Let’s be honest. Being in your early twenties is kind of the worst. The carefree days are over and you’re thrown into the scary world of “Adulting.” All of a sudden you have to find a career, make decisions, pay bills, and figure out who you are. When I was eighteen I’d look at twenty-three year olds and think, “Oh! Grown-ups! They must totally have their lives together.” And suddenly, I was twenty- three and in a panic: “WHY DON’T I HAVE MY LIFE TOGETHER!?”
There I was in my messy New York City apartment – I didn’t have a comma in my bank account, wanted to quit my corporate job and beg for a promotion at the same time, and had just wasted an hour swiping through Instagram comparing myself to other people until I finally broke into tears. I desperately wanted to be a decisive, put together adult who wore dry-cleaned blouses, woke up early enough to blow dry her hair, and knew exactly what she wanted out of life. But instead, I doubted all of my decisions, didn’t want to change out of sweatpants, and was nothing but a crying mess who felt like she’d never be good enough.
But I did have one thing going in my favor. One rather large thing. I had a 160 pound English Mastiff named Gizelle, and with her help, I found my way through it.
1.) No matter how sad and defeated I was, my dog was always there to pull me out of bed, literally. Because, I mean, she had to be walked.
(The idea of your 160-pound dog relieving themselves inside is enough to get anyone out of bed.)
2.) Gizelle also reminded me that finding ways to relax was key: even if cleanliness wasn’t her first priority, she knew a nice bath was always a great stress reliever.
3.) She gave me a purpose at a time when I had zero idea what my purpose was.
4.) But she was good at showing me not to take the whole ‘purpose’ thing too seriously.
5.) Gizelle never let me forget about nourishment. I never had to eat junk food alone, and she was always up for a girl’s lunch date to Shake Shack if I wanted to talk about life over some fries.
6.) And whenever I was feeling ashamed because somehow my room had wound up looking like this (below). She loved what I’d done with the place! “Mattress on the floor? So accessible! And your clothes look perfect there. Don’t move them. Why don’t you just come join me?”… I always joined her.
7.) Gizelle helped me explore new career opportunities. And when that whole corporate world thing wasn’t working out for me, there was always a chance that Gizelle might become successful on her own. So, like a lot of other pet owners, I made her an Instagram account with high hopes of Insta-fame. (I’ll be able to quit my assistant job! #Millennialgoals)
Unfortunately, we only got four followers…
8). She also helped me with the whole dating/relationship thing. On my own, it might have taken much longer to realize that Carter the club promoter, Jason the Wall Street guy, and Graysen from Bushwick weren’t worth my time. But all Gizelle had to do was drool a little bit in front of them (only as a test, of course), and if they ran, it became quite clear these guys weren’t the right fit for us.
And when we finally found a boy Gizelle didn’t scare away, she was there when he made us breakfast in the morning…
She was there on our dates to the park…
She was there when I kind of wished maybe she wasn’t there…
And she was there when he eventually wasn’t.
9). Gizelle was a constant, and she taught me how just “being there” is one of the greatest gifts a friend can give. There were plenty of times when life felt too hard, when the Quarter Life Crisis took over and all I wanted to do was close the door and cry on the floor feeling sad, defeated and sorry for myself. But Gizelle was there, and she never demanded explanations, she just rested her head across my face in a way only a big dog can.
In my early twenties, I thought that if I could only reach some point of permanence in my life, I would have “made it.” I thought if I could settle down in New York, lease a better apartment, find a stable career, lose seven pounds, update my wardrobe, find a boyfriend, then I would finally be happy. Then I would finally be the person I was supposed to be. Right?
Well, that’s the thing about a Quarter Life Crisis. It’s about the permanent feeling that you aren’t good enough. It’s a trap. Sometimes it actually takes another crisis to help you realize that who you are and where you are might not be so bad after all.
One day, I received some horrible news from the vet (you can read more about that over here). It was then that Gizelle taught me her biggest lesson – how to live in the moment, to embrace life and adventure. She taught me that letting go was not the same as saying goodbye. Then she taught me how to say goodbye. Because I had to. I had no choice.
10) And after Gizelle was gone, and I turned 26 years old, I took her ashes with me to have a funeral on a dock, and realized that maybe I had been wrong about life all along.
Maybe all of that time in my early twenties I spent seeking permanence and certainty, I was looking for something that actually just didn’t exist. For so long I had been thinking surely one day I’d wake up and be a put together, grown-up who wore matching socks and knew exactly what she wanted out of life. But after I lost Gizelle, I realized life doesn’t work that way. Life is full of changes and uncertainty. That’s the beauty of it.
Now, I’m 28. I wear matching socks sometimes, my room is semi-clean, and I have a rescue dog named Bette. Bette teaches me lots of new things, like patience, and how to sew a pillow back together after it’s been ripped apart. We’re both a daily work in progress, but I’ve finally learned that’s okay, too.