Flipping Pages

Last week I spent more than $150 buying calendars for 2010. I bought one for my desk, my house, my purse, my parents and several friends. I bought them as serious gifts, as jokes, as reminders of our impending doom, and mid-binge, I realized jut how important and personal a calendar is.

At my job, we have a calendar function. When you add something to your schedule on any given day, you can make it public or private. Most of my appointments are public (which should tell you something about the riveting life I lead). In fact, months ago, for November 9, I wrote “turn 24, eat cake” and forgot to make it invisible to my colleagues.

I tend to put everything on my personal calendar. Birthdays (my own and others), errands, grocery lists, subway poetry. Library due dates (riveting, I say!).

My life is my Moleskine.

Which is why, when faced with the prospect of junking my 2009 datebook, I couldn’t. Couldn’t do it to 2008 either. In fact, I have a shoebox full of old event planners from my first year of college till now. I never look back through them, but it comforts me to think that if I were to turn to April 14, 2006, I could see that I had coffee with a friend who I’ve since grown away from, or on January 1, 2004, a first date that turned into a relationship. In some way, these calendars are like an unformed memoir. They’re an unedited record of the way I spend my time, which almost makes them more valuable in reconstructing the past than the greeting cards and movie stubs I ordinarily keep.

Having a crisp new calendar feels like a luxury. My first step is to fill out the first page with my name and address. In the Reward if Found section, I write “karmic retribution.” Then I add my friends’ birthdays and anniversaries. Because I’m 24, sitting on an island in the middle of the Marriagiatic Sea, I put five upcoming weddings in my book too.

I am very particular about how I treat my calendar in the early stages of our relationship. I use the same-colored pen for every appointment, the same style of annotation and try to write as daintily as my grandmother did.

It is truly a shame that neat writing does not prevent messy living.

The color, style and artistic interpretation of a calendar is also very important. For years, I bought wall calendars of my favorite artists — Alphonse Mucha and Erte — and a black Moleskine to carry with me. This year, I chose a calendar with art from Maxfield Parrish, known for his children’s book illustrations. It was this picture, Solitude, that did it for me:

Solitude (1931) by Maxfield Parrish

Something about living in New York, without air or ether or sunlight or silence, made this seem truly calming. I thought it might be nice to think of the art on my calendar as a form of fantasy along with the emptiness inside.

So really, $150 is a small price to pay for a blank page.

24/7

It offends me that there are oodles of books about growing old gracefully and none of them are aimed at 20somethings. I turned 24 last week, and I’ve had a crick in my brain ever since.

Twenty-four seems old. I can’t help feeling it’s a milestone at which I should have more on my “done it” list than I do. (I suspect this reveals more about the enormous expectations put on my generation than it does about my personal achievements, but that doesn’t make it any better.)

You see, now it’s not really feasible for me to continue blowing around as a member of the “just out of college” group. Now I’m supposed to be gearing up for some kind of quarter-life crisis or a cocaine addiction or both.

But the scariest part about 24 is that it’s almost 25. And 25 holds a lot of weight for me. When I was a little girl, maybe 7 (at that point I would have just gotten out of my refuse-to-wear-pants stage), I envisioned 25 as the prime of life. I saw myself in a city, with lots of girlfriends who did things like lie on my bed with magazines and eat chocolate (we would magically look like we spent each day in constant movement, sculpting gorgeously lean bodies with hair, nails and teeth that showed we were spinach-eating, water-drinking health nuts).

I envisioned a happy job, saw myself walking past desks with a snappy joke for each coworker. I imagined getting nicknames from my boss and published in important magazines. A stunning success at such a young age!

There’d be a man in the picture, obviously. Not the one I’d marry, but someone I’d be with for two years or so. He’d be homey, handsome and a hardworker, and I would look back on my time with him fondly.

I don’t know where these visions originated.  My idea of my ideal self is equal parts Edith Wharton and Edith Piaf. With a pinch of Myrna Loy. I’ve always been susceptible to thinking perfection is possible, and I have decided to examine my old Martha Stewart magazines and Doris Day movies with a more critical eye. The point being, maybe my expectations were, well, off.

Whether it’s sensible or not, I’m still under a hell of a lot of pressure. My younger self is depending on me to fulfill those hopes, in New York, where people dash dreams about as often as they toast bagels.

I admit on my birthday-day, I let the momentous occasion overwhelm me. It was hard being away from my family and dearest friends, though they all did a magnificent job rallying round, electronically. I went to sleep feeling melancholy. (Or to personalize it– mollycholy.)

But I awoke happy. And it was the first time in months that the day’s starting emotion was joy. I don’t know if it was all the love and attention from the day before, or if my self-pity had worn off, but I felt good. And so far, it’s stuck.

Maybe I’m just getting older.