• Jane Un Ju Choi


Updated: Apr 24, 2020

I wrote this story about ten years ago, a few months before I was turning 30. I hope you enjoy it. Some details are fabricated to convey the emotions better and move the story along.

Every Tuesday morning, I wake up filled with dread and fear. Every Tuesday night, after class, after the criticisms, my fears of becoming a failure hits me like hurricane Camille times two. This is why I procrastinated taking a writing workshop. I finally dived in, and after $265, I have no choice but to keep going. It is excruciatingly painful, and I don't know how much longer I can keep going through these little nervous breakdowns. I'm already going through an emotional roller coaster of panic attacks about my impending 30th birthday. I don't know what it is about turning 30 that bothers me so much. It's not like I'm obsessed with getting old. Maybe because 30 means you're halfway to retirement and not having a career to retire from in the first place makes you feel even more inadequate. Something about 30 says you are no longer in the young, hip and fun category. You now belong in the old, get a mortgage and get a family category, and when you have none of that, you feel even more out of place. It's like I don't fit in either group.

I see friends' careers going in the right direction while mine has been in limbo for the last five years. I started bartending since I was 19 to help pay for college. Now, I'm turning 30 and still bartending without a college degree. Sometimes I wake up drenched in sweat with a full-on panic attack. It's the same nightmare; I'm 70 years old bartending in some seedy bar with boobs down to my knees. I'm walking over with my walker and trying to ask what the customer wants but can't because my teeth keep falling out. This is the delightful future awaiting me. When I started bartending, I was the youngest, and now I'm the oldest. Everything around me – TV, magazines, movies, and my job reminds me of how desirable youth is.

As a female, youthfulness is even more stressed. We are told that by age 35, our eggs are rotten. It's like at a certain age, and we should be put out to pasture like cows. Most guys want younger, not older. Every night at the bar, I see married men flirting with girls just barely over 21. Most guys end up trading an older model for a newer, younger model, and younger models seem to stop at age 30. When men age, they become distinguished, whereas women become either cougars or just plain old. And in my opinion, the label cougar is not flattering. It gives me an image of an older lady jumping onto a young man like a hyena seeing a dead deer and devouring them like it's been starving for a month. I can't breathe. My arm feels numb. My palpitation is in hyperdrive. Okay, to be completely frank with you, it's not the society that's causing this; it's my life becoming stagnant and miserable. If I look back on my life, I have not accomplished anything. I was never the child that knew what I wanted to be from the moment I could talk. I hate when people say, "I didn't decide the career. The career chose me." I'd rather watch 30 hours of Blossom and Saved by the Bell (we're talking college years) than listen to people like that. I want to punch them into a bloody pulp and feed them to my pack of ninja monkeys. Hmm...maybe I do have some anger issues too. In my twenties, I felt like I had so much time, and now that I'm two months to 30, life seems so short. Not having a career in my twenties didn't worry me, but turning 30, I feel like I'm sitting on a career time bomb. Maybe this has to do with my younger sister getting a job at a top surgical hospital and my younger brother becoming a partner at his law firm. Here I am, turning 30, and I am still trying to get my writing career out of the garage but can't even get the engine started. My parents are more than happy to point out my insufficiencies. When I told them what major I was declaring, my mom's first response was, "Oh, Lisa's daughter majored in writing. She got one book published and it only sold 20 copies. Now she's a waitress at Denny's." Every time I visit them, my father puts another nursing school pamphlet in my bag while I'm not looking. I'm thinking of making a paper-mâché out of them and giving it to my parents for their anniversary. That should go exceptionally well.

The thing is, every Tuesday night, I wonder if they are right, and that thought terrifies me even more than those creepy twins in The Shining. This is why every Tuesday morning, I wake up with a two-ton weight on my shoulders. Every Tuesday night, my families' opinion of my writing career is confirmed, and every Tuesday night, I go into class and come out wanting to slit my wrist. Relax, I'm just kidding. When I told my writing teacher what I've so far confessed to you, she suggested I seek professional help. I am so misunderstood. In hindsight, maybe I should have left out the slitting wrist part. Some humor doesn't translate well on paper or text messages. Anyway, as defeated as I am about my writing and my so-called life, I am not going to be reaching for any razors any time soon or dye my hair red. Oh, wait, oops, I did dye my hair red. But really, I promise I'm joking about the razors. Every class is two excruciating hours of me facing all my fears and insecurities of being a failure in life. Every Tuesday night, I am reminded of what a mediocre and incompetent writer I am. I read my classmates' writings, and in an instant, I am conflicted by contempt, dread, and envy. Contempt because I didn't think of their witty lines. Dread because I think I would never be able to, and envy because the lines are indescribably beautiful and elegant. I've concluded that I will not create a masterpiece in this class. I have accepted this fact because it is an exercise and I am learning, and it will help me become a better writer. This is the conversation I have with myself when the wine's no longer numbing my pain away.

Honestly, it wasn't wine I was drowning my sorrows in. I was drowning them in brownies, Doritos, Cheetos, Slim Jims, and anything else that was processed. However, due to the increasing girth of my belly, I started exercising and eating healthier. With the class not becoming any less painful, I had to search for other options to dissipate my pain. Wine seemed like the best choice, considering its low calories and its ability to get me inebriated quickly. I know I will not produce perfection, but being a perfectionist, it's a little hard to swallow. So in order to keep writing and pursuing my dreams, I keep telling myself that I will not create a masterpiece and will most likely fail miserably, which will ultimately give me enlightenment, and this enlightenment will make me a better writer. However, every Tuesday night, after class, after the criticisms, there's a little part of me that wants to crawl into a hole and sob like a little baby. Oh well, I guess it's time to stock up that wine rack.

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