Asian Girl Problem #62: Having It Together

There are days my identity is first and foremost Asian, and other days it’s female. Today, it’s primarily a kid thrown into a swimming pool wondering whether to flail or give in to the pull. You can tell it that relaxing will help it float, but it’s not ready to believe. Hence the off-topic post.

A couple hours ago a gave myself an invisible gold star for handling a variety of adult challenges this week in a satisfactory way. And then I had to take it away, because I hit a failure/rejection that kind of made my previous successes moot. But I refuse to believe they are negated–they still happened, and I’m still proud of what I did.

I’m four years out of undergrad, and still struggling with becoming the adult I imagined I’d be. Of course, only the most boring people in the world turn out exactly as they imagined in childhood. Teacher, doctor, lawyer, president, and starving artist–all those horses are so dead (though not without the possibility of being reborn.)

I don’t miss school, where all I did was look forward to entering the real world and doing something important. But there are some things that I wish did carry over to adulthood–like gold stars and field trips and ice breakers and learning activities. When daily structure is not forced upon you anymore, you have more or less ten years to redefine what success and happiness means. On one hand, yay, freedom to design my life. Oh the other hand, shit, freedom to free fall.

Learning how to be a teacher takes time, even when you’re your only student. What goals to assign, how to console or reward yourself, what awkward social activities to put yourself through, when to say “take it easy” or “you can do anything.” Lately, growing up has found me “teachering” myself often.

Having it together is not a state of being but a temporary feeling. You can feel it for a few minutes or a few days, but that’s about the longest life-span ever recorded. It can mean mailing all your Christmas cards on time or getting a promotion or eating all your vegetables. But in the end, it’s all laundry. You get laundry done to make it dirty. You’re dirtying it even as you put away the last clean shirt.

The other brilliant thing about having it together is that it’s the easiest thing to fake. If you put down that muffin, you’ll find it remarkably easy to walk outside and enjoy the same luxuries everyone else does–sunshine, pretty food, the holiday lights and trees. You might look so much like someone who “has it together” that you’d be surprised by your reflection in a building.

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