The Proverbial Twentysomething

I moved from Kansas to Minneapolis/St. Paul forsaking the amenities of home and the ease of a bill-free life. I was under the assumption that I was heading toward a shiny, exhilarating, post-graduate adventure. The road from Kansas was paved with visions of late night lattes, jovial happy hours and downtown drama that would unfold between clinking glasses and “Ahh, this is the life.” The cozy conveniences of under-grad had nothing on the urban splendor that was to come.

What awaited me, however, was nothing short of an existential crisis. The coffeehouse at which I’d envisioned my friends converging every evening materialized as more of a quick hello and “don’t forget to turn out the lights” on my way to bed. The woodwork that supposedly contained myriad college grads ready to explore the Twin Cities turned into the quarterly issue of The Single Times shoved hastily into my box at work. As the resident single girl, my older, somewhat wiser and married co-workers look out for me. Amidst the shabby rags of my big city dreams, I couldn’t help but wonder; how did I become a proverbial twentysomething?

When it comes to being “the single twentysomething,” the art of survival is nothing short of a masterpiece. As determined as I was to avoid the “Quarter Life Crisis” fad, it found me, no holds barred. My empathetic father commiserated, “I was never as miserable as I was right out of college.” My well-intentioned mother confided, “Ugh—the year after school. I was a mess!” Thanks, mom. Thanks, dad. Could it really be that this disillusionment, this gnawing sense of dislocation, this utter discombobulation, is just a secondary trait of yet another life transition, like the onset of underarm odor at puberty? Am I really doomed to bump and fumble my way through my twenties until I get hitched, “settle down” and smile again? Somebody say it ain’t so!

Every Sunday night I attend a gathering of close to a thousand “Cities” dwellers in need of connection and a place to call home. “Church,” we call it, but as I bounce like a pinball through the thick crowd after the service, I imagine what might be going on behind those pretty Edina faces. Perhaps you’d hear “I just ate ramen for the fourth night in a row,” or “I can’t believe I still got my parents answering machine the sixth time I called today,” or “I might have to sell my PS2 to make rent this month—now what will I do with my time?” And me? If you gave me an ear for a second or two, you might hear me whisper, “There are a million people here and yet I still feel so utterly … alone. I wasn’t ready for this. Are you sure I’m too old to run back home? It wasn’t supposed to be like this.” The church, like the rest of the world, has no idea how to minister to this forgotten decade of life. Who can blame them? We can’t figure it out ourselves!

All around me I see the façade of shiny, happy people living fabulous twentysomething lives filled with social extravagance and weekend adventure. Yet, faced with this oasis, all I want is my tiny dorm cell and my mom’s creamed corn. For the first time in my life, nothing is certain. For 18 years I had the comfort of home, however much I kicked and screamed against it. Next I followed the herd to a small midwestern liberal arts college where I continued life as bubble girl, surviving by the pack-mentality and modern tradition. It was convention, convention, convention—until that fateful Sunday in May 2003, when life as I knew it ceased to exist (cue Jaws theme song here). As I walked across the platform in my ankle-buckle black sandals and polyester robe to shake President Thomforde’s outstretched hand, I didn’t just receive a diploma; I entered a new dimension. This dimension contained resumes and “office casual,” a steady sleep schedule and “No, I have to get up for work in the morning,” an electricity bill and, wait, how is that different from the gas bill? But, more significantly, this dimension contains more loneliness, more confusion and more uncertainty than I’ve ever before confronted in my 23 conformist years.

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My first instinct remains: moo, join the cattle stampede and run with all my might toward The American Dream of 2.5 kids and a Beagle named Buddy. Bring me marriage, bring me grad school, bring me a steady job with dental so that I can stick a bandage on this bleeding and siphon off the ambiguity!

But just when I think reality TV is as good as Wednesday night is ever going to get, I hear a voice from behind me. It says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell in the past. See, I am doing a new thing! For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future, plans for more than this loneliness and despair …” (Jeremiah 29:11) Maybe it’s the wind howling down Nicollet Mall, or maybe it’s the echoing drumbeat of my own relentless thoughts. But maybe, just maybe, it’s Jesus, and he’s made it to the Cities, just to say to me, “I am with you, even until the end of the age. Even as a twentysomething.”

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