I’ve always envied that indescribable quality woven in the writing of people who paint you as a character in their lives, directing their attention towards you as if you were a childhood friend having witnessed their every triumph and stumble. My messages are sporadic yet overly rambly, a product of the contradictory forces of being a cautious overthinker and a careless risktaker.

These days, I wrestle with truthfully recognizing my emotions and overindulging in my melancholy. I think it’s a bit of 2020 mixed with not knowing whether I like my job anymore and feeling very friendless in New York. I’m itching to come back to the Bay, sometime, but there’s a little nagging voice in my head that whispers rather bothersome words like “career” and “growth” and “challenging myself”. But on those Friday nights when I sit in an empty room washing away my fears and uncertainties with gin and whisky, I wonder if it’s normal to feel like there’s no future here, at least one where I’m truly happy.

I’m not always drenched by the torrential waves of my emotions. In fact, I’ve met some wonderful people here and have had some really memorable conversations and dinners and bar-hopping experiences and Fourth of July celebrations and New Year’s countdowns and all the other things that I’m forgetting. Most recently, I spent a few days writing up trivia questions, and had a lot of fun hosting a virtual trivia party. But it feels like there are long lulls of emptiness, occasionally punctuated by brief moments of happiness, before falling back into that deep empty slumber. Can these staccato notes be held for just one beat longer? Or is post-grad “adulthood” the resignation to monthly Google Calendar-planned get-togethers and the submersion into time-passing consumption-based hobbies?

What really is “adulthood”, anyways?

To me, it manifests as a constant battle against sameness. Fearing that every day mirrors the one right before, but feeling helpless as each day slips through my fingers.

It also marks a turning point where making new friends requires serious, dedicated effort. The key to friendship is proximity and regularity, both of which are considerably more challenging outside of college, a setting perfect for spontaneous interactions! (Although maybe not for the foreseeable future…) I’ve banged my head trying to make lasting friendships in varying ways for two consecutive years. Many of my friends have echoed similar sentiments; it’s really hard.

I think, however, that adulthood also marks the point where you become fully responsible for your own future and your own happiness.

The other day, the magic of the Spotify algorithm brought Mac Miller to the spotlight, a throwback to high school. Simpler times, I thought. I then discovered that the recurring melody to Donald Trump was actually sampled from Sufjan Stevens’s song Vesuvius.

In his album Carrie & Lowell, Stevens sings forthrightly about his mother Carrie’s passing, as he wrestles with his conflicted emotions of grief, regret, hurt, and pain. His mother, who suffered from schizophrenia and depression, abandoned him at age one, so she wasn’t a part of his life for much of his childhood. However, Stevens also cherished the three summers he spent as a kid with his mother and stepfather.

Midway through the song Should Have Known Better, soothing bleeps and bloops reminiscent of Such Great Heights combine with Stevens’s choral voice to form something uplifting and hopeful. He sings:

Don’t back down, concentrate on seeing
The breakers in the bar, the neighbor’s greeting
My brother had a daughter
The beauty that she brings, illumination

For five minutes and eight seconds, I found beauty in a few vibrations in the air.