The thing about being free of junior-year commitments is that I now have time which I can spend doing nothing. Sort of. As a friend of mine recently quipped this past weekend when someone expressed surprise at her having “no work,” “I could FIND work to do.” But, like her, I’m in no rush to occupy my time, even if I should be catching up on my entomology reading or — worse — thinking about and planning DIE ZUKUNFT. (That’s German for “the future.” It sounds scarier that way, or like someone is sentencing someone named Zukunft to death.)
Instead of working, I came up with a theory that makes me feel better about my Hamletian levels of paralyzing indecision, and the theory is this: adulthood is defined by the inability to do everything that’s important to you with 100 percent of the energy it would require to make you and the ones you love really, truly happy about all of those things. I’m sorry if that sounds terribly obvious to you, especially if you’re an adult because — fuck me, right? — I didn’t know. I didn’t know that it’s actually impossible because, until a few minutes ago, I was too busy stuffing burrito cart burritos into my stupid face between meeting with my T.A. to discuss a paper proposal I bullshitted in 10 minutes and getting coffee with someone I actually like and with whom I’ve probably hung out, like, twice since sophomore year.
When you’re a child, you’re an asshole because you literally have all the time in the world. Think about all the free time afforded to the average five-year-old. Kindergarten can be brutal, of course, but then what? Apple juice followed by naps? I would KILL to be in a place where my day could consist of apple juice followed by naps. Hell, I would execute ZUKUNFT myself. But unfortunately, things are expected of me, either by my own standards or by the people who, in one way, shape or form, depend on me for the completion of certain tasks to which I have committed because I think they’re important or — worse — because these people think I’m competent.
Thus the dilemma. The paradoxical, catch-22, existential bear-trap tragedy of my life right now is that, between wedging a love life into the slightest crevices of my social calendar and considering “careers options,” I have these terrifying moments of lucidity in which I can look down the speed tunnel of my remaining self-conscious years and know for sure that it’s only going to get more complicated. My commitments to the people I love and the things I consider worthwhile — or (blech!) moral — are only going to multiply.
Just to be clear, I’m not talking about being “busy.” “Busy” is to this feeling what “butterflies” is to the kind of angst you pronounce with a long, German “a.” Uncle Ben was right (and just to be clear, we’re talking “Spider-Man,” not rice bowls): with great power comes great responsibility. The trouble is that I’m not Peter Parker. I don’t feel like Spider-Man. I feel like someone who is being relied upon to fight the same caliber of villain but without the webs or the sticky fingers or the super strength and with an overstimulated spidey sense — an adherence to the paranoid creed that true, tangible danger is around every turn. I don’t want to make decisions because I know the decisions I make are starting to actually matter, but I can’t just abstain from decision-making altogether because my conscience prevents me from not giving a shit about the consequences.
People say that when you’re young, you have nothing to lose. I think it’s more accurate to say that you have no idea what you have to lose, which can sometimes feel like nothing and sometimes feel like everything. In this vestibular space between adolescent apathy and adult ambivalence, I’ve lost the taste for apple juice, but nothing has risen to take its place. The closest thing color-wise is probably Hefeweizen, whose calories will only contribute to my already sedentary lifestyle. And then I’ll have to use the treadmill, whose cyclical belt will only remind me that I’m not fucking going anywhere. To be or not to be?
Thus the dilemma.