Your Quarter Life Crisis!

Lots of drugs, not much sex, and a general fear and loathing mark these tales of twenty-something angst.

Winter in New York City is cold and wet, and when the sun dissolves behind a row of tall, chrome buildings, the entire sky looks gray. The air is so filthy you can turn a Kleenex black by blowing your nose; cereal costs an ungodly six dollars a box; and landlords now require the sacrifice of a first-born child for security deposits. These were not the real reasons I itched to leave but rather the inflexible straws that broke the camel's back, the subtle subconscious catalysts to change my situation before it completely changed me. After living there for nearly three years, I couldn't remember what it felt like to drive with the windows down, to smell or touch freshly cut grass, to be completely, blissfully alone. Believe it or not, I felt cramped in my eight-foot-by-nine-foot bedroom and unfulfilled writing captions like "What About Bobs?" and "Pretty Pizzazz" for a hairstyling magazine that women flip through at Wal-Mart but never buy. I was spending more money than I had and saying fuck more often than a nice Texas girl should.

To complicate matters (doesn't it always?), I had a boyfriend. He was cute and funny and, to my parents' obvious and insuppressible glee, a doctor. Earlier this year, we spent a week together in Keystone skiing, eating to excess and plotting both our independent and cohesive futures. The now-ex-boyfriend M.D. was slated to complete his residency in Indianapolis, and I came dangerously close to becoming a Midwestern transplant, sharing a bland future of Eddie Bauer khakis and chain-steakhouse dinners. Instead, I quit my job, bought a car and drove to Denver a few months ago.

Colorado winters are crisp and bright, and when the air cools your face on the mountain's first winding run, your cheeks flush pink like those of an embarrassed child. They tell me Denver is the second-fittest city in the country, a fact both ironic and sad considering my ass's recent growth spurt and the amount of time I spend in a smoke-filled sports bar. Driving on ice is less fun and more expensive than I'd imagined. With two fender-benders already under my belt, I've added State Farm and Burt-Kuni Honda to this year's Christmas card list. In just three months' time, I've had two waitressing jobs, several painful dates (that's not fair -- some girls like germaphobes and Howard Cosell impersonations), and a boot applied to my right front tire. I can't get this weird smell out of my apartment; my once-supple skin is starting to crack and chafe, and I was just rejected by the graduate program I thought I'd be starting in January. On the up side, I'm already recognizing people in the grocery store; my rooftop deck inspires envy, and I'm returning to Keystone later this morning. I may have to dig myself into a hole to get to it, but there's gold here. With a little patience, I'll find it.

If you or anyone else knows of any shining opportunities for a girl like me, I'll be in back, rolling silverware.

Hailing from Galveston Island -- a quaint Texas town still awaiting its first Home Depot and Starbucks franchises -- Jennifer Poole has the masochistic habit of moving to expensive, overcrowded cities with limited friends and no job prospects. Her New Year's resolutions include finding gainful employment, remembering to floss her teeth every day and attaining a butt you can bounce quarters off of.

Highlight Reel

More quarter-life voyeurism: a cat named Love, odd dermatological manifestations, a fear of Pottery Barn and a penis flagrante delicto.I, too, am in my twenties. Twenty-seven, to be exact. My friend Dominique warned me that this would be a bad year. She is 362 days older than me, so she should know.

Back in October, we asked readers to submit entries for Westword's first (and perhaps last) "My Quarter-Life Crisis," inspired by last year's book of the same name. The almost one hundred essays we received in response might convince the casual reader that every twenty-something year sucks. That we've invented irony and post-collegiate angst -- although editors older than I am assure me that this isn't so. (When they finish snickering, that is.)

Still, twenty-somethings have it particularly rough right now, trying to adjust from dreams of dot.com millions to very diminished expectations. Many of our compatriots can't find a job, and one of our contest entries came from the 996th applicant out of 999 accepted for a single janitorial job at a Frito-Lay factory. "Pissed off" is an understatement. The degree is in hand, but the riches remain untold.

Many of us are living in our parents' basements; a few are experiencing a strong dose of wanderlust. Alcohol is by turns the enemy and the savior. The question of whether to smoke or not smoke -- perhaps only in bars? -- vexes us. We eat organic produce in search of a healthy lifestyle and a sense of finally reaching "it" -- although we aren't sure what "it" is. One very eloquent 26-year-old husband and father wrote that he'd found "it" but wished he could exchange it for 24 hours of truly acting his age. (If you're the author of that essay, please contact me. Your e-mail keeps bouncing back, and we didn't want to publish it without first determining that your marriage would survive a public outing of your fantasy.)

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