Today’s my birthday. I’m 24 years old today. Yahoo, I guess.
I’ve never been a fan of the birthday. Everybody has one. What’s the big deal? And nothing’s more obnoxious than the friend that won’t stop reminding you that their big day is coming up. Except maybe the Facebook couple. Or the woman mouth-breathing down your neckline at the post office. I think those things are slightly worse.
When you’re a kid, your birthday is one of the best days of the year. I remember smacking a green Power Ranger piñata at my childhood home and cracking open Pokémon cards around a drooling audience of collared-shirted cake eaters, all anxiously clawing for position to see if I pulled a Blastoise. Being a kid and having a birthday party is jubilance. I loved those times.
But just like Christmas, the birthday has lost its touch over the years.
In any case, I’m 24 today, whether I like it or not. But 24 in America feels like 37. I’m serious. In America, at 24, people are getting married. People are celebrating anniversaries of being married. People are going to wines & canvases and pretending to like fondue. People are living in shitty city suburbs and watching The Voice and wearing ties to work and doing yoga. At 24, people are pretending so damn hard to be established adults, killing themselves to fit in and find their little niches, dying to hurry up and settle down.
Honestly, in America, the mid-twenty-year-old is the most disgusting and artificial as they come.
And I’m certainly not old enough to be this goddam old.
I lived in Italy for a time. In Italy, and in Spain, I felt like I was always so frustrated at how slowly everyone moved. The entire southern half of the European continent moves at the pace of eventually. I never really acclimated to that lackadaisical lifestyle. Coming from a culture that weighs so heavily on rushing, on being on time, on racing everybody to the gold at the end of retirement, I felt like an anxious sociopath in the company of European friends.
“What do you mean you still live at home? You’re 24, dude!”
But the Italians have it figured out. They don’t have heart disease. They eat dinner at 9pm, and it’s not frozen TV meals, and it takes two hours because everybody talks and relaxes and drinks two cups of red wine and isn’t running away to get to dance rehearsals and football games. They aren’t obese and literally don’t have a word for “stress” so they use our word instead.
Seriously. The Italian word for “stress is “stress”.
So now I’m a 24-year-old American, and I don’t exactly have a job, and I don’t have a wife, and I don’t have a dog, and I live at my mother’s house. I’m the antithesis of this country’s hardworking, ball-busting, life-sprinting values. The epitome of “failure”.
But I wasn’t this way last year.
At this exact time last year, I was following the footsteps of what everybody should do out of college: I got a job. That’s all they tell you. “Get a job!” They spend four years prodding you, stabbing at you, pushing careers and high heels down your throat. “Oh you’re a Spanish major? And what are you going to do with that?”
I hope you never, ever, ever, say those words to anybody else. Ever. Fucking never ask someone that.
“What are you going to do with that.”
I got a job last year and I was working. I was living on my own, financially independent from mommy, working 40 hours a week in an office. I was coming home at night and going to dinner with all the rest of the 20-somethings, and I was doing it. “Man, this is the life! I’ve got it all figured out! I’m actually doing it, that thing they say you should do!” And I was being sort of social, and at all the events, people only ask other people one thing: “So what do you do?”
That’s all they got. “What do you do?”
I feel like Fight Club wrote itself. I swear to god that fucking book wrote itself.
And so I would answer them, and they would nod politely and talk about shitty television. And they would stir their cognac and force a giggle when the laugh-track told them to. And they would hold hands as they walked out the door, yawning “we have work in the morning.” And on Sundays they would put on their football team jerseys and call a cab to the bar to get drunk on half-off local beers and yell at the television. And they would live their shitty Football Sunday lives. And Monday would come, and they would all groan collectively in 140 characters or less and leave their cramped apartments and cramped apartment dogs and go to work.
Ahh. That was the life.
Shout out to anybody that has bought into this model and hates Monday mornings.
Eight months of “the life” and I was out. I was done. It’s funny, because in college, you’re a student. It doesn’t matter what you do for income. You can work in a bank for four years through college and nobody raises an eyebrow. Suddenly you’re out of college and working in a bank and that’s all you’re worth. That’s all you’ve become. That’s all you are. In your college years, everything is excusable. And suddenly, just because you got a degree, now everything is disgraceful.
All these twenty-somethings were in college bars last year, sucking strangerface and getting whiplashed off mechanical bulls. Now they’re buying throw pillows and house sitting neighborkids, repeating the words “rest of my life.”
Suddenly I feel Italian.
I’m 24 today, and for my birthday, I want to let myself off the hook. I want to give myself some perspective. I want to calm down, and I want to feel young again. Actually, not young again, but quite simply young, because this world makes me feel old and that’s just absurd.
I’m 24, which is an arbitrary number attached to the idea of time. It means that I was born on October 2nd, 1990, and that since then, I have successfully completed 24 laps around the sun. 24 means that I’ve lived as many years as there are hours on a clock, indirectly making me exactly one full day old. 24 means that I’m too young to run for president (unless I move to Iran) and definitely too young to run a campaign for the president. 24 means that if you were to square my age and multiply by a million, you’d have the net worth of Jay-Z (who is 44 years old, by the way, almost twice as old as me and still half as old as both Hugh Hefner and the Queen of fucking England!).
Everybody’s in this big goddam rush to grow up. I’m not.
I’m 24, jobless, wifeless, dependent, and the calmest and most content I’ve ever been in my life.
And now, when they ask me, “what do you do?”
I say: “yo vivo.”
I read this again today and felt the need to say two more things. The first, a disclaimer. I’m just too grateful to sound so bratty. I have a mother that is helping me in so many ways in my time of transition, and I definitely have my eyes set on the future. Yesterday I finalized my application for graduate school, and have high hopes to be there next Fall. So big props to momma, and huge respect to anybody that didn’t have the option to move back home. You’re the real hero here, and not my spoiled rambling self.
The second thing: I got a lot of love today. A lot of love. I got so much love from Facebook, from texts, from phone calls, from the internet that connects us all. For some reason, it really resonated with me, and maybe because I had such a grim outlook on today. To think I’ve interacted with so many humans. It brought back a lot of positivity, and it was a reminder that I exist in this world and that people are an affluent part of that existence. Even if it was a simple, “hbd”, on Facebook, it made me smile.
You meet a lot of humans in life. I invite you to look through your friends list and reflect on all your relationships, be them major or minor. I certainly did today, and it brought me a lot of joy. So thank you. Sincerely.
I appreciate you.