Your Quarter Life Crisis!

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

With most of the contest submissions falling under the categories of "my life sucks," "my job sucks" and "how do I grow up" -- with a few attempting more high-minded analyses of the state of the quarter life (usually in the second person) -- our judges, all Westword writers in their twenties, selected essays that were the most original in concept and showed real writing flair. You've read those on the preceding pages. Here are a few bonus excerpts from the runners-up:

P.S. Dominique says 28 isn't so bad. -- Amy Haimerl

Brian Taylor

We knew it!: I've been faking it pretty well. People seem to be under the impression that I know what the hell I'm doing with my life. On the surface, I have it made with rewarding work in the nonprofit world and a grad-school program that will surely launch me into greatness -- or at least solvency. But no one is there when I wake up in a cold sweat at 2:30 a.m., wondering how significant my life is and what kind of difference I am making in the world. My bed is empty except for the neutered eighteen-year-old cat I inherited from my grandmother last year. The last conversation we had consisted of her telling me to stop breaking up with perfectly nice young men or risk ending up a bitter old maid like her sister, Ruth.

Grandma died the next day.

Now I have her cat.

Did I mention his name is Love?

And if this weren't enough, my boss recently accused me of being a Republican. In my particular realm of the nonprofit world, this is the moral equivalent of being called Satan. -- Miranda Thompson, Denver

Peter meter: Recently I did an interview with a chain-smoking, gravelly-voiced old man concerning a janitorial position at a paint factory. We exchanged small talk as he looked my resumé over, then commenced to have one of the strangest conversations I've ever had.

"You'll be making salary, which breaks down to about $10 an hour," he said. "I assume that's acceptable."

"That would be great," I replied.

"Yes, it would be. It ain't easy coming by that kind of wage these days. Now, your hours go from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. Would you be able to handle that?"

"Definitely. I've worked graveyard..."

"Now, I want you to know I don't like clock-watchers. Not a damned bit. I won't stand for clock-watchers. We want people who are dedicated to this company, not to their paychecks. You get me?"

"I hear you loud and clear."

"If there's one thing that boils my gall," he said, his voice quickly beginning to rise, "it's people who get to work the minute they're paid to. You understand?"

"I understand," I said, trying to nerve myself.

"We don't pay you to come to work on time. We pay you to get here early," his face reddened, "and I mean it. I'll be gawdfucked if I'll stand for clock-watchers!"

"Hey," I said, trying to calm him down. "No problem. Whatever it takes to get the job done, right?"

He interlocked his hands, placed them on the desk and peered into my face.

"There are a lot of weak people in the world," I offered.

"You're damn straight," he replied, leaning back into his seat. "I'm glad to see we're looking at this from the same angle." He pulled out a cigarette and lit it. "I think we've found our man," he exhaled, and with that, he rose deliberately from his chair. I stood up as well, expecting some parting words and a handshake to seal my newfound employment. Instead, still puffing on his cigarette, he slowly unzipped his pants, reached inside his underwear and laid his penis on the desk. "Now, I want you to look at this and tell me..."

But I was already down the hall and in the elevator before he finished his request. -- Sean Hansen, Denver

At least he didn't drink the Kool-Aid: For almost four years, I was a full-fledged devotee of the Denver-based boy guru Maharaji and his Divine Light Mission. Once "Lord of the Universe," Maharaji is now just a meditation teacher to a few still-devoted followers. I am not actually as embarrassed about having joined a cult as I am about having joined this cult. To spiritual cognoscenti, the DLM was to mysticism what Kenny G is to jazz. Nevertheless, I fell for it in the fall of 1974, and soon I, too, was one of the thousands of Earth-shoe-wearing, tofu-eating, guru-worshiping "premies." I joined the ashram, essentially a DLM monastery. We were ten guys who gave up what most people think of as the stuff of daily life -- love, sex, politics, entertainment, having kids, taking vacations -- in order to more fully devote our lives to spiritual growth.

I was pretty clear about what a cult was. Jim Jones had just poisoned his flock a few months earlier. The tambourine-shaking Krishnas and the flower-selling Moonies were everywhere. Those were cults. But as I sat reading a Westword on a concrete stoop in LoDo and compared my group to Ken Freed's definition of a cult, point by point, I had to admit that I was involved in a very unhealthy spiritual group. This was the beginning of the end.

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