I celebrated the 25th anniversary of my birth on Monday. Well, maybe “celebrated” isn’t the right word for it. I expected worse, to be honest. I thought I might suffer an existential crisis, brought on in part by Facebook’s new Timeline feature, which makes it seem like I was born in 1987 and then did nothing until 2005, when I went to college and got a Facebook and started recording my life in short, sometimes embarrassingly personal bursts for the world 533 people to see. The “Happy Birthday!” wishes from people I haven’t spoken to in years started rolling in around midnight. It occurred to me that some of them might not know how old I actually am, and it occurred to me that I could, in theory, lie about my age. My gut told me this was a stupid idea, but I decided to think it through for a bit. I know there's no point in comparing myself to others, and I try not to; but sometimes it's hard not to feel like an ancient failure in a time when brilliant young people are doing excellent things with their lives while I spend precious hours plucking my chin hairs and watching Cold Mountain twice in a row because it was on Oxygen twice in a row, and relating to Renee Zellweger's character in Cold Mountain way more than I expected to the second time around.
My accomplishments would look way cooler on a 22 year old. I could pass for 22. You know how people are always like, “If you got the chance to be/do (insert age or period of time) over again, would you?” and some people respond with, “No, because I learned from the mistakes I made then and everything happens for a reason and everything’s going to work out, I know it”? I am not one of those people. I would do 22 over again in a heartbeat. The phrase “Everything happens for a reason” brings me about as much comfort as a metal blanket.
I took a few moments to consider how I would pull off lying about my age. I decided that 22 was too risky. A friend of a friend once told people she was 24 for two years. I could do that. It would give me some time to do something really impressive before my new quarter-century mark.
Except, of course, the most impressive thing I’d probably do in that time would be keeping up an elaborate ruse about my age, which would inevitably blow up in my face. I came to the conclusion that lying about your age doesn’t make sense in your 20s, especially in an era when everybody is Google-able. When I imagined a Google search of my name turning up, “She told everyone she was 24 when she was actually 25,” I got douche-chills and banished the thought entirely.
I know that people my age are in a strange sort of time; I sincerely hope that we get our shit together and make some great music and art inspired by these strange times, and write novels that people will download on their Kindles or whatever and compare to the work of The Lost Generation. I've had 25 years to decide, and I've decided that I'm a glass-is-half-full-gal, for now, anyway. I do fear that we’re more like The GPS Generation—we can drive anywhere because some force is guiding us, and it’s great that we’re seeing the country and all, but what happens when we go to reset our GPS voice to Darth Vader because we think that’s hilarious, and it freezes and we’re stranded in the middle of nowhere, five of us crammed in our Toyota Prius, and we realize we forgot to bring an atlas while Darth Vader intones, “RE-CALCULATING” over and over again? The thing about The Lost Generation, my American Lit professor said, was that they weren’t lost in the sense that we probably think of it (a hit TV series about people stranded on a mysterious metaphysical island? Hemingway probably would have loved that); they were finding a place for themselves in a new time in great/terrible history.
And on my 25th birthday, I found myself in a (great/who am I kidding, terrible) laundromat, watching a Bruce Lee movie in Spanish as I folded my clothes, which is how I knew that I’m becoming an adult. I ate lunch by myself and checked my credit score, which isn’t very good because, when I was 22, I was financially irresponsible and didn’t pay my bills on time. I’m working on it, though. Someday I want a dog and a LinkedIn account and my own washer and dryer. As I put my laundry away, I was warm with what I thought was hope, but it turned out to be a fever, and I spent the day after my 25th birthday in bed with the flu. I’m never not sick on my birthday—it’s like the universe has to subtly remind me of my mortality each year after my birth, like, “If this were the 1700s, you’d be dead by now. So enjoy your Hulu binge in bed, and don’t worry about making plans for next year, either.”
When my mom was 25, I was a year old and she was pregnant with my sister. The thought of being responsible for two additional lives at my age is terrifying. I look around my small room, in a small apartment, in a big city. I have a poster of a unicorn on my wall. I refuse to feel bad about it because it’s a really cool poster. I’ve been living in small rooms for years, paying my own rent, while my mom sends me birthday cards that exclaim how proud she is of me. This guy asked me recently why I moved to New York, and I said, “To chase my dreams, of course,” which I meant to sound sort of dry and ironic, but it came out in a way that sounds like exactly the sort of thing that a 25-year-old woman with a unicorn poster on her bedroom wall would say. I meant it.
I’ve been 25 for a few days now. I went to CVS today to buy some medicine, and I also bought some eye cream, just to try it out. Betty White’s birthday was the day after mine. I can’t believe she’s 90 years old. I can't believe she's so awesome. If I’m ever 90 years old, I hope I’m half as awesome as Betty White is. When I was little, I used to envy my grandma's clothes and lipstick and I loved the stories she'd tell about Ireland and the 1940s. I just realized that I have no idea how old my grandma actually is. I should call her. I always wanted to be somebody's grandma. I hope I have cool stories to tell. I'm glad I'm growing up. I think it’s going to be a good year.
Let's talk about getting older.
(Unicorn poster image via directposters.co.uk. Ruby Thewes via IMDB.)