The Origin of Hindsight 20/Something

by austin beaton

The Origin of Hindsight 20/Something

My friend Marie moved to Minneapolis.

It was a disaster.

She’d lived her first 23 years in California and wanted to move elsewhere, afraid of being complacent and getting trapped by the sunshine. Marie got fixated on Minnesota. Her friends would say, “why would you move to Minnesota?”

When she got there, a lot went wrong—she moved into a windowless room, her carbon monoxide levels were dangerously high, she saw a stranger pull a gun on a public bus.

People would say, “why’d you move here from California?”

This the first 48 hours.

Taking the jump is hard and also worth it and also while you’re doing it’s a mess.

Shit goes wrong in the your 20s, especially when you take risks.


When I moved away from Oregon I’d stayed up till 4am the night before. I was best man for my buddy’s wedding and woke up after 2 hours of sleep to take an Uber back to my car, while still wearing my suit and still being drunk.

I sobered and drove 14 hours to Southern California, almost falling asleep halfway by Lake Shasta. On the way I found out via text that the door to the apartment I was unofficially subleasing had been kicked in and wouldn’t lock.

Then, at 2am, on mile 846 of the 850 trip, I got rear-ended on the freeway…while talking to my ex for the first time since we broke up.

It was my first car ever—I’d bought it only a month before. The rear was crunched.

That night I slept at an America’s Best Value Inn that was haunted. I don’t believe in ghosts, but this room had a spirit. Doors would shut randomly andthe comforter was blood red, I woke up at 4am to the microwave screeching and then there was a power outage.

Two hours later I woke for my first day working. An hour after that I was sitting at the DMV because I’d forgotten my Social Security card in Oregon.

Two hours after that I sat in my first meeting with my new boss.

“You’re scaring me, Austin. In this job you gotta be on it. Did you even read your acceptance latter?”

What the fuck was I doing?

The 9 months before that were somehow even more insane. After a traumatic break up, saying goodbye to friends, and struggling with eating, I had constant panic attacks that made me always feel like I was floating outside my body. I didn’t like my job. I woke up 3 times a night, screaming. My roommate was thrown in jail for threatening to kill my other roommate.

A year out of college I was in no shape to give any commencement.

But, few are.

Hindsight 20/Something is a response to a conversation I keep having over and over:

I don’t know what I’m doing. Life’s fucking crazy. My job’s fine, for now. I want a better life, but I’m not sure how to change it and even if I could, to what?

The early 20s are a cliff.

Hindsight 20/Something is a chronicle of quarter-life crises—stories of getting laid off, losing a lover or your mind, having a gun pulled on you, renting a house with a urinal in the living room.

Hindsight 20/Something is a book I would’ve wanted to read when I was 21 and scared.

It’s a book-shaped living room of older friends, vulnerably telling you that it’s probably not okay right now…but that’s okay.


Minnesota’s gotten better for Marie.

But, I can’t tell you that whole story.

You can read it November 1st.

Austin Beaton is a poet writer essayist. His work has appeared in Porridge Magazine, the Bookend’s Review, Occulum, and elsewhere. He’s also the founder of Dear Person**, **a letter writing campaign to connect strangers in a time of passive technological isolation.