Here comes ‘The Panic’

Donna P. Crilly

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Summer’s over, and I’ve stored enough wild memories in three months to span a year. I’m ready for school, but I can’t help but feel an inward panic writhing inside my bowels, destined to get cut loose by a simple irrational trigger, like a stolen parking spot. That’s when I’ll likely go crazy on a fellow.

I’ll end up yelling something that doesn’t make sense, like, “You’re ruining my life you PARKING SPOT FIEND,” flicking my cigarette at his feet as he steps out of his car, and then speeding off to hustle to another spot.

In his writing, Hunter S. Thompson often refers to something called “The Fear.” Well, I’ve come to know “The Panic.” Those who know me well have seen it.

A couple of weeks ago, I picked up my friend Kyle to spend a mellow summer afternoon doing what I do best – nothing.

Kyle’s a sensitive, artsy, writer/musician/wanderer, daydreaming kind of guy. We would spend hours talking about “2012 this, psychedelic that,” and a lot of “what the hell am I gonna do with my life?” Stuff like that.

This time, my artsy friend made a plan, more like a life decision.

“I think I finally know what I want to major in,” Kyle said to me.

“Awesome! What is it,” I asked, thinking English Literature or Philosophy.

“Neuroscience,” he said.

“Oh.”

That’s when I started getting “The Panic.” Several of my friends are about to graduate. A few have. And some are like me – people who can’t make up their minds because they want to do everything while doing nothing to get there.

And if these people, who are like me, are pushy enough to somehow wriggle their foot into a door of opportunity, they realize that they don’t like where they’re headed. Like me, they realize that they don’t want to do anything at all.

“The Panic” began to lurk and I thought about people I once wanted to be: an artist at five, an astronaut at eight and now, a journalist. I remembered freshman year of high school, taking the career assessment test. The results: a clown and a journalist. I chose the latter.

While talking to Kyle, I thought about the delusions of grandeur my childhood friends shared, some wanting to be the “first woman president” in elementary school, and as we were graduating from high school, wanting to be doctors, lawyers, even stand-up comedians and famed musicians and actors.

Eventually, most of them changed their career goals to some dull thing I can never remember, and I feel guilty for having to re-ask them every time we meet. We talk about the mediocre lives we’re getting ready to lead.

However, the same isn’t true for all of my friends. A few know exactly what they’re going to do and they’re on their way to doing it. I can’t decide if I admire their zeal and certainty or if I’m jealous. Probably both.

“You f@#%&$,” I thought when I crept on new Facebook pictures of old acquaintances wearing caps and gowns with the title of their photo album reading, “I did it!”

“That’s random,” I thought when I saw my friend in the preview for the Billy Ray Cyrus Movie “Flying By.”

My favorite answer to the “life” question was from my friend Alli. Stated simply and boldly: marry rich, take random courses at the local community college (for fun), live in a big house, smoke in it. It was an honest answer, a lifestyle I may not choose for myself, but I admire the bold declaration. It was an ease to my symptoms of “The Panic.”

Donna P. Crilly is City Times’ arts editor

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