I wanted to be an artist by this point in my life—or, more accurately, the version of an artist we see all the time in Sundance movies. All through adolescence, I imagined myself in my 20s looking not unlike the sexy courtesans in Moulin Rouge before Nicole Kidman dies, when they’re still happily sleeping with artists and wearing kimonos to bed. Here are a few of the hopes and dreams I had that die a little more every day.
Dream: My ex-boyfriends would all mature from pasty, chubby drama nerds to the cast of Rent.
Reality: They majored in economics and film theory and got handsome and/or gay without me.
Dream: That one girl who wrote really bad poetry would make an excellent performance artist.
Reality: She still writes really bad poetry and goes to grad school for something else.
Dream: My career would mirror Margot Tenenbaum’s, and it would be totally age-appropriate to wear too much eye makeup, so long as I was a formerly successful playwright.
Reality: It’s not okay to wear that much eye makeup unless you’re Gwenyth and/or starring in a Wes Anderson film, and especially not if people know you’ve also failed at being a playwright.
Dream: My friends and I would be broke and giving each other herpes in Alphabet City, or we’d be broke and giving each other tuberculosis in Parisian garrets.
Reality: Mononucleosis is about the most exotic thing that gets passed around our painfully monogamous group.
Dream: We’d reestablish literary salons and sell each other our paintings, and in 50 years some museum would feature us in a retrospective.
Reality: We went to college and spent roughly four years posting cat videos to each other’s Facebooks.
Dream: College would be a place of groundbreaking bohemia and political awakening for all.
Reality: When I started, college was just a prologue to the job market, and by the time I finished, employment was just a prologue to unemployment. Occupy Wall Street is the first time many of us have bothered showing up for a protest, and let’s be honest: a huge part of the reason is to take the first cameraphone footage of old hippies singing our favorite songs.
Dream: We’d start communes and raise each other’s babies on granola, acrylic paint, and handmade knitwear.
Reality: DIY projects do not an artist make, plus everything on that list takes a lot more time and energy than broke twentysomethings have for anything besides sex and binge drinking.
Dream: My biggest fear would be feeding myself before my next opera sold.
Reality: My biggest worry is whether we’re going to have socialized healthcare by my 26th birthday.
So I I have yet to lounge in a silk robe on a veranda. And the closest anyone I personally know comes to writing a novel is submitting dissertations on disappointment to their favorite blog.