I am going to be 26 in only a matter of days, hard to freaking believe, it really is! And I don’t want to go on about it too much, because what could possibly be more cliche than that same old garbage about the years going by faster and faster, and all that, but hot damn, it’s true. And I find myself in this really crazy place! Where I am no longer a barefoot, carefree hippie sailor chick, I am actually fairly well-established, or on my way there, anyways, to a completely professional career! And I feel this schizm, this split (oK, I admit, I just wanted to work the word “schizm” in there, it’s such a fantastic word!) between Barefoot, Carefree Hippie Sailor Chick, and Responsible Citizen of the World with a Career and Real, Adult Goals. Five, even three years ago, I would have told you that I was never going to get married, that I was perfectly happy living in my shack or boat, having no job at all whenever I could afford not to, travelling on the cheap and doing crazy things and above all, living in the moment at all times. Now I am three years into an apprentice Navigation Officer program – three years! – and I still shake my head that I haven’t dropped out or quit yet. Not only that, I am in a serious relationship! And sometimes I just step back and go, “Whoa, Nellie!” and wonder if I’m a complete sellout, for abandoning my carefree spontanaeity, or whether I am being a good responsible citizen of the world, you know, seeking to make a difference and wanting completely normal, boring, non-exciting things, like a house with a nice kitchen and wood floors? I mean I guess this is all part of growing up (oh boy: cliche alert!) it’s just frustrating because I can’t find the owner’s manual. My life right now is like one of those wretched IKEA instruction manuals for how to put together the Space Station. I mean, yeah, priorities change throughout your life, but it’s still bewildering to me that when I look back at myself, three or five years ago, I kind of shake my head and do that grandma-ish tsk tsk-ing, because I see a – yes very spontaneous and carefree – but also kind of lost girl! I mean, I am glad, I guess, that I am taking on more mature roles, seeking new things, because there is nothing sadder than the 40-year olds that still go to teenager parties and wear tight clothes and too much hairspray, you know the types; but how much of Carefree Hippie Girl should I retain, hold onto, nurture? I biffed my old, potato sack, hemp pants; ripped, patched-up sweaters; hideous cowboy plaid shirts; worn-to-death-corduroy hat; and hopelessly pathetic cloth satchel awhile back, not in any kind of savage, witch-hunt purge, just slowly as I would wear them less and less and then, somehow (miraculously!) they would find their way into the Value Village pile. I am happy to say now that I dress a lot nicer. Some might say that is totally superficial, that it doesn’t matter what you wear, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, but if you ask me, I say that is a load of horseshit — what you wear on the outside is a direct reflection of how you feel about yourself, and the image you want to portray to the world, and it is super important! One thing for sure is that nobody would have ever taken me seriously wearing my hemp pants, cowboy shirt, corduroy hat, patched sweaters, and Serious-crime-against-fabric satchel. Nobody! I had kind of a trippy moment in the airport not long ago, where I was wearing my uniform as a ship’s navigator-in-training, and some random dude saluted me! I mean I think he was probably mocking me, because even I am aware that I look like a reject penguin in my uniform, but it still caused me to think, wow. Like, whoa – this is nuts. Here’s the thing though – I don’t want to completely lose my spontaneous, carefree, hippie self to this new, responsible, goal-oriented thing! How do I find the balance here? Seriously people, help me out. It’s a wierd place to be, for sure. Our mothers had it easy: 1)Graduate from high school (optional); 2)Find a man to marry, preferably one who makes a lot of money and/or had the potential to make a lot of money; 3) Have kids ASAP. I think it almost makes it harder that we, as the young women of today (Beep! Beep! Beep! Oh, there goes the cliche alarm again!) have so many opportunities. I mean really, we are the first generation of women that can do whatever the hell we want! We really can! But that does bring its fair share of confusion and, as anyone who has ever tried to pick a paint colour knows, can be pretty overwhelming. Anyways, I have now spewed an entire essay here. Oops!