In May 2007 I graduated from Fitchburg State College. From that May to July I moved from the college dorms, to my parents’ house, back to the dorms, and then finally into an apartment- all while I tried to figure out my new grown up life. In that time I also switched jobs (twice) from an awful sales position to a great job at my alma mater and made the decision that I never again wanted to live in my home town. It was chaos: exciting, confusing, ever-changing chaos. I was living in my very first apartment: an absolute dump that was walking distance from my job. There were mold spots in the bathroom, a gaping hole in the dining room floor (which, because I was twenty one, was decorated as a tiki lounge), and lawn furniture in my living room. Everything was such a whirlwind. I didn’t know what to do with myself and I needed to feel some sense of control.
So I adopted a cat.
I also did not eat chicken for a full year because I had no idea how to cook it and was afraid I would accidentally poison myself.
After two and a half years, two jobs, two college degrees, three roommates, and two cats, I decided it was time to stop pretending to be an adult and actually be one. At twenty three my idea of “settling down” and “being grown up” meant getting a townhouse with three college friends and switching jobs again.
I must have been out of my mind.
Needless to say, I lasted in that townhouse less than a year. On the plus side it turned out one of my roommates in that house was also the love of my life.
With our now combined three cats, we packed up our things and moved to an apartment. Soon after moving I decided it was once again time to switch jobs, you know, to help with the settling down. That was it, I was a grown up for real this time and everything was going to be ok.
We lived in our cute two bedroom apartment for about a year when I started to feel the itch again- the itch to change, the itch to settle down more¸ because that’s what I was supposed to be doing. I was an adult now. Matt and I started house hunting but nothing turned up in our price range and we had all but given up when I got a call from our realtor that a new house was posted.
It was a short sale so we had to move fast and be the first ones to put in an offer if we wanted it. Matt was at work and we weren’t crazy about the pictures we saw online so I went alone to view it assuming it would be a bust but as soon as I walked in I fell in love. It was cluttered, filthy, and out of date; but I saw through it all and I saw something that would be mine. I put in an offer immediately, without Matt ever seeing it. In fact, he saw it for the first time months later when we got the inspection. I thought Matt was going to kill me. He saw it for a second time the night before we bought it, the owner hadn’t finished moving out yet but she had managed to remove the bathroom mirror and doorbell and leave her dog there alone overnight. I definitely thought Matt was going to kill me.
The house was in such shambles that night that I insisted on seeing it again the next day, before we went to the bank. Matt was in class so I brought a friend along. After walking through the house I thought she was going to kill me too. No one saw what I saw. I moved forward anyway and after signing at least one hundred pieces of paper, I had bought my very first house and Matt was still along for the ride.
I had a whole new kind of freedom- the freedom to paint the walls whatever color I wanted, the freedom to buy brand new furniture because I was finally somewhere I’d stay for a while, the freedom to be as loud as I wanted whenever I wanted because there was no one living upstairs or downstairs. I know what you must be thinking: time for another cat! You’re wrong- this time we adopted a dog!
Now, we’ve been in our house for almost a year and things are good. I’ve painted and made tons of improvements. Now everyone sees what I saw all along. I don’t want to move. I don’t want to work somewhere else. I don’t ache for change anymore.
I’ve learned that no single action is going to make me feel like an adult, I just am one. There’s nothing to prove, there’s no defining moment- it just happens, it just is. I finally feel the sense of security and confidence I think I had been looking for all along. Everything was rush-rush-rush for so long, but it was really a rush I brought upon myself. Now all I want to do is sit around and enjoy what I have created for myself.
I’m glad I had those nomadic years to figure out exactly what I want and where I want to be, but I’m also glad those years are over. I know I’m not going to stay in my house forever, and I know I’m not going to stay in my job forever, but I do know that I don’t feel the same insane sense of urgency that I used to feel. Things are comfortable, things are nice, and I don’t want to look for the next bigger better thing anymore. Some nights when Matt and I are lounging around in our very own house, on our very own couch (that was not a hand me down), surrounded by our zoo of pets we say out loud how nice our life is.
I think I’m at the end of my quarter life crisis.
Stephanie lives with her boyfriend, three cats, and a dog in their central Massachusetts home. She obsessively works on their fixer upper, which helps curb her need for constant change, and you can read all about it on her blog, Sandpaper and Glue. Follow her on Twitter: @SRockstar
If you are interested in contributing to the Quarterlife Crisis series feel free to contact me.