Part of growing up, it would seem, is slowly realizing one's perspective is not the only one to exist. This realization is a slower process, however, than one would imagine. Writing a handwritten note "from the door man" to a neighbor in your apartment building who doesn't approve of rowdy playing in the hall might seem like a seamless solution when you're eight-years-old, but once you've mastered cursive by age 10, you look back at what you thought was cunning genius thinking, "what an IDIOT." Besides, what doorman slips said handwritten note directly under an apartment door, or misspells "apartment"? Ten-year-old you knows what a fool you were at age eight, and knows much better now.
I became a teenager during the summer after eighth grade. I lost a third of my body weight at sleepaway camp thanks to a mixture of anorexia and one final growth spurt, and devastated my sister by becoming less of a furbie, and threatening to upstage her as "the hot one." Somehow, boys started infiltrating my clique of friends, and their attention became our number one priority. Which is why it came to nobody's surprise that the second my friend Nell's mom went away, we were planning a huge rager in order to round up all the new boys we had recently discovered and put them in one room for the night, in order to convince them all of our many wiles. Nell's mom was strict, but we were 15-years-old, and we were prepared.
It was Christmas Eve Eve the morning Nell's unsuspecting mom flew to Florida. As soon as the wheels went up, I was over at Nell's to help prep for what we were sure was to become the defining moment of our teenage lives. We took photos of each and every surface from multiple angles, both table and floor, to ensure everything would be put back from whence it came. We bought a month's worth of beer and Mike's Hard Lemonade and stuck what we could fit in the fridge. We got dressed, drew black eyeliner on our bottom lashes, and we were ready to party. By ten pm, groups of high schoolers were filing in to her apartment. The apartment was crowded, smoky, smelled like beer, and was a rousing success. The next morning, I headed back up to Nell's to help clean up early. As we were slapping ourselves on the back, picking up Mike's Hard bottles from the night before and swigging them triumphantly, Nell got a call on her home phone. Turns out, her neighbor had left Marie a very nice voicemail the night before, asking "if she wouldn't mind asking Nell and her friends to keep the volume down, and perhaps smoke their cigarettes downstairs." The most momentous occasion we could have possibly staged became the reason Nell wasn't allowed to leave her house for six months.
The concept that our plan would fall through did not occur to us. We had taken photos! We had prepared for days in advance, discussing exactly how much beer we would need, what time I would be arriving to help discard of all evidence, how we would take pictures so when we moved everything we could put it all back. It didn't occur to us that any outside element could get in our way. Handwriting from an eight-year-old to pass off as a middle aged man? Idiocy. Planning a party as if we lived in a vacuum with no neighbors, phones or sense of smell? The exact same breed of idiocy. Being on the verge of 16-years-old, I had plenty of factors helping me to form a sense of identity. I was newly identifiable as a "teen" and therefore, predisposed to certain behaviors, like throwing a rager and getting away with it, like how I had seen on the OC. I felt invincible solely because I had turned the corner of childhood. I wasn't a kid, so I had grown to know many things, according to television, movies and my own imagination watching the older kids. Of course, I was blatantly wrong, but I really only recognized how clueless I was at sixteen by not being sixteen anymore.
Then, you become the age you never even imagined yourself to be as a child. For me, that is the age when you are no longer in any type of school. You're not one of the high schoolers who used to breeze through the halls when you were twelve. You're not a mysterious college student whose dealings are vaguely taboo. I have no idea what I was imagining when I saw myself at 24. What accessories qualify a 24-year-old? Not Birkenstocks, or a glittery notebook, or a mom that grounds you, or the smell of patchouli. All of a sudden, you are pure, unadulterated you, with no point of reference drawn from clichés you hardly understand. Watching Friends as a kid, I never imagined myself as one of their roommates in the future, because they were simply "adult". They didn't go to any school, they lived in their own apartments, and despite the theme song, they seemed pretty on top of their shit. They were adult, which was the last phase, and the longest, least glamorous one. As an adult, you paid bills, you had a job, and you were boring.
I am around the same age as the Friends cast is supposed to be, my closest childhood reference to the age I am now. When reruns play from the first few seasons, there is nothing that I can identify that makes me their contemporary. Obviously, the fact that they all looked geriatric thanks to confused nineties styling doesn't help matters, but they were all so easily identifiable. Rachel the bitchy fashion one, Monica the psycho (did anyone else just think she was such a psycho), Joey the fat actor, and then Phoebe the spazz and Chandler the guy who seemed like he was forty the whole time. What makes me qualified to be a sassy twenty-something? I have an apartment in Brooklyn. I have started and ended career paths. I've gone on getaways with just my other twenty-something friends. If I want to, I get drinks on Sunday night even though work is the next day. But I definitely don't feel any concrete adulthood seeping out of my veins. How much easier it would be, if life after adolescence was boring. The reality is, there is just less of an outline to follow. I'm so old that my eight year old self wouldn't be able to put me in any sort of category that she would understand. I am without category, and should be easily defined as an individual adult by now, for others and especially for myself. According to my fifteen year old self, this is when my genius should start kicking in. But I'm just faking it. Turns out there isn't going to be any magical birthday coming up where I learn the ways of the boring adult. I'm pretty sure I'll be faking it for the rest of my life, but I'm happy to. How boring life would be if you really did figure it all out as soon as you surpassed the age your childhood imagination could fathom.
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