As a child of the '90s, I grew up with the Magic School Bus. To this day, Miss Frizzle's words echo in my mind: "Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!" Oh Miss Frizzle, I took your words to heart.
Shortly after turning 23, I made an ill-fated move to Glasgow, Scotland for graduate school. I didn't know anyone in Glasgow nor had I ever visited Scotland. Still, I took a chance in fall 2011 and went. I lasted only three days before moving back to the States. I won't get into the details but they involved mounting student debt, a boyfriend, and the eternal question "What in the hell am I doing with my life?"
After graduating from Emerson College in May 2010 only a month shy of my 22nd birthday, I spent that post-college year totally lost. My once beloved Boston became a lonely place when the majority of my school friends scattered for jobs or moved home with their parents. I went to the UK chasing the dreams of the British indie bands that I so admired. I thought Glasgow would have the answers. Unfortunately, it didn't.
I'll readily admit that I failed spectacularly. Sometimes, I regret my decision. I still beat myself up about it -- "You should have given Glasgow a chance! You'll never again have the opportunity to spend a year in Europe finding yourself!" On one hand, that thought process is correct. At 23, I didn't have any major responsibilities so picking up and moving to the UK was feasible. In retrospect, I realize that Glasgow was just an escape from the unhappiness I experienced in my post-Emerson life.
Upon returning to the U.S., I was so embarrassed by my failure that I deactivated my Facebook page and withdrew from just about everyone. My family and close friends were incredibly supportive. I found refuge at my parents' house in Tennessee with the plan to move back to Boston and pick up right where I had left off. Instead, my boyfriend broke things off with me claiming that he was too disappointed by my decision to leave Glasgow. I never returned to Boston.
I spent that fall wallowing in my own misery. What was I to do now? Like Morrissey once sang, "And what a terrible mess I've made of my life." At the time, I felt like I was going through hell. Now almost a year later, I realize that "terrible mess" was the catalyst for making me grow up. I couldn't wait for someone to pick up the pieces and put my life back together. I had to take responsibility and find a way out of the bad situation that I had put myself in.
After many months of searching, I landed a job all the way in San Francisco. In this economy, I know that is no small feat. My move to the west coast was far smoother than the one to Glasgow and over six months later, I'm still in San Francisco with no plans for leaving. I'm happy and feel like I belong here.
I'm only 24. I don't have my life entirely figured out and I'm sure it will take some time. While I feel settled for the first time in my adult life, I know that I still have a long way to go and many more decisions ahead. I still want to earn a master's degree. I want to start a band with my friends. I want to adopt a cat. Though I freaked out when I turned 24 at the end of June ("It's the end of my early 20s!"), I realize that I'm still very young. I can't compare myself to Lena Dunham or people that I graduated with because we're all following different timelines. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that I'm a failure because so-and-so did X, Y, and Z by her 25th birthday. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what someone else is doing because I'm on my own path doing things in my own time -- no one else's.
I'm not willing to dismiss Miss Frizzle's philosophy just yet. Taking chances is an important part of life but there's always the 50/50 outcome that it will blow up in your face like Glasgow did in mine. Moving there was a mistake and I wish I could get back the money I spent on a student visa and airfare. However, I have come to embrace the lessons learned from the experience. The embarrassment, disappointment, and heartbreak allowed me to discover an inner strength that I never knew I possessed. I grew up quickly and I think I've emerged from that situation a stronger, more mature individual.
The early 20s are a scary time. We're forced to make major life decisions without the life experience to guide us. It's okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them. Don't turn down the chance to do something that you love just because you're scared. Sure, it may not turn out how you envisioned it would but there's a lot to be said for simply trying. And for Miss Frizzle's sake, get messy!