Back in February, I found myself alone in an Airbnb in my Texas hometown without electricity and running water. I never felt lonelier, and in certain moments, more hopeless about what the future might look like.
Given the circumstances at the time, what I lacked practically yelled at me. A relationship is something I have long said I wanted but will never be desperate to have. (However, if Frank Ocean is reading this, hi.) I’m perfectly fine with being alone and can enjoy my own company. On the other hand, no matter how relatively well you’re doing in times of darkness and isolation, too many moments alone can become dangerous.
Then there are the people around you, many of whom are noticeably not sharing your predicament. Many of my friends around my age are either already married or are getting married. Those people are majorly straight, but I also have plenty of queer friends in relationships. Meanwhile, I still haven’t truly had a relationship in name and without complication.
That horror in February, brought on by a winter storm and an unprepared Texas infrastructure and state government, came on the heels of me already wondering if I needed to reassess where I was in my life. I hadn’t been feeling shame, per se, but thinking about what else I didn’t have compared to others. It’s not that I even want a house right now (sorry, people constantly talking about “generational wealth”), but it was tough being cooped up in an Airbnb as a bunch of friends my age were nestled into more stable living arrangements.
I am not a homeowner. I have at least started paying off my student loans early, but even that has been somewhat anticlimactic. Did you know that when you pay off your loans too early, sometimes your credit score drops? As anyone that’s ever met me will explain to you, the structure of my private student loan debt has been the bane of my existence, so part of me hates FICO playing spoiler.
By the time the electricity and water came back, I was too happy to take a shower and watch The Great British Bake Off, because I find British people baking to be so damn soothing. I don’t like to stay stuck in that sadness. And by the time I greeted my birthday in April, I opted to traffic in gratitude and give thanks for life, and—at the age of 37—good genes and a decent skincare routine. Considering my previous pandemic birthday was drowned out by the sounds of sirens signaling death, a delivery order with hair in the food, and Zoom calls with people it wasn’t safe to meet, I had every reason to just be grateful. Still, though I’ve never really believed in it being too late to do most things in life, droplets of doubt from that Airbnb experience lingered in my mind. And, as so many people kindly informed me on my birthday, I’m only getting older.
I have felt rudely shoved into my late 30s. I say “rudely” because regardless of what many of us have seen on our Instagram feeds throughout this ordeal, life as we know it has largely stood at a standstill, and with it, a lot of time has been lost. I don’t want to speak for all Millennials, but for those with knees that function well enough, I know many of us would have preferred spending that time dancing at the club before we were officially considered the old folks at the party. Many of us, no matter our age (or knee function), probably share my preference to have dated more and quarantined a lot less.
I thought my life would look different by 37. I don’t mean having a big house, a Range Rover (someday, ideally), and a boyfriend—just a life that felt more full by this time. Yet we can’t deal with life as it should be, or how we wish it to be. We have to deal with life as it is. We also have to remember that until our lives our over, so much is still possible—and that things coming later in life don’t make them any less rewarding. People over 50 are out there proving it, but some of us should internalize that life lesson now.
Some of us have to wait a little longer to get what we want. It’s not the best feeling, but it’s better to keep trying than not. To that end, it’s vital that those in a similar position remember who we are and what we’ve done with the conditions handed to us.
As a Millennial alone, I belong to a generation screwed over (sorry to be so truthful with you, Boomers) repeatedly. Then there is the reality that many of the ideals I have worried about living up to never had me in mind to begin with. I’m a gay Black man from a very specific part of Houston, Texas. No one was thinking of me when boosting the nuclear family or even the fancy rich gay man on TV.
If I say that I am proud of myself for what I have overcome, I need to be better about sticking to that. That is not to encourage anyone to deny their misgivings about where they are in their lives, or at the very least, not thrilled with how certain aspects of their lives look. It’s okay to embrace the feeling, but not completely sink into the sentiment.
In my case, it’s fine to recognize during a natural disaster that robbed me of the ability to use the bathroom without getting creative that I must push myself harder for companionship. Not simply because misery loves company, but rather climate change is real, and companionship seems like a good coping mechanism. That goal will get easier to accomplish if I stop wasting time thinking about what I don’t have, as opposed to what I can still get and have to offer. I’ve also learned to stop being so hard on myself and to be grateful for what I have already accomplished. So much of that “I’m not where I should be life anxiety” is rooted in rules made to be broken, and again, rules not made with any of us in mind. Letting go of that frees you from such worries and gives you more room to focus on progress, whatever that is for you.
It’s the sort of attitude we all need to have to get further along with our goals instead of being distracted by arbitrary timetables. Milestones don’t have age limits, and the sooner any of us in doubt remember that, the faster we can get to the happiness and fulfillment we deserve. We continue to have time…even if we have to waste a little time to remember.
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