In Transit: Your Twenties Are the Junior High of Adulthood

by Bailey Powell

I have these fleeting thoughts, coming and going, going and coming. I try my best to capture them in writing but in New York, this absolute epicenter of innovation, birth of new ideas, trials, errors, and massive successes, thoughts are often gone as soon as they come.

How do I match a coffee table to a rug? How do I file taxes and when? Should I pick up fresh flowers to keep in my apartment? Where is the line between being “myself” and carefully curating my words and actions to accomodate status quo and social niceties? The world’s vastness swallows me  up and the endless options spit me out. Countless books, lists of movies, schedules of art shows, and music recommendations saturate my life while I’m surrounded by the free-spirited, the uptight, and those concerned with the trivial. I’m exhausted by my mind’s massive leaping from things like what Sarah Jessica Parker and my boss have planned for tonight and how the homeless double amputee ended up where he is. I eat homemade peanut butter sandwiches so I can on some level justify wandering through Bendel’s and Bergdorf’s at lunch. I clutch my Kate Spade as I catch the JMZ, passing the stop where a stray bullet hit a seven year old last month.

At home Gucci booties and Halston clutches line the shelves of a dusty, outdated piece of furniture abandoned by my room’s previous inhabitor. On my nightstand backdates of W are mixed into stacks of temp agency paystubs and internet bills. My phone is on the receiving end of both calls from corporate recruiters and text messages from my peers asking “where the hell [I’ve] been” and guilt tripping me to “come party!”.  I slide the no-see mouse trap out of the way with my foot in the bathroom as I reach into the cabinet for my Clarisonic. I fall into bed at 10pm as my daily transformation to look the 5th Avenue part begins at 6am sharp. During my morning commute to Manhattan I watch the demographic inside of my subway car become more and more affluent at each stop, pressed suits replacing paint-splattered jeans, Kindles and Nooks phasing out paperbacks. In 40 minutes of transit time I change from the most eyebrow-raising, well dressed commuter to one pair of DVF flats away from not good enough. I go from an iPhone wielding attention-grabber to an afterthought as a busy Tommy Hilfiger breezes past me with a passing glance and sidetracked greeting.

The women I look up to seemed to have transitioned seamlessly from single fashion industry devotees to wives on the arms of hedge fund managers at galas, taking the subway because it’s “chic” opposed to affordable. They pile Chanel and Repetto flats under their desks so they can change into their YSL Tributes and expertly stride about the office, three carat cushion settings sparkling on their left hands.

Some of the disorientation I experience must be credited to my sudden and constant immersion in the extreme juxtaposition of lifestyles existing in New York. My transition into adulthood is magnified by the city and at times I feel aimless, but I assume that’s normal for someone my age. Every “in hindsight” article I read about being in your 20s asserts that it is indeed a challenging time, becoming comfortable in your own skin, severing parental dependency ties, and ultimately figuring out what kind of adult you want to be.

With all the awkwardness I’m experiencing, condescending remarks I’m on the receiving end of, and self-indulgent posts I’ve been writing I feel like I’m in the junior high of big girl world. It’s not pretty. I’m trying to evolve gracefully but my track record goes to show this will be a bumpy ride. I’ve learned that the most imperative thing for anyone to hang on to in this town is perspective. All people are made up the same and look alike on the inside. No person is better than another, despite the desperate attempts made by snooty maitre’ds and shopgirls to convince you otherwise. Things are just that, things, and no matter how many of them you possess there’s always something left to be desired. There is life outside of New York, countries outside of America, and people with much bigger problems than simply being an overanalytical 20-something with a WordPress account.

All I know is that junior high doesn’t last forever, and keeping my mind right will be my saving grace.