Carpe Diem

by Shlomit Ovadia

            My eyes flutter open as the summer’s eager morning rays stream in through diaphanous curtains. I blindly reach for my cell phone and stare at the screen with one eye still shut. 6:20 am.

            I stretch my feet, sliding the gray and white duvet to the foot of the bed, lavender sheets beneath still retaining a trace of the lemongrass oil I casually sprinkled on them yesterday. My black plug in fan whirls lazily in the background. My quirky nightstand, which I thrifted off of Facebook Marketplace, stands cluttered with a variety of trinkets atop: half-burned scented candles, two used mason jars I had planned to up-cycle, an empty coffee mug with bits of cinnamon stuck to the bottom, a blank postcard from Yellowstone National Park, gold hoop earrings, a black pen, a rosy pink Mac lipstick, and an also-thrifted lamp, the light bulb of which I had replaced with an amber-colored one a while back. Was told it helped with winding down at night for sleep.

            I slide out of bed and head downstairs with my empty coffee mug so I can wash it out and replace its contents. As my French press works its 4-minute magic, I snack absentmindedly on a few Brazilian nuts. I was told they help with hormonal imbalances. Haven’t gotten my period in a few months and started breaking out along my chin area. Hoping it’s nothing too serious. Later, back upstairs and with fresh coffee in tow, I reach under my tossed bed sheet for the current book I’m on: Love in the Time of Cholera. Can’t believe it took me this long to get around to reading it. Great book. The main character, thus far, seems to be a scrawny, hobbit-like boy who wants so badly to be loved that he goes to great lengths to sabotage his entire life around this one seemingly fruitless goal. Despite his sloppy accumulation of failures, he clings to a thread of imaginary hope that only exists in the fantasy world he’s imagined for himself.

            Is it normal to oscillate between these two states of being? Some days I awake ready to tackle the day with an enviably productive-looking to-do list, and other days I am overcome by the existential panic of having not amounted to anything. Am I doing enough? Being enough? Or am I just hoping a “better” will manifest itself into my life? My hips creak with the soreness of yesterday’s post-workout stretch negligence, an insidious cursor of my age. I absentmindedly touch the new smile lines that have made home on my face. My floor, while mostly neat, still displays an unzipped Columbia day backpack, my magenta lace bra, an old t-shirt, and used ankle socks. An empty USPS box and a few opened health insurance bills decorate the periphery. 

            My attention is drawn to my phone as the Google Photos app lights up my screen: 6 years ago today you were doing this, which we’ve compiled into a strangely color-enhanced montage with cheesy music. It almost begs the question: six years ago, how much closer were you to finding your career? What were you doing while your friends were building up their LinkedIns, strategically utilizing their college extracurriculars and intentionally-picked internships, while you were swinging your iron fist against this “waste of time…working for free” business because you were busy taking impromptu camping trips with cans of tuna and cheap Trader Joes wine, blindly believing in a romanticized ideology that ditched you somewhere along the way. While you embarked unknowingly on a quest to “find yourself” and living out the adventurous dreams of your childhood, friends and colleagues were setting the building blocks for their future careers.

            Having already been drawn to my screen from the earlier Google notification, I open the dating app on my phone and scroll through the list of eligible bachelors, just to see what types of jobs people my age have now acquired: manager, CEO, director. And here I am still applying for entry-level positions at 28, blowing through my savings, telling myself that it’s just a Target run, and, yes, I need those fancy groceries from the boutique health food store near my house. That horse competition that costs a paycheck is okay because I get a 50 cent ribbon and feel good about my hard work.

            Catching myself, I make an effort to lock my phone screen. The summer sun stubbornly pushes itself further into my room, invasively, challenging me. I scratch at a blackhead on my right nostril and set my coffee mug down with acquiescence. Okay, the day starts now. How will I make the most of it?

About the Author

Shlomit holds a B.A. in English Literature from California State University, Northridge. She enjoys writing candidly about the nuanced moments of everyday life that comprise our shared human experience. Shlomit draws her inspiration from authors such as Jhumpa Lahiri and Elizabeth Strout, among others. She hopes to continue publishing original pieces and short stories in the future.