tides-willbringmeback said: Hi Mrs. Stiefvater. I actually have a question so unrelated to any of your books. A lot of your readers are in the 18-20 range (I'm 19), and idk if others have the same problem with me. You're so successful now and you have a good head on your shoulders & good friends. Was your life always put together? I mean, for me right now, college debt is depressing and I have zero friends (except my mom, she's my bff). Basically, does life get better? Thanks ~
A disclaimer: I am not you. You are not me. We are not, collectively, anyone else, so your results may vary. I have a very high tolerance for personal discomfort and/ or living in squalor, which means the life choices I opted for in pursuit of happiness may not work for other people.
1. Yes, 18-19 was grotesque. I think it’s grotesque for many because it’s the time you realize that you are now going to be responsible for your personal happiness: CONGRATULATIONS YOU’RE AN ADULT-THING
2. So you’re not a kid, but it’s not exactly like you’re out in the real world doing what you want to do yet. You’re a strange possibly gross magical creature who is somehow still growing, who is aware of the right thing to say or do but somehow manages to do something else by mistake, who has possibly grown away from childhood friends, who is dimly conscious that there must be other humans out there to form a life-long bond of coolness with but somehow cannot find these future blood-brothers anywhere. This is frustrating at best and paralyzing at worst.
3. Do not be paralyzed. The ones who freeze are the ones who get eaten by the predators first.
4. Unless your life-goal was to be eaten by predators, in which case: go.
5. I wanted to be an artist, a musician, or a writer; that was the goal. No. That was not the goal. I knew I didn’t want to have an ordinary life. I wanted every day to be different — to feel no regrets — to feel like when I got to the end, I’d really done something.
6. Here’s the moment that changed my life forever: after graduating, I became a technical editor for kindly federal contractors. The job was fine. Not what I’d dreamed of, but a paycheck with benefits and a roof over my head. I realized that there was a version of me that could stay in this job for the rest of my life, benevolently compromising. That was the day I walked into my boss’s office and gave my two weeks notice. “What are you going to do?” he asked, surprised. “I’m going to be a portrait artist,” I replied. He said, “But you were a history major.” I told him I reckoned that if I worked at my art for 40 hours a week as I worked at technical editing, I’d get good enough to make a living. He told me that I could have my job back at any time. I didn’t go back. I gave up my nice salary and my future that was fine, only fine. My life became dry pasta and scrounging desperately under seats for change to put fuel in the car. It was the best thing I ever did: I was happy. Terrified, sometimes, because I had to put myself in unfamiliar situations every week and trust myself. But happy.
7. Which is to say that happiness is hard work, and I’m suspicious when I’m not chasing it. It doesn’t just sit there: content waits for you. Happiness runs, a gleeful moving target that changes as you change. I understand this belief may be because I am insane, but in case you’re also insane, I’m putting it out there.
8. I do indeed have a pack of lovely close friends, but I didn’t find most of them until my mid-twenties. And I didn’t find them in real life: I found them online, and then we met in person. So my best friends live in Kansas, in Colorado, in Georgia. I have people I am fine with locally, but I have yet to find a blood-brother in my home town. Embrace that whatever brand of strangeness you are, there is someone else complementary to you, but they might be two thousand miles away. The Internet is a great thing for strange people.
9. On the topic of complementary people: I never dated people who didn’t think I was great, nor did I pine away longing for a date. A lot of my peers made themselves miserable by dating people they could never be friends with. I don’t tend to think great relationships are formed with someone you had to harpoon; I think if you’re doing what you love and putting yourself out there, friends will come along, and some of those will be kissable. I’d rather be alone than with someone I’m just fine with. I’m great company.
10. I have to confess that the burst of joy I felt when I realized I was going to have 10 points to this reply was all out of proportion with the actual accomplishment. In conclusion, yes: my life gets better every year. I’m happier now than I was at 25, and I thought I was happy then. I am more myself every year.
So much all of this. Comfort is not happiness.