My friend Maddy is into astrology. She’s probably going to castrate me when she reads me outing her like this, but at her instruction, I completed one of those hokey charts. It basically takes your birthdate, birth location, birth time, and name, then maps your existence into all these weird symbols on a compass that looks vaguely Satanic.
(Also, it’s entirely possible this is an identity theft measure by some crafty fraudsters who know how to sucker white people into volunteering personal information.)
And though I hate to admit it, the description it spit out about me was creepily accurate. She took a look at the chart.
“Oh, shit. Your moon sign is in Leo.”
My what is in what? What does that mean? I thought I was the goat one, the Capricorn. Prior to this conversation, my only interaction with astrology was a pink and white cami from Limited Too that said “cApRiCoRn” in toggle case across the shelf bra in the front. The early 2000s were a weird time for all of us.
Apparently, your moon sign is what controls your emotions. Leos are, apparently, selfish and dramatic. Fantastic!
But on the plus side, she noted, one of my other signs points to a super rational, logical, and self-controlled approach to life. So, she assured me, while I probably FEEL overly emotional and self-centered things, I’m (apparently) especially good at using logic to overcome it.
Not to toot my own goat horns, but I identify a lot with that analysis.
I realized most of my anxiety (especially the objectively irrational kind, which—let’s be real—comprises nearly all of my anxiety, since I am very lucky to have a great family, a great job, great friends, and an all-around happy life) is caused by the cognitive dissonance I feel when the way some aspect of my life doesn’t quite look how I feel like it should.
“Cognitive dissonance” occurs when your beliefs and your actions don’t match.
For example, if I believed that lying was wrong, but I lied all the time, I would be doing myself a psychological disservice. Behaving (or existing) in a state that’s contrary to your beliefs creates this sneaky breed of unrest in your subconscious that—surprise, surprise—feels a lot like seemingly inexplicable anxiety.
And although that’s a pretty simple definition and example, it also has more complex implications.
Whether it’s your body, your job, or your relationship, if you have a vision of what that thing is supposed to look like—and it doesn't--it’s likely going to be a consistently anxiety- and unrest-inducing component of your existence until you address it.
Unknowingly and unintentionally, we allow unrealistic influences to impact our ideals. Instagram models, romantic comedies, and even our more successful friends’ careers can manipulate our beliefs.
Everyone’s seen that quote those knock-off Wiz Khalifa and Chance the Rapper Twitter accounts post weekly: “Nothing will ruin your twenties more than thinking you should have your life together already.” It’s been rendered tawdry by its overuse in justifying blatantly stupid decisions, but the fact remains that when you evaluate your life against a magic measuring stick, you’re going to feel shitty.
When I had this realization about something in my life Tuesday evening, here’s where my self-talk led me:
I’m just going to acknowledge that it’s OK this aspect of my life isn’t absolutely flawless, and it’s natural that it’s still a work in progress.
This weird relief and clarity ambushed me once I settled on the words “work in progress.” A simple acceptance that nothing—yes, nothing—in my life is yet, or will ever be, exactly the way my delusions specify it should be. Because that toxic sentiment of "should" is the magic spell for inadequacy.
But once you’re content with imagining each little silo of your existence as a progress bar that’s just slowly filling up day by day, that progress will be a sense of joy—not frustration.
When you’re young, you don’t have a strong sense of self-efficacy yet. You don’t yet believe the way you feel or what you think could be innately right. So you look to other people—maybe older, maybe louder, maybe just a collective whole—as examples of what your life, your job, your friendships, should look like, instead of trusting that you don’t need to compare and contort and examine every small piece for flaws or imperfections in order to determine it’s good.
Granted, I’m no psychologist. I did minor in psychology, but only because I wanted to learn how to more effectively market stuff and build brands by understanding behavior—not exactly the most altruistic decision, to be sure. But the 18 or so credit hours I completed for my minor did teach me enough to self-diagnose and offer unsolicited advice to strangers on the Internet. Welcome to 2018.
I'm really selling "adulthood" with this title, huh?
