Experts say millennials have created a new life stage called “emerging adulthood,” which basically means you look back on your 20s and think (or in my case, drunkenly sob), “What the hell was that?” For many of us, our lives thus far can be summed up in two words: Womp, womp.
But emerging adulthood didn’t hold a gun to my head so I’d rack up my credit cards and live a lavish lifestyle I hadn’t yet earned. It didn’t threaten me so I’d spend my money on booze instead of electricity. It also didn’t force me to be everything to everyone, leaving nothing for myself. That was all me.
When I realized what I was doing to my life and wanted to make changes, there was a ton of resistance from my friends. As I shared my feelings and plans, it was like all they heard was Charlie Brown’s teacher. I don’t blame them for being confused by my 180: They only knew me as who I was trying to be, not who I really was. Between the guilt trippy calls and texts to “hang out” and “grab a drink” and “take a break” for “just an hour,” I kept falling back into old habits and wasn’t getting anywhere.
Something had to change –- actually, everything did –- so in August 2013 I went on what I like to call a "life detox" and haven’t left my apartment in six months. (The only time I’ve been outside is to take out the garbage.) I’ve gone rogue to get my life back on track, cutting out all distractions and combatting every shitty habit I’ve picked up along the way. Drastic? Yes. Insane? Maybe. But I’ve accomplished more in the past six months than I have in the past six years.
When I started this journey six months ago, I felt burnt out, apathetic, and disconnected. I was spending 95 percent of my time in an edgy, distracted, restless state. I was busy, but the wrong kind of busy. My anxiety was through the roof, I couldn’t focus on anything for longer than five minutes, and I was a total wreck. Emotions? Meh, heard of 'em.
At the time, I didn’t have a specific plan in place. All I knew was I didn’t want to spend one more second with things the way they were. I wanted to cut the crap. Stop talking. Start doing.
Because my mom’s awesome, she was uber-supportive of my decision and offered to pick up my groceries for me while I focused on piecing myself back together. Because I don’t want to take up too much of her time, I buy as much as I can online from stores that home-deliver. This has saved me oodles of time and money: I no longer aimlessly wander through aisles because I can’t find what I’m looking for, and impulse buying has been nixed from my repertoire altogether.
Not everyone was as supportive –- they tried to be, but didn’t understand how such an unorthodox approach could work. It made me realize how confined so many of us are to the idea that our lives have to consist of certain ingredients to be happy and fulfilling. I had all the ingredients I was “supposed” to have, yet was more lost than ever –- and I think I was allergic to some of them. This made me more determined than ever to drop everything I’d ever known and figure out what works for me.
During the first couple of weeks in my cocoon, I was a walking nervous breakdown: There was nothing to distract me from all of the stupid things I’d done to get in my own way, which was an overwhelming epiphany. I’ve always wanted to be a freelance writer by day and a screenwriter by night. At almost 30, what did I have to show for myself? A few haphazard writing credits and a two-year-old screenplay that didn’t make it past the first draft.
I decided to go all in. I had enough writing credits under my belt to find steady work, so during month one I spent every waking moment sending out letters of introduction while researching and submitting pitches to women’s magazines. (I lovingly call this process “whoring myself out.”) By month two, I had enough regular contributor work in place to pay my bills and my screenplay revisions were going strong – so much so, I’ve set out to finish my script by my 30th birthday.
Come month three, I had a solid work routine in place and was finally feeling like a person again: I was sleeping well, I started exercising for the first time in… well, ever, and I was actually taking the time to make healthy meals and snacks for myself. This was especially thrilling, since I’d been stressed out for so long I couldn’t remember the last time I had an appetite.
The biggest misconception is that not leaving my apartment means I’m a total recluse, but this isn’t the case at all. If anything, my relationships with my family and friends have improved. When they pop by or we chat on the phone, I’m not distracted and strung out: I’m completely present in the conversation. They may have been confused by my drastic decision at first, but every time they see me I’m a little calmer and a little healthier, so they’re starting to come around.
I’ve also learned a lot about myself over the past six months. Being temporarily plucked from society has helped me regain my sense of individuality. I like what I like because I like it, not because I’m influenced to like it. I’ve let go of the whole perma-distracted sense of urgency that leaves most of rushing to get nowhere.
To outsiders, it looks like I’m holding myself back from experiencing a “whole” and “balanced” life, but everyone has their own definition of freedom. No, I’m not travelling the world, but I am free. I do exactly what I want to do exactly when I want to do it. How many people can say that?
Will I ever leave my apartment again? Of course! But I’m not setting a deadline date for this process. Instead of bulldozing my way to an end goal (which is how I ended up in this mess in the first place), I’m letting this experience happen organically, focusing on quality over quantity. I’m allowing myself all the time I need, and when I am ready to make my comeback, you can bet your ass I’m going all in.