This is the final installment in a four-part series on what our contributors learned about themselves in 2020.
When our college campus was unexpectedly closed down by the novel coronavirus, my friends and I returned home to finish our freshman years on Zoom. We found ourselves stuck between childhood and adulthood.
For women like us, college was the promised land that we worked so hard to achieve. There we were supposed to discover our passions and make lifelong friends and potentially meet the loves of our lives. Without it, I felt cut adrift, afraid for my loved ones, and deeply uncertain about my future. And yet, as self-quarantine stretched on, my friends found new ways to build and care for our communities, even within the confines of our childhood bedrooms — whether that was mutual aid, protest, voting for the first time or through creative projects.
But in the fall, it was time to reorient my life. I had two choices: resume online college or try something new. I chose the latter. In a strange, dreamy twist of destiny, I moved into a small house in Minneapolis with my two best friends from college: Sophia and Alina. We had no real plans except to make enough money to pay rent and somehow manage to live as adults. It was a choice we could afford because of good health and living-wage internships — both enormous privileges in 2020. It was also an enormous leap of faith to pause our linear college progressions and freestyle life instead.
I never expected to have my own household at 19, but I came to love it. The three of us molded to fit perfectly like puzzle pieces, becoming functionally telepathic as the weeks went by. Female friendships have always been sacred to me, but living with women has been a formative feminist experience.
2020 became my year of female friendships in transition, with vibes resembling an ensemble coming-of-age miniseries. I mean this literally: It’s a nightly habit of ours to watch shows about young women of color figuring out their lives, in the hopes that their wisdom might spread into our lives. We started viewing ourselves as protagonists in our own right, with no shortage of drama and intrigue.
On the surface, our pandemic life was uneventful: We mostly cooked, cleaned and worked. (The highlight of our week was our Sunday trip to Trader Joe’s.)
And yet my conceptions of adulthood transformed radically: I fell in love with the experience of “found family” and collective female living, outside of traditional male-dominated households.
What does it look like for women to fulfill each other’s spiritual, emotional and intellectual needs, to physically care for each other?
For me, that looked like three not-quite-yet 20-year-olds figuring out adult life together: troubleshooting our dishwasher, helping each other negotiate our first pay rates, and sharing intimate, hours-long, late-night discussions about love and life. What if, post-college, we simply never got married? What if we lived with a bunch of women in a castle and raised our kids communally? What if we prioritized our loved ones over our careers? What if we rejected capitalistic notions of success? What if we packed up our bags and never looked back?
With my friends, I experienced so many wonderful “firsts.” During the first snowfall in October, I felt more giddy than a little kid on the morning of a field trip having never experienced a “real” winter. We ditched work and slid down the fresh snow on our bellies. There was also my first parents-free road trip, to a remote campsite near Canada. When we drove up, the sun was golden and perfect.
Adventures aside, I learned that adulthood is often a never-ending cycle of cooking meals and washing dishes. I used to really chafe against domesticity and burn up with rage for all the women who are subjected to it, but I found a lot of joy in cooking communally, and I bonded with my mom as she taught me Indian recipes over FaceTime. (I may never want to cook for a man, but I know no higher compliment than my girls addressing me as their wife.) I was often aware that this life I was leading — spent mostly at home, and often in the kitchen — was the entire sum of life for my female ancestors. (If I’d been born even two generations earlier, I’d already have kids.) Knowing this previously would have depressed and pressured me. Now, I saw great dignity and legitimacy in caring and providing for women I love.
Our lease in Minneapolis is almost up; in the new year, we’ll move to California. I have no idea what comes next. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to make sense of this new world, and where we might fit in.
I still don’t know the answers to these questions. But I do know that this year, I stepped off the ever-accelerating escalator of capitalism and found a more sustainable joy in female friendships. In the first months of the pandemic, I spent so long waiting for a metamorphosis that didn’t happen like I intended. I didn’t write a screenplay or get in shape or learn a language. But while the world changed, I changed too: I learned to slow down, rest and breathe. In this respect, I’m not alone. We are choosing self-care and anti-capitalism, too. I really believe that hustle culture is out, and intention and gentleness is in.