This is a period of time many “experts” like to classify as “emerging adulthood.” It sounds more glorious than it actually is.
Unfortunately, “well adjusted” is a label we like to give ourselves for a few years of happy delusion. As young adults, we still feel everything (those teen hormones still need a Xanax), but now, we’re forcing ourselves to deal with situations in a “grown-up” manner. The Kübler-Ross model describes the 5 steps of loss and grief to be denial, anger, bargaining, depression, then acceptance. But we’re young adults, so fuck formality. For whatever the reason—deaths, bad breakups, life dilemmas, nostalgia, hurt feelings, or just because—these are our 5 steps to love, loss, and desperation.
(Disclaimer: these are not directions or even suggestions as to what you should do. These are merely realities of what actually happens.)
We’re just going to skip right to the shock and anger stage—forget initial denial, we just process right then and there that our world is collapsing. This is when we receive the tragic, life-crippling news and our body just demands a good, cathartic cry. Yes, we’ll throw a tantrum if we want to—we’re allowed to act 5 for a day (or a month). We’ll shut ourselves up in our rooms and pound our heads on our beds until we have -2 brain cells left, or maybe punch our walls because that’s always a good idea. We need to just bawl until there’s no more fluid in us and we actually need to start drinking water to replace all that we lost in the leak. This is also the stage when we suddenly deem it necessary to rip all the posters off our walls, maybe throw our phones against the window, or shatter a vase on the floor. This is when we scream until we wake up everyone in our building and we get that sharp, poking feeling in the back of our throats that starts to feel like an actual metal rod is being stuck through our esophagi. Then we’ll take all that anger to write that three-page raging letter to the someone who is either the cause or the product of our misery. We’re hurting, and they’re not, and that makes it hurt more.
Stage 2 is when we realize we can put all our rage to good use, so we start pacing and overanalyzing, because that’s a reasonable thing to do. Our minds turn on evil scientist mode, and race with thoughts of: “what if I had done or said…,” “maybe I should…,” “perhaps it’d be better if I just…,” “GODDAMN, I’M SO MAD,” “oh God, I’m so sad,” “BUT WAIT, I can still do this and fix the situation!”
We pat ourselves on the back and delude ourselves for an hour, believing that we can ameliorate the situation and all our problems will dissolve—our lovers will want us back without hesitation, our friends will automatically forgive us if we just give them chocolate, our grades will suddenly rise from the ashes, we’ll be able to bridge the gap of distance without any problems. It’ll be fine… And then we get hit with feelings of hopelessness an hour later, only to believe that everything is fucked up and always will be. (Cue repeat of step 1.)
After the first two stages, we are just emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually drained. Like, an actual blob incapable of performing any human functions. Just existing. Too exhausted to even emote or react to anything. Screaming downstairs? Whatever. Hurricane passing through? Okay. House is on fire? Wouldn’t notice a difference.
So this is basically when we hole ourselves off in our rooms alone, and silently cry and then jump into the inescapable black hole that is Netflix. We proceed to cram our faces with endless amounts of popcorn and disgusting quantities of ice cream, because we have no conception of fullness when all we can feel is a vacancy inside. We may then just lay on the floor and notice the patterns on our ceilings, until we are loopy and drunk off of pure emptiness.
4. “Fucking up”
After staying in our hermit shell until we’ve lost perception of time, one of our friends drags us out of bed and convinces (forces) us that going out will be “good for us,” whatever the hell that means. They make us actually put on pants and look publicly acceptable (which at this point, is laughable.)
One, two, five, (maybe a lucky thirteen) shots down, we’ll then release our feelings onto the dance floor until the memories become hazy.
Maybe, some of us will find someone to be a vessel for our sorrows of all the other someones who don’t love us back. Then we’ll continue on our crazy streak—perhaps get a tattoo, bungee jump, go to a concert—anything to just forget everything for a while.
One day, perhaps the morning after or a year after, we’ll wake up and finally feel a sense of calm. This is not a happiness, peace, or even understanding of the situation—but rather an acceptance—an acceptance of not being able to do anything else about the problem. Emoting is difficult, and deathly exhausting. Analyzing and Netflixing make our brains hurt after a while. This just is the time where we surrender ourselves to acknowledging, “This is a thing that is happening, and I’m going to be okay with it.”
We sigh and just force ourselves to look like a socially acceptable adult again and continue our lives where we left off. We are lucky, we tell ourselves. After the eruption, we ran faster than the lava that swept everything else clean. We may not be left with much now, but at least we’re left. Magma destroys, but it also leaves behind a rock solid layer from which to rebuild upon.