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Here’s a question for you: What are you most afraid of?

Me? Not the dark, or heights, or strangers. I’m afraid of living the wrong life.

I’m afraid that I’ll take a job in San Francisco, or Los Angeles, because it’s in San Francisco, or Los Angeles, and I’m afraid I’ll be satisfied with doing a job that isn’t satisfying, and, therefore, living a life that isn’t satisfying.

Maybe me saying this negates all my worries. Maybe I’m ¬†waging a war that hasn’t happened yet; that won’t.

Maybe what I’m most afraid of is not being able to find it, the job I always assumed was waiting for me, somewhere. I still believe it’s out there, I just don’t know how to find it, where to look. I’m afraid I’ll miss it, pass over some link on the internet, or walk by the man wearing a puffy winter coat (I’m imagining this will take place in Chicago, in the winter, of course.) who could make it all happen.

Then again, I feel like if I can’t find what it is I’m looking for in San Fran or LA or wherever I end up, I’ll just make it. I’ll make my dream job. I honestly believe it’s possible.

This is my war, my battle. My I-just-graduated-college-and-have-to-find-a-job battle. I’m off into the real world (because people tell me the real world is a real thing), yet refusing to let the real world happen to me the way I’ve always expected it to attempt to.

And yet here, at the end of this thought, I’m still left where I was when I began a few sentences back. The war is still waging, the fear is still real, and there’s no one-liner that can end it.

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You wake up and you feel it almost immediately. You try to shake it off, brush your teeth, eat breakfast; it’s still there. Maybe it’s in your house, along with all the good and terrible memories. You get in your car, drive away toward somewhere. Where can you go? Shopping? Maybe that’s how people become shopaholics. Addicts. Maybe they’re all the same. Maybe we could all easily become like them; we were just born into different circumstances — found ourselves in a better place when we popped out into the world, and now we all struggle to stay upright where our mothers left us.

You pull into the mall parking lot. You turn off your car, but you know you’re not going in, so you roll down your window and sit still for a few minutes. It feels a little better. But running away doesn’t solve anything. What you’re looking for can’t be purchased at any store. Time is the only thing that helps. Time passes you by out the car window; people march in and out of the store, lugging out bags full of things they may or may not need. You put your seatbelt back on; you’ve sat there long enough, let enough time go by, and it’s still the same and it still will be the same for quite some time.

You could call someone. A friend. But it seems that these days all of your old friends are busy living their own completely different lives. It just doesn’t work anymore. Maybe you need to meet new people. Maybe you need to move. Anything to avoid staying here and falling slightly down, becoming something else. What were you born to be? This? Maybe new friends can’t help you. Maybe a new city can’t help you, either. Maybe nothing can. Maybe everything is just a cover-up, just a distraction. Just like sleep. That’s why you feel it the most in the early mornings, when you can still hear the birds chirping in the dying trees across the street, before the motors start and don’t stop until well after nightfall. That’s why some days, when you don’t have a calendar full of tasks to complete before you head back to bed, when you wake up and look at the clock and realize how many hours are going to stretch out in front of you, you feel it. Life. Just living. What the birds and the squirrels would feel if they had brains like we do. Emptiness. Or, rather, not emptiness. A lack of something that is full of something else. An empty fullness we try to cover up with the society we’ve created. With the laws, the stop signs, the uniforms of employees and school children. With religion. With purpose; an easy purpose, one-size-fits-all, that can be found in several different very old books. And, of course, with shopping.

“I hate this fucking game!” (a guy in the library, obviously not doing school work!)

“… the first lady – Michelle Obama – …” (like we didn’t know)

“He bit it. He died. He slit his own throat.” (the things Philosophy majors talk about… scary.)

“…she looks younger now that she’s fat.” (the things girls talk about…)

“He has big dreams, but reality is going to come crashing in.” (a woman talking about her son.)