My story isn't all that groundbreaking. I'm 23, officially a year removed from the University of Maryland-College Park and walking that ever-shaky line between being a functional adult and an irresponsible mess.
It's a story you've heard many times before (probably in some form of Internet listicle). And it's also one that many of you are probably experiencing right now, or at least can remember when you were. My column will try to shed light on what being in this awkward half-stage of life really means.
For me, it means finding the perfect apartment, but spending the first three months without a couch — because 1. Who can afford a couch? and 2. I'll spend all my free time watching Netflix in bed anyway. It means feeling financially independent but still having that credit card my parents pay for staring up shamefully from my wallet (you know, for "emergencies").
It means realizing that I now get excited about things like a Costco membership. It means asking myself questions like, "Is it still acceptable for me to get drunk on a Tuesday night?" And then realizing the next day, when I am just one step short of awful, that the answer is most likely no — but I'll still probably do it every once in a while.
That's the thing about being a 20-something: It's all about the process. It's trial and error, and error again, and then a little victory here and there. We're going to do silly things that would make "real" adults cringe slightly.
We're just still learning how all of this works. I, for one, feel like I'm figuring it out as I go. Overall, I think I'm doing relatively well. I came to Maryland from Columbus, Ohio, for college, and after a brief stint in West Virginia for a summer internship after graduating, I leapt at the chance to move to Baltimore. I became a Charm City resident in September 2013 when I started working at The Baltimore Sun. So that means I've survived a full year of city living (although I've already moved once) and full-time employment, and I have a strong support system of my boyfriend and best friends right in my apartment.
But it's still a constant struggle. It's a concoction of equal parts terrifying and exciting, that most days results in just blah.
More and more, however, I'm realizing that the best solution is to embrace that struggle. It's going to be awkward and painful, but that also makes it endearing and impactful. I'm growing up, and watching lots of people who I care about do so alongside me. And, if I can take a step back, that's a pretty cool perspective.
I know I'm not making any sort of philosophical breakthrough here. As I mentioned, this story is one you've probably heard before. And I think that's because it's such a relatable one.
It's comforting to commiserate and to compare horror stories. And it's equally rewarding to share in those small victories, such as cooking dinner that takes more than 10 minutes to make (bonus points if you bring the leftovers to work for lunch the next day).
So I hope that my trials and tribulations as a 20-something Baltimorean will be something you can connect to, or at least be entertained by. I can't promise any juicy scandals or edge-of-your-seat action — as much as I might sometimes pretend, my life is not a TV show.
But I do promise to be honest and heartfelt, and as least cliche as possible. I'm looking forward to sharing my journey with all of you. OK, well, that was one last cliche.
Ellen Fishel's column will appear regularly in b.