I am on a mission to civilize my life. First step: matching hand towels.

Last week I experienced what Oprah could call a real “A-ha!” moment. I invited a friend over to my apartment in Toronto’s west side and as I was waiting for him to arrive, I was mortified when I discovered I had no hand towels in the main washroom.

I was aghast. What did I expect him to do–wipe his hands on my body towel, still damp from my morning shower?

Instantly, my scrutiny of the bathroom became increasingly intense; the shower curtain was trimmed with mildew; there was no sconce covering the exposed bulbs in the main light fixture; and the trash receptacle was a bright yellow No Frills bag! How could I have let this happen? Why do I still live like a poor undergrad? Has my life become inert? Did I forget to progress? WHAT KIND OF WHITE TRASH, FRAT MONSTERS LIVE HERE?!

At this point you may be thinking, This is hyperbole and what kind of Crazy B is obsessed with matching hand towels?

You’re right. Matching hand towels is not the solution to my clearly ‘underloved’ bathroom. However, it was a catalyst for looking at my apartment, my relationships and my life, and realizing I have been treating these things as temporary.

I think I’m like a lot of liberal thirty-somethings living in Toronto–educated and cultured with a freelance lifestyle, working on a down-payment for some over-valued urban pad, sharing an apartment with roommates, and single.

A common picture, yes?

But ten years ago, this is not how I thought the future would look. When asked to describe what my life would be like in my thirties, I would have proposed a calm existence. Settled. A steady career. Perhaps a living space all to myself or (and here’s the potentially embarrassing part) a shared space with a life partner. A decade ago, I was certain that by now I would be in some kind of committed union, one that came with matching hand towels.

So wait, is this all just another ‘single-lady lament’ about not having a boyfriend?

I will not deny that it would be nice to share morning coffee or late-night episode binges of The Sopranos with someone. However, it was shocking to realize how much of my idealized future, the one set against the backdrop of a Pottery Barn showroom, hinged on the inclusion of a partner. How’s that for first date pressure?

Him: So…do you like music?
Me: So…do you have good credit rating?

Even if that doesn’t kill a first date, no one seems to have the desire to “get serious” until their career hits its stride. Oh, to be June Cleaver!

It’s true. The idealized version of my life is certainly influenced by the trajectory of my suburban-dwelling parents. Predictions are often based on past knowledge and on older friends and family–in my case, Mom.

Back in 1978 my mother, aged twenty-six, would sign on as permanent staff with the TDSB, marry my father, and buy her first home at Yonge and Sheppard for $86,000. All this before thirty!

Yes, clearly times have changed. With Stats Canada currently measuring unemployment rates for youth (15-24 years) at 12.8%, it is easy to trot out the complaint that getting an early start on the career is difficult. Combined with increased specialization in the job market and skyrocketing real estate prices, it seems nearly impossible to put together the funds for your Masters degree or YYZ postal code, let alone both. The halcyon days of our parents are over.

But is there no middle ground?

That is exactly what my current mission about: finding balance. I am easing my anxiety by acknowledging and civilizing my state of impermanence. This is not my permanent address but it is my current one, so it deserves to be treated as a home nonetheless. This sanctuary of mind could be spruced up with a new shower curtain, decorative cabinet knobs, even a fancy tea set for the kitchen, and definitely by getting rid of that No Frills bag. These are little changes, but they help me ease my anxiety and analyze my life in a fruitful way, rather than labeling what I lack.

Without slighting my roommates, I deeply hope that I will not host my fortieth birthday party in our makeshift living room, nor have my old-age pension cheques mailed to this address. And eventually my body, after exhaling its last breath, will not be discovered by the children of my landlord (I will reserve that trauma for my own kin in the security of my own home).

My current apartment, like my life, will grow and change. But in the meantime, it should not be thought of as a placeholder or an uncivilized limbo. My current state of living has value and deserves, if nothing else, matching hand towels.