During my sophomore year of college, I lived in a dorm in the South Loop of Chicago. It was right off of Harrison, and a hop skip away from the downtown campus. I determined early on that I didn't want to live in Lincoln Park, and wanted to be in the heart of the city. Initially, I shared a two-bedroom two-bath with three other girls. I came home one day to about a dozen unannounced people in our living room, and at least three of them had their brown-black coated bare feet on our couch. I submitted a request for a room change that night.
I moved into a four-bedroom two-bath, and my roommates and I got along perfectly. One night, I was sick with the flu and confined myself to my room. My then-high school boyfriend was breaking up with me over the phone and between coughs, I cried about the insanity and quickness of it all. I noticed a note slipped under my door, with an "Are you okay?" scribbled in chicken scratch. She had made me hot tea with milk for my sore throat.
I spent the next year writing bad poetry, trying to find the same solace I had in that warm cup.
My notebook of choice was a $4 sketchpad from Target, completely unlined and barely holding itself with its warped cardboard binding. I'd tug my clothes down to the laundry room, and sit and write between cycles. I think some of the other tenants thought I was weird, but it felt liminal there, and somehow, in my most introverted and shy tenure, I'd developed a newfound ability to not care about what others thought. An ability to imagine, and, well, manifest better. I call it 'The Wonder'.
Writing about the newness of it all, I deep-dove into losing my grandparents, fighting myself over whether or not I deserved to eat, about no longer being in love, and about how unsure I was about everything. I laid in bed every night, watching the green and brown line trains make their way south, rumbling every 10 minutes. I was just shy of 20, and thought to myself, "What will it be like in 5 years? Who will I be? How will it feel?" As any inexperienced girl going through her first breakup would. 
I started to paint an image of what my real adulthood would look like. I'd have a nice apartment with a really fucking cool couch. I'd have a subscription to the print version of The New York Times, cause why not? I'd probably be in New York City, and it would feel gritty and exciting like it did prior to the pandemic. I'd have a better job, a better lover, a better body, and probably better sentence composition. 
The days came and went so slowly. The winters of Chicago felt like icepicks in my ears and fire in my extremities. I kept writing, forcing myself into corners of coffee shops, determined to get all of the feelings out like it was a sickness. I kept dreaming of the cool couch, the cat in the window, and the possibility of something more. The Wonder.
To dream of something new, something big, something dreamy and attainable but also shiny, like a star you couldn't possibly touch, solely for admiration. It's often confused with naivety, and they like to go hand-in-hand often, but The Wonder is a hope. It is a propensity for optimism. 
At my lowest lows, I've felt like the world was ending. It was shutting its sleepy eyes, teasing a forever darkness. I could sit in it for days, weeks, and months, seemingly drowning in my misery; but I could never be fully submerged in it. Not even if I tried.
I don't know if it was the writing that pulled me out of it or the obnoxious level of self-reflecting I was doing. Like The Wonder and naivety, they kind of like to go hand-in-hand. I could pull myself out of that headspace and find a reason to stay. Find something to appreciate enough to cling onto like a liferaft. Carve out a space for hope, simultaneously annoyed at its imperviousness and thankful for its existence.
I thought myself out of a bad space. I noticed one day, I had started singing in the shower again. I started petting people's small dogs, I loved the way fresh fruit stained my fingers with sweet juice, and listening to Benny and The Jets on train rides. Envisioning the future, I could see the possibility of it all. A cozy nook for plants, pasta with friends, and success as a writer. Everything. Anything. 
Since then, whenever I've found myself entangled in the spiderwebs of melancholia, I always make my way back to writing. She helps me! She gets me out of it all. I pour myself into a notebook, a keyboard, the margins of a newspaper, or the area of my phone screen. And it's like the weight is off my shoulders, the poison is drawn, the bathtub drained. It's good. It's hope. It took me a while to get back to this point.
Last year, I'd been stuck in the throes of that familiar disappointment, and I didn't know I was so deep in it until I had, once again, managed to pull myself out and stare down at myself from the other end. And I realized something so obvious.
Adulthood isn't what was promised. It's lonely, and it's expensive. I'm always horny and there's an emptiness in my bed. I said I'd never smoke cigarettes like my dad did but I've sat on so many curbs with so many packs of golds. I'm always disappointed by the news.
The glamour of being a corporate badass femme has long faded, and everyone knows Conde Nast is the ninth circle of hell in a high-rise. The indie uniqueness of being a hot barista has been replaced with a widespread inability to secure the most entry-level service job. You get a raise, fall off your parent's insurance, and that 2% difference is now used for medical. It's miserable.
We all feel like we lost the ability to hope and dream and ask for more and it's tragic. The reality is disheartening. But we always forget just how malleable it is. And a form of resistance is finding the things we do appreciate in the mess of it all. I could put my things in storage and backpack in Europe for some months if I wanted. I can get a tattoo of a hummingbird and publish my own book if I want to. I can fall in love and share my life with someone if I want to. And I can choose to be thankful for what I have now, as I do. That's The Wonder.
I do not have the job I want. I don't have as much money as I'd like. I'm not where I'd thought I'd be at 9, or at 17, or 20. But I am happy. I am changing, I am more hopeful. I'm Wondering more, about the future, about the present, and how attainable it is. How lovely it is to be young and stupid in a big city. How liberating it is to be grateful for the things I do have, and how that thankfulness can manifest me even more amazing things. It already has.
I do have a cat. She sits in the window, albeit back home. I have a subscription to the print version of Cosmo. I'm not in NYC, but I feel at home in LA and visit NYC almost yearly. I don't have a couch, but I don't need one. I have plants on my etagere, go out to fun dinners with my friends when I see them, and feel like my writing has improved, which is a success in itself. I'm healthier, I like my body. I like being single. Things aren't exactly how I imagined them, but that doesn't mean they aren't good. I always get what I want, I just have to get used to celebrating it when I do. And remember the reward is the journey, not the destination.
My generation is plagued by a drought of happiness, and I think we owe it to ourselves to find it, outside of the realm of what's been sold to us. In the things that make us happy, in community, in everything we can think up.
Because I'm tired of being miserable. I know the world is shit. And I am tired of being miserable. My current gig makes me bored, the news is depressing, and that oil change is more expensive than I thought. But a kid waved at me and giggled. But Malibu is so gorgeous when it's just me, the waves, and a shoddy pair of headphones. But I can be and do anything I want. If I let myself be the master of my own life. If I Wonder enough.