Canada.

And the year before that, you were watching the tide crash on Cape Cod.

And the year before that, you were backpacking through the Adirondacks and finalizing your road trip plans.

before that before that before that

It has been three years of wandering. Three long, sun-kissed, moonlit years.

Stability both taunts and terrifies you. It is strange having an apartment to yourself, being reunited with your kitchen supplies and business casual wardrobe. Some days you just want to burn it all and drive off into the sunset, but you are grateful for purpose and stability in this time of upheaval. It’s as if the world conspired to make you stay still, taking away all your easy escapes. You have never quite figured out if you are running away or toward.

Twenty-seven doesn’t feel much different than any other age. You wear the same clothes and listen to the same bands and keep your hair at approximately the same length. The biggest difference is that people like to inform you that you are getting closer to thirty, and then you have to politely inform them that it doesn’t matter and what we refer to as time, like many things, is a construct that we have developed in order to hide what we don’t understand, and did you know that string theory requires ten dimensions, time being only the fourth of them? No? OK, let’s move on.

You’ve spent a lot of time on self-reflection this year, most of it pandemic-induced. You unearthed some good bits and some not-so-good bits, and you’ve come to the realization that you are highly flawed, but you are honest about most of it, which somehow makes it OK. You consider yourself very aware of your thoughts and actions, but someone pointed out that sometimes you stop talking in the middle of a sentence, and you cannot figure out why you do that, why you give up halfway through, why words sometimes evaporate and you are left alone in the middle of your thoughts.

This does not keep you up at night. But what does keep you up at night is how sometimes you feel like you are simultaneously too much and not enough. (String theory keeps you up at night, too.)

In this time of solitude, you have been very nostalgic. Memories wash in like waves, some of them called for, some of them not. You vividly remember standing against a large door frame this past winter in California and jumping as an older woman put her hand on your waist, saying, it’s so nice that you young folks are spending time out here, and the part that you remember is her hand on your waist, and how it was touch that startled you, the suddenness of someone’s body against yours.

In a way, California was a snapshot of door frames. Closing and opening and nervous knocking and are you busy? and feeling disappointed and feeling excited and watching the door handle of the kitchen turn as you ate cereal, wondering if you could guess who was about to emerge.

One morning you stood in a cabin door frame as you said a final goodbye to a coworker and you remember the exact line he called back to you over his shoulder as he disappeared down the hill. That line he said lingers. You still have it. You do that a lot—picking up the scraps people have left behind and knitting them into something bigger than they were ever intended. People will sometimes compliment your memory, and you always fail to articulate how heavy it can be.

You sometimes do the mental math as to what time it is in California and then sharply remember that it doesn’t matter anymore.

Because you are back on the East Coast living a sweaty animal existence. You work and create art and read and try in vain to distinguish between swamp oaks and bur oaks. You’ve started meditating in a nearby park, and as you walk back to your apartment, men will sometimes catcall you, and that imagery alone really sums up what life is like these days.

Sometimes you sit on your second-story porch in your underwear and just watch the rain. It never rains enough.

 

 

(You can read my self-portrait at 26 here, and self-portrait at 25 here.)

(Also, string theory is only 10-dimensional for superstring theory, not some of the others, but pretty sure no one was going to fact check me on that one. . .)

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