Today is Erica’s birthday, I thought to myself this morning in the shower. Which was a weird thought to pop into my head because Erica was my best friend when I was in fifth grade. 18 years ago, we were friends who would play Monopoly until one of us had all the $100 and $500 bills. 18 years ago, I went to her party and lost my team charades because I didn’t know who Steve Urkel (or was it Pee Wee Herman?) was since I didn’t have a TV.

Jr. high, high school, college, boyfriends, babies, moves and new jobs have all come and gone since that time, but somehow today, her birthday popped into my head. I think subconsciously I wish for that simpler time. It wasn’t the most desirable childhood as it was much like being Amish, but with electricity. I did my schoolwork and my chores, then played outside until I was called in, allowed to read for 30 minutes before I had to turn out my light and go to bed.

But I always knew what was expected of me and what was coming up. Yet ever since learning to drive, I’ve been stressed. I never have a clue what the next month will hold. I am constantly stressed about work and about all the things people expect of me. I’m stressed about money and my car breaking down and family members. I’m stressed that I have to be stressed and am not the carefree and wealthy writer I had dreamed I would be by age 30.

As a kid, you are shielded from the overwhelming responsibilities of adulthood. You have your own little responsibilities, but failing to commit to them holds no real consequences. You have starry dreams of being an adult with a job that sounds fun and heroic and makes at least $20/hr. $20/hr could buy you anything you could ever dream of, you think, calculating how many packs of Bubble Yum that could get you.

But being an adult, optimism slides into pessimism, as one by one, you realize your starry notions were just notions. You realize $20/hr is not that spectacular and certainly won’t buy you a mansion. Suddenly, you are both aware and afraid of consequences. Consequences make me grit my teeth and listen when someone I have to see regularly makes me upset. Consequences hold me back and keep me from the freedom of being myself again: the myself that still believed in good and hoped for even better.

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