Buried in the depths of my mostly defunct YouTube channel, with the dozens of others I’ve set to private over the years, is one particular video filmed on December 16, 2012. It starts with a clip of a dorm room dated early September, bright and daylit and decorated, before cutting to a shot of the same room stripped bare of nearly everything. And then I appear, age 21, on the verge of being stripped of nearly everything myself, or so it felt at the time. It was my last night of college. I rattle off the script I wrote at a brisk cheerful clip, beginning with an extended metaphor about how my college career went similarly to the where write stories (strong start, vague middle, rushed ending). I discuss how I have a hard time leaving places behind because even though a place may still exist, there is a sense of never truly being able to go back to how it was. I conclude with a declaration of feeling optimistic despite my anxiety about the unknown.
There is a cut to black, and it seems the video may be over, but then I return in tears, explaining how I’d fractured as soon as I finished reading the script, because it meant everything was really over. I mention that I could edit the crying out, but that I wanted to present a genuine picture. This one video contains the duality of Krystal then and now, the cheerful veneer over the tender heart. Fall semester of 2012 was when Hurricane Sandy rolled through and was also that weird time when everyone thought the end of the world was imminent, and for me, in a way, my world was ending. Being a student had been part of my identity for so long. I wasn’t sure how I was going to navigate the world without that, and I was doing it months earlier than I’d anticipated when I started college because I’d accidentally gotten myself into the position of graduating a semester early. It’s weird to think that it’s been 10 years since then.
There are so many things I wish I could tell Krystal of 2012, although in truth I don’t think it’s a good thing in general to know the future before it happens because it changes our reactions to it. 2013 was the hardest year of my life so far, and I’d want her to know that she’ll survive it, because I didn’t want to harm myself then, but I did spend a lot of time sleeping so I didn’t have to exist in my depression. Some years survival is all we can do and there is nothing, nothing wrong with that.
I want her to remember that she has the power to give up things that do not serve her (see: the first full time job that hired me, which I quit after two months). But also to remember that clinging to things that do not serve her doesn’t make her lesser (see: my boyfriend of winter 2016-17, completely forgetting what I learned about relationships my freshman year of college). She’d be shocked that I gave up making videos, but glad that I replaced them with rediscovering the joy of writing. I already knew when I was graduating that I ultimately probably wasn’t going to use the media production portion of my degree, but winding up in the law field probably would surprise 2012 Krystal, even though maybe it shouldn’t because in a way cases are just stories and I love stories, and also law firms are every-goddamn-where. One of my biggest anxieties when I graduated was my school loans, but I paid them off in seven years and have savings for the first time in my life. I maintained my important old friendships and forged strong new ones during a pandemic. I still live at home, but at least I still somehow mostly get along with my mom. I’ve learned enough about myself to firmly know I don’t want to have kids, and it feels good to be certain about at least one thing.
I honestly thought I hadn’t done much of note in the past decade, nothing that 2012 Krystal would be greatly proud of anyway, but sitting down to write this has made me realize that while others in my cohort may have done “more” and have accomplishments that seem more significant (marriage, home ownership, children) I have done a lot of things and it is enough.
That being said, I do worry about plateauing. Even in 2012 I remember having a sense of “okay, I get a job, I pay the loans, I move out, and then what?” I still don’t know. Minus moving out and maybe finding a long-term partner, I do sometimes feel that I’ve reached the zenith of what my day-to-day routine will be for the rest of my life. My future days will likely take place in different locations and with different people, but the overall routine looks the same when I think ahead. I suppose it is sort of comforting to think that even though I don’t know what else there is to life most other people don’t either.
Perhaps inside of all of us is a 21 year old version of ourselves, crying because of uncertainty about the future. Yes, it is nerve wracking to not know, but having an uncertain future means there’s also a chance for really good things to happen too. I know very little about tarot, but I think of life like the Wheel of Fortune card. Sometimes you’ll be on top of the wheel and sometimes you’ll be on the bottom, but it’s a cycle and neither state lasts forever. Nothing at all lasts in the same form that it starts in, and that’s just life, baby.
All we can really do is keep trying to survive. Surviving is more than enough.