I know I'm verbose, so: plain and simple, I had to buy my own car insurance for the first time (in full) this week and I had a mini “being an adult is shitty” lapse in faith.
Nothing like throwing $2,000 away in one fell swoop to make you comb through your budgeting & investment worksheets penny by penny to feel in control of your hemorrhaged wallet AND tear through your closet of under-worn Lululemon products whilst downloading the Poshmark app with your free hand. How much do you think I could get for a pair of lightly worn purple leggings?
I was texting my friend Lexie about it, explaining how I’m grateful that my full-time job still allows me the flexibility and balance to do other things I love, like teach or take yoga every day, but that sometimes I get really wistful about the days before I ‘grew up.’ The days at Notre Dame Academy, or even back in my freshman dorm at Alabama. My concerns were so banal.
The tradeoffs, however, are profound.
When I get nostalgic about high school and college (simpler times, so to speak), I realize if I ever were to be transported back, I’d want to be the “me” I am now—just in those carefree circumstances—replete with the wisdom about being 17 that I’ve accumulated at 23. I don’t want to be 17 again—not only do I not recognize my 17-year-old self outside of a few major personality traits (loud, overly opinionated, easily impassioned), but I realize that the stresses I faced as a 17-year-old were real to 2012 KG.
(And trust me, if you think it’s dramatic to say I don’t recognize my 17-year-old self, go look back at your posts on social media from 2012 and let me know how you feel about YOUR high school self.)
Concerns just as real as a $2,000 annual car insurance payment or a frustrating sequence of events at work or having to wake up at 5 a.m. to teach Sculpt on a weekly basis, even when I feel sick and can’t sleep the night before (like this week).
My problems were definitely different: frenemies, physics tests, bullying, acne. But they were very real.
I only look back on that time fondly because I know now how to navigate it. I know how my hand of cards played; how things would shake out and shape up. I know being grounded for all of June my junior year was a good thing and I deserved it, and that my parents would eventually forgive me for the debauchery I won’t recount here seeing as my grandmother reads my blog. Hi, Grandma Jean. I’d know that I’d join a good sorority and make good grades and get a good job.
All the things 17-year-old Katie stressed about look a lot more like answered prayers now. In perhaps the truest and most literal sense, I share an apartment in Dallas with my high school best friend who moved here on a whim to start anew. How’s that for a plot twist, 2012 Katie?
17-year-old Ellie and Katie joked about sharing an apartment in a big city somewhere far from Cincinnati with an exposed interior brick wall. We don't have that wall (yet), but it feels like we've accomplished the hard part already.
Of course, that doesn’t do justice to the things 17-year-old me never could’ve predicted. From the big to the small—I used to anxiously scheme ways to find a career path that didn’t involve travel because I was cripplingly afraid of flying. Bet 2012 Katie didn’t think she’d work for an airline and voraciously travel the country, for free.
I never thought I’d get to write for a living and teach fitness classes on the side. I never thought majority of those friends I made in college would end up in the same place with me afterward, introducing me to people like Thomas.
I like to think that someday 45-year-old Katie (wrinkle-free, hopefully—SPF 50 on the daily) will look back wistfully on the days when she was 23, typing blog posts for strangers on the internet and stressing about telling her leasing office about her secret cat. Hopefully by then she’ll have more sophisticated worries, and an even more sophisticated collection of budgeting & investment worksheets.
Becoming an adult is shitty sometimes, but so was being a teenager. Everything—every stage in life—has shitty facets. But as I’ve learned in the last year, when you make good choices (at least 80% of the time *winks dramatically*) you can usually manifest some pretty powerful, awesome stuff. And if you choose to focus on that stuff, you don’t have to look back in 10 years and say, “Damn, I just wish I hadn’t stressed so much about it.”
And somehow, in some bizarre twist, I’ve been to more “prom” style events as an adult than I EVER went to in high school, so maybe I’m not quite a grown-up yet, either.
Let's be honest, everyone experiences anxiety about the transition. Here's an inside look at mine and the realizations I've had along the way.