How To Be a Young Adult

Miss your parents. Be struck with deep, heart-hollowing longing for them at the oddest of moments. Wish your mother was there when you are trying to decide whether a striped shirt should be washed with lights or darks. Feel the absence of your father when you watch a good documentary. Call them for no reason other than to tell them you bought some new storage containers and the grocery store didn’t have any good avocados. Be annoyed when your mother does the same. Love when your father emails to tell you about a typo in the newspaper.

Long for home. Be confused about what that means. Fly back to your parents’ house. Discover it feels small and cramped, like trying to squeeze back into the shell of your eighteen-year-old self. Return to your apartment. Discover that though you love it, sometimes it feels empty and lonely. Visit friends, family. Look at real estate. Freak out about the possibility of permanently settling somewhere. Freak out about not having roots. Try to find non-traditional manifestations of home. Claim your friends are your home. Have them move away. Move away yourself. Begin to think home is a ludicrous societal construction. Refuse to buy into it. Buy into it anyway.

Have questions. Wonder about things you have never considered before: how to file your taxes, how long before leftovers go bad, how to clean your couch, how to choose the best laundry detergent. Be too embarrassed to actually ask anyone. Research answers on the internet. Stand bewildered in grocery store aisles reading ingredient lists and nutritional information and price tags. Call your mother in tears when you get fruit flies and can’t figure out how to get rid of them.

Feel lost. Wonder where your life is going. Panic about the future. Be at a loss for words when people ask what you are going to do with your life. Take up collecting maps and globes. Plot routes to places you have never been. Trace paths to lands that no longer exist. Wander into the self-help sections of bookstores. Look at books about budgeting and career planning. Buy poetry instead.

Dream. Stare out windows in classrooms, in the office, in coffee shops. Plan trips you can’t afford. Apply for jobs you aren’t qualified for. Write wishlists. Window shop at fancy stores. Create elaborate fantasies for yourself. Be heartbroken when reality slaps you across the face with a rejection letter or credit card bill. Decide there is no point to dreams. Write them off as childish. Swear you will be serious, grown-up, realistic. Find yourself daydreaming again.

Cry. Often. Well up at good news. Sob at bad news. Dissolve into tears when it turns out that life is hard and unfair and overwhelming. Wail when your dreams begin to feel impossible. Barely make it into your apartment, sliding down the door like a character in a movie. Sit down in the shower. Collapse in the midst of cleaning products scattered throughout the kitchen. Burrow under the bed covers. Force yourself to get up off the floor, crawl out of bed, wash your hair. Keep living your life.


This poem was published in the 2012 edition of Ballyhoo, an annual arts publication of The King’s University College. It was awarded the editor’s choice award for poetry.

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