It's bizarre to think that in just a couple hours, I will be twenty years old--the big 2-0. I know it probably shouldn't have this much significance considering that, on a moderately superficial level, it's just a reminder of the fact that I'm one year shy of being able to legally drink. Still, there's something about rounded numbers that really make things seem...official. The "End of an Era," more or less. I guess it's the true beginning of adulthood in a way, in that there's no possible way now that anyone could mistake you for a kid, teen, or any other title that might excuse you from certain obligations or responsibilities. And in a way, that sounds terrifying--to think that, numerically speaking, this is the moment when my childhood ends and my adulthood begins. And it's almost obnoxious to think back to a time when adults would say, "You grow up so fast and you spend a lot of your adult life wishing you could be a kid again." All the while shrugging and saying in return, "Pssh, yeah right--I can't wait to grow up!" when, though I hate myself for admitting it--I'm startling to think that they might've been right. Even though I remember going through childhood feeling as though I was going to be a kid forever and that I couldn't wait to grow up, I now feel that it all went by way too quickly. So as my final hours of being nineteen slowly blow away from me, I thought it might be appropriate to say a few words about my seemingly fleeting adolescence.
Honestly, a lot has happened in my second decade of living. I feel like I grew up a lot, which I suppose is to be expected, but still leaves me slightly amazed nonetheless. I know a few people who believe that you're pretty much this immovable and unchangeable person for a good portion of your life, but I like to believe that just isn't true. That people are malleable creatures who can grow and evolve through the passing fancy of life. Granted, I've dealt with a great deal of animosity in my life. I have learned that people, especially between the ages of 13-19 (and sometimes until an unforeseeable age) can be incredibly cruel and emotionally scarring. I learned that my mother buying me thongs in the 6th grade because she thought they were "practical" was probably not the best idea and led to a lot of speculation of my character and pre-teen promiscuity on top of the typical social awkwardness and uncomfortableness that comes from being in middle school, which I have a feeling stayed with me far longer than it should have. I don't know how I was so forgiving back then, how I tried so hard to let it roll of my back because I thought that somehow the people who treated me so awfully would still be my friends if I stabbed them with kindness hard enough. I also should've seen the foolishness in such a fruitless pursuit. Those people weren't worth the effort, even if I had to deal with them up until I graduated high school.
Some people are just not worth my time. I'm still working on that part.
I learned what it meant to really have a crush, even if it was on Oscar-winning celebrities who may have given you a hug that one time, but probably would never run off with you and get married and have millions of offspring like you daydream about no matter how many hours you stare at his pictures. And I learned what it felt like to feel that way about a real boy, and how much it hurt when he didn't show up to the night dance. I learned that being conventional is overrated, but giving a shit whether or not you're being conventional all the time is just plain dumb. (Yeah, that's right--I'm talking to you hipster assholes. You can all kiss my ass.) I can listen to my pseudo-obscure indy folk rock music and still absolutely love the latest Brad Paisley song. Who gives a fuck?
I learned what it was like to kiss a friend for the first time and feel a connection, even if it was for that one moment. I also, reluctantly, learned what it's like to have a moderately overweight emo girl try and stick her tongue down your throat shortly after. I've learned that first's aren't usually what you expect them to be most of the time. And that sometimes, even though it might end poorly, if it feels right, that's all that matters. I learned that first loves are usually pretty great ones, especially when you're in the midst of high school and surrounded by great times with great friends.
I learned that people die. And it sucks. A lot. That it feels like someone's away on a trip for a very long time--you wonder where they might be but all you can really do is miss them terribly. I learned that sometimes death affects people in different ways depending on the people who die. I learned that I wasn't that close to my grandmother even though I saw her all the time. And that my Uncle meant the world to me. I learned that there isn't a day where I don't think about him and wish that I could tell him all the things that I forgot to in the heat of the moment. And that, no matter how many books I write, poems I write, letters that I write, journal entries I write, no words will ever bring him back or explain in full just how much he means to me.
I've learned that I seem to attract very dominating friends. It's not something I do intentionally, and I'm pretty sure it's related to some weird deep psychological subtext of my personality, but the fact still remains. I've learned that I can be bossed around pretty easily and that I have to be more aware of being taken advantage of no matter how much I want to make friends. I've learned that a misunderstanding can lead to big presumptions which lead to big dramatic fights. And that eventually, even the most stubborn of us know how to forgive, given the right amount of time allotted.
I learned that giving people a second chance can lead to truly breath-taking summers. Even if he did break up with me on my seventeenth birthday, it was still worth it. I learned that exes can make great acquaintances...eventually.
I've learned that I can be a very anxious person sometimes. And that thinking about life and death on a grand scale freaks me out a little and I don't like talking about it. I learned that I have irrational fears about life and the expectations I have for myself and that my parents have trouble being empathic even though I know they try and that they love me. And that therapy and counseling and tutoring can really help in the midst of an existential crisis.
I learned that just because everyone in your graduating class wants to go to Brown or Berkeley, doesn't mean that is the necessarily the right path for you. And that taking seven AP classes in one semester is just the academic equivalent of public masterbation and is just really fucking pointless and stupid. That I'd much rather take classes in things I love rather than killing myself over a perfect GPA. And that it's okay to want to go to art's school that isn't necessarily in California near Mom and Dad like everyone else. And that leaving home is a really eye-opening experience.
