Years ago, when I was a young burgeoning ingénue, I always said that 28 was my dream age. Definitely a strange choice, I know. It’s not a milestone like 16, 18, or 21, where you can drive, get recruited, or legally drink. It’s not even 30, 35, or 40, which some might choose because of the idea that you’re a “real adult” at those ages. No, I always thought to myself, “Twenty-eight is gonna be the best year of my life.” I believed this for three reasons. I thought by the time I was 28, I would (1) be living in the city of my dreams where I would want to be settled for the rest of my life, (2) I would be with a significant other with whom I would want to spend the rest of me life, (3) and I would have a master’s degree from Harvard University. With today being my 28th birthday, I can say with confidence that I have accomplished one of my three goals (the third, for those keeping track). While I have no strong grievances with Chicago, I have just moved back here after being gone for 10 years, so I am still trying to get used to and understand the city again. It’s too fresh of a move to say I want to stay forever. And, as far as having a significant other is concerned, I still have never been in a serious, long-term relationship. Neither of these two things are bad and I certainly don’t think I have failed my young self by not reaching all three of these goals. However, waking up this morning, and even lingering in the back of my mind last night, I couldn’t help but to think “I can’t believe I’m this old” and “I should have accomplished more.”
Look, I know I have accomplished a tremendous amount in my life thus far, but that still doesn’t help the fact that I thought things—even little things—would be different when I got to this age. It is always so funny to me how we constantly have visions for our lives and those visions frequently do not come to fruition in the way we thought they would. Despite the fact that this inconsistency seems to be one of the only constants in life, we still dream, and we still get disappointed when what we saw in our mind’s eye isn’t what manifests itself in reality. I am a huge dreamer and romantic, and so I think these inconsistencies hit me harder than others sometimes. I think the first manifestation of this that really sticks out in my mind is a few years ago when I went to the wedding of a close family friend a few months after coming out to my parents. I always imagined myself marrying this girl—our parents even joked about it constantly throughout our childhood—and as my family got ready to get into the car to go to her wedding, I couldn’t help but stare at myself in the mirror of the bathroom and cry. I was extremely happy and proud to be out. I was very happy for her. I didn’t have any sort of romantic feelings for her (in fact, she had become more of a sister to me). But, it was the first time I really felt like the life I had envisioned for myself was not coming to pass, and that was a hard truth to face.
My mother is an ever-flowing font of wisdom and can always make me feel better with a witty adage or straight-talk. As I shuffled my feet into my parents’ room this morning to give my mom a hug and thank her for bringing me into this world, in her all-knowing magical mom way, she asked me if something was the matter. When I told her about my concerns about wishing I had done more with my life now that I’m 28, she looked at me as though I was crazy. “What is wrong with you? You’ve done so much! You just got a master’s degree and you have an amazing job that was exactly what you wanted. You’re also not even that old…what on earth did you expect from yourself?” I saved myself from regaling her with the woes of my love life or how I felt somewhat lame for living at home even though it has been shown to be a very common move for millennials after finishing grad school. She went on to say, “let go of what was, accept what is, and look expectantly towards the future…and remember that its all about the attitude you chose to carry with you. Choose to be happy and have a good day.”
These are all pieces of advice that my mother has given me before, but on this day of the start of my 28th year of life, they have particular resonance. Again, it is curious to me how we expect to have life happen to us instead of realizing that we happen to it as well. I find myself getting frustrated all the time at things that haven’t come to pass—I haven’t gone on a trip here, I haven’t made music in a while, I haven’t found a boyfriend, I haven’t yadda-yadda—when really, these are all things within my circle of control and I need to ask myself what am I actually doing to make these things come to light? Am I saving money (no…well, now that I am living at home, yes)? Am I taking time to record songs on the weekends (no…but I did last week and it was awesome)? Are you putting yourself in places where you can find the people that you want to be around (kinda…though it’s probably not bars and clubs)? I need to remember that I have the power and ability to make my dreams actualize. It sounds so silly to say since it is a piece of advice we hear over and over again from a young age. But sometimes the most seemingly trite expressions are overused because they are, in fact, very true. I think my mom’s advice about attitude is the most important part for me today. It is incredibly easy to beat yourself up, to not see the forest for the trees that you plant all the time every day, to be too hard on yourself. This is something I know I am guilty of all of the time. I’ve got to remember that the attitude you bring to any situation, be it good or bad, can color the entire experience. It is so much less productive to have a self-defeatist attitude about what my life isn’t instead of being excited about what my life is and can be.
So, I say all of this to say that I am making a new promise to myself on this first day of my 28th year of life. I’m making this promise to that younger version of myself whose head was in the clouds and thought he knew what life would look like when really he had no clue at all (except for the Harvard thing…you killed that one, bro). I promise to reengage in those things that make me happy, to put effort towards the things that I dream of, and carry a positive and productive attitude to the things that I want that may or may not be actualized just yet. I made a new friend during my last year in Boston who had such an air of peace and confidence about him that I grew to truly respect and admire. Once on an afternoon we were hanging out, this friend told me that one day he decided to stop saying “ I wish I had” or “ I should have done” and just started doing things. That’s what I want to do with my 28th year of life. This blog is the start. In truth, I went to school to be a writer and it never really came to be. I have always been disappointed with that. Not any more. My hope is that this can be a space where I can share my dreams, interests, and passions for my own sake and hopefully can empower others to do the same as well.
The name of the blog, “Where the Boom Bands Play,” comes from one of my favorite books, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Seuss. It’s a book that I return to frequently during transitions in my life and it seems incredibly important to reflect on that book today (if you haven’t read it, go get it right now). In the book, Dr. Seuss starts by congratulating you, the reader, by saying, “Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!” The doctor reminds you that, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” He describes how wonderful where you are going will be; he describes how successful you will be. However, the doctor also warns that slumps, bang-ups, and hang-ups will happen to you, as they do to everyone. When they do, the doctor states that people frequently find themselves in what he calls “The Waiting Place,” where people are waiting for anything and everything. I like to think that the good ol’ doctor was talking about those of us—myself included—who sit around waiting for life to happen instead of making it happen themselves. Luckily, in a glorious page turn, the doctor proclaims that “The Waiting Place” is not for you. He writes that you’ll escape The Waiting Place and “You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing.”
I found it. It’s right here, right now. Twenty-eight is going to be the best year yet.