Today I’m 26. Does This Mean My Quarter Life Crisis is Over?

Today, my first quarter century fades behind me and I embrace my 26th birthday. I’m not one prone to reminiscing on days gone by, but when I realized I was about to start a new year, it occurred to me that a lot of life happens in the 12 months between birthdays.

Armed with optimism and a gimlet, I headed out into the world to search for employment and prince charming. it's been a long year

I started “They Told Me to Find a Rich Husband” when I was 24 going on 25 and standing on the cusp of a quarter-life crisis. I was single, jobless, and homeless. Luckily, I was a girl with a plan, armed with optimism and motivational tarot card readings. So I ventured out into the world with the blinding confidence that eventually everything would fall into place.

All I needed was some elbow grease.

And a good pair of shoes.

And a gimlet…or two.

Last year, I spent my birthday in a Chelsea gallery interviewing for a job I had no intention of taking. Uncertainty surrounded me, and when my parents and I shared some biltong and a bottle of white in a small Hell’s Kitchen South African wine bar, I confessed to being a bit panicked.

A lot has changed since that birthday dinner.

I landed a budding-curator’s dream job. I learned to love the suburbs. I’ve (temporarily) retired from the sport that defined a decade of my life. I lost a beloved dog. I gained a beloved puppy. I learned German. I discovered yoga. I learned how to garden. I presented on stage in front of 1,800 people. I lost my favorite Bob Dylan CD. I renewed my faith in romance.

And so, as I weigh in on the things lost and gained since July 1, 2010, I ask the question: is my quarter life crisis over?

It’s been several months since I’ve heard “you need to find yourself a nice rich husband.” So, maybe I’m starting to hit my prime. Or maybe my mother’s right — the crisis is just beginning.

I’d prefer to think it’s the fun that’s just beginning…

Stay tuned to find out.

A lot of things change from birthday to birthday, but some things never change

Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner… For That Matter, Nobody Calls Me Baby

This morning, I sent out a work-related email signed with my full name: Kathleen [MI] [Last].

The recipient sent me a response with the following salutation: Hello Kathy.

Later, I was on the phone with someone wise enough to ask before proceeding: “Do people call you Kathleen or Kathy?”

Kathleen. People call me Kathleen.

Not a Kathleen among them!

I don’t know if you realize this, but Kathleen is a problematic name. It’s rarely on those iridescent magnets or “gold” nameplate necklaces you find at drugstores. There’s an overstock on Katherine and Catherine, but rarely a Kathleen. People aren’t used to the name and hearing it confuses them. It took Buckie 7 years to remember my name was not Kaitlin.

When I was 9, all of my friends were developing nicknames — Danielle was becoming a Dani, Jessica was turning into a Jess, and everyone wanted to call me Kathy. I know a grown-up Kathy who played golf, voted Republican, believed in creationism, and liked Florida. No, I couldn’t be a Kathy. My father thought it was cute to still call me Poo-Poo Head. No, that wouldn’t do either.

“Your name is Kathleen. If we had wanted to call you Kate or Katie or Kathy we would have named you Kate, Katie, or Kathy,” my parents said when I whined about not having a proper nickname. “Don’t ever let anyone call you Kathy.”

Apparently, my mother almost called me Ashley. If you knew me, you know I could never be an Ashley.

Am I Kat tonight or Kathleen?

It wasn’t until college that the need for a nickname would turn into a full-fledged identity crisis. On the first day of orientation  I met Mike and we instantly became best friends. “Can I call you Kat?” he asked. “I like to have nicknames for all my girl friends.” Sure, why not! College, I decided, was a time for reinvention and so I likewise decided to accept Kat as my new identity.

But given “Kat’s” newness, I was awkward with introductions and never fully embraced the adopted persona. Soon, I found that all my teammates and athlete friends were the ones that called me Kat while everyone I met outside that community called me Kathleen. Kat became not my new incarnation, but an alter-ego. It was all very confusing.

By the time I finished grad school, Kat had faded to the name I gave at Starbucks when ordering my venti latte.

The truth is, my parents’ adamant rejection of a diminutive form of my name had instilled in me a general distaste for nicknames and pet names. Whenever a guy calls me “Honey,” I cringe inside, while a “Baby” makes me feel like a cheap teeny-bopper. Once upon a time, there was a guy I would meet for drinks that insisted on calling me Kitty. He didn’t last long. Though, maybe the biggest problem I have with being called Baby or Honey or Kitten or Pumpkin is not that its a pet name — it’s that it’s insincere and impersonal.

How many people in your life do you call Hon or Sweetie? I bet far more than the number you call Kathleen.