I learned that college isn't that scary. But that I'm passionate about just about everything I lay my eyes on which doesn't always bode well with my organizational skills (or lack thereof) and love of procrastination. And that picking a major is hard, but that I've found that I work best when I'm working on many different projects at once. This is when I'm happiest. I've learned that I can be a difficult roommate, but that I'm not nearly as bad as some people I have met. I've learned that living with people (especially girls) is harder than it looks and that living in a dorm is not as much fun as I thought it would be. I learned that leaving such a surreal place like LA to go to school in the midwest is a lot weirder of a cultural shift that I had realized. I've learned that, although Chicago is a big city, most of the people that go to Columbia are sheltered suburban kids who's mothers believe that all aborted babies go to hell. I've learned that I go to school with a ridiculous amount of dumb people and that art school isn't nearly as eclectic and colorful as I had imagined it would be, but that's it's getting increasingly more so over time. I've learned that meeting people and making friends is not as hard as I thought, but it's still hard to keep it up after the initial "cute meet". I've also found that if you look in the right places, you can find some truly remarkable friends where you least expected.
I've learned what fallen snow feels like, though I have yet to make a snow angel, man, or any other snow-related being.
I learned how great coming home feels like when you've been away for months on end. And how good it feels to see your Dad's great, big, open arms greet you at the Long Beach Airport baggage claim. That my two dogs are the warmest, most remarkable creatures I've ever had the pleasure to know and they seem to be the first things about home that I miss when I leave. I learned that, though I still believe that LA is way overhyped, growing up there allowed for a fantastic childhood.
I've learned that I love performance poetry and that some people seem to think that I might have a knack for it, though I still think that remains to be seen. But I still maintain that it brings together some of the most fascinating people that I've ever met in my life.
I've learned that musical theater is pretty fucking amazing when done right, but that I'd much rather direct than star. I've learned that the theater department at Columbia is full of some pretty eccentric and awesome people and that networking is a lot easier than I'd thought. That in a way, under all the egos and outlandish personalities that I've come across, it is like a big weird hilarious family.
I've learned that most men between the ages of 18-24 have absolutely no idea what they want, but chances are it's probably not something that I can provide right now. That the concept of "followthrough" simply does not exist in their vocabulary. And that sometimes it's still gross waking up in a typical 20-something guy's apartment full of dimmed black lights still on from the night before and faded posters of overrated icons from the late 60s like Jim Morrison hanging over his bed, even if I am and should be age appropriate for that kind of thing. And though I still fall every time a captivating guy gives me the slightest inclination of interest, which has left me a bit cynical about of subject of late, I still remain hopeful. I've learned that my mother was right--I really shouldn't take everything so darn seriously.
I've learned that the use of weed and alcohol are enjoyable for me, but only really in small doses and with the right people. And that I don't feel immediately compelled to always chose to partake in these vices when the opportunity arises because sometimes, I just don't feel like it. But other times, it's really fucking fun.
I've learned that my parents can be wrong a lot of the time. I've also learned that they're usually right about the more important stuff that really saves my ass in the long run. I've learned that my mother is crazy a good 80% of the time and that it's sometimes hard to gage whether or not she's actually listening to me when I'm talking to her, or just waiting for me to hurry up so that she can move on with the conversation. And that my father is one of the most stubborn men I have ever met and sometimes doesn't recognize certain social cues. I've also learned that my pride for them and their achievements knows no bounds.
I've learned that I have a rather limited relationship with my brother, but that I'll take what I can get. I've learned that he can be incredibly critical of everyone, but that of everyone in the family, he's probably the hardest on me. I've learned that in his own weird fucking way, he loves me and sees the potential that I have underneath all the criticism he throws at me. Even though it's hard to see it sometimes.
I learned that I left behind some incredible friends that I hope will stay with me on my many adventures for the rest of my life (if not, at least, for as long as humanly possible). And that I'm continuing to make new ones along the way.
I've learned that "Shut up, David" is a really funny phrase.
That I just lost the game.
That I've bin sittin' ahn this mahn-seat fah fowahteen yeehs end I'm startin' tah eat the upholstery!
That I love minimalist dancing.
That it ain't nothing but a hair flip!
That I make ridiculous sound affects that resemble girlish squeals when I'm around people that I truly love.
That film majors who hate everything can be pretty unbearable.
That sometimes I have moments of being totally sweet.
That I tell really long stories that seem to go no where but have an incredible amount of imagery and detail that some find charming.
That passive agressive notes left by roommates will always be obnoxious and annoying.
That I killed Paul Allen with an axe in the face. And that his body is dissolving in a bathtub in hell's kitchen.
That Stephen Sondheim, George Gershwin, and Al Hirshfeld complete me.
That after all this time, I still can't wait to someday live in New York. Doing...God knows what.
And that there's really nothing better than a cake overloaded with sugar that was bought from the local grocery store to have on the midnight of your birthday.
When I was about ten years old, I remember lying awake in bed thinking about all the stuff that I had done during my decade of life. It had seemed like so much had happened; all the kids I've played with, the stories we made up, and the mistakes that I had learned from seemed to fill up a lifetime. Now looking back at my second decade it seems obvious that I've experienced a lot more since then, and yet I feel like I'm barely getting started. It does feel scary not to have that crutch of childhood keeping me upright. And yet, I'm excited for the future and all the things I will learn in the upcoming years of pseudo adulthood.
The time is 5:52am. I am now officially 20 years old. Here's to the beginning of a whole new decade.