I'm 26. And I didn't even just turn 26. I had a whole day to live with it and experience it and wear it like a new, itchy suit.
And I found I didn't like it too much.
So, if you don't mind, I think I'm just gonna stick with 25 for a few years. Sure, I'll look at old and crusty, like the world's oldest undergrad student, but when you ask me how old I am, I'll smugly smile and say, "25." And then I'll punch you in the mouth for asking.
I'm actually taking it very well, I think. Here's why.
I think it was my 17th birthday. It fell on a Monday, which was already a bad sign. And I had school that day. And I remember it was just a very blah day, nothing really happened. Not like my 18th birthday when my then-girlfriend threw me a huge surprise party that was so amazingly fantastic that I still keep the photos of all my friends from that night.
But my 17th birthday was spent going to school and then going straight to work. At Whataburger.
Now, don't get me wrong. Whataburger rules. But I didn't want to spent my Rated-R birthday there. But I did. Because I was young and stupid and most of all, a loyal employee. So I worked. And for a brief time, it looked as if one of my equally idiotic co-workers was going to stay late for me so I wouldn't have to stay until 11 p.m. And then they changed their mind. On my birthday. So I stayed. Until 11. And then I went home and I crawled into bed, and I remember thinking, "This is probably the worst birthday I've ever had. It sucked. It was horrible. I hope it's the worst one I'll ever have."
And it was. I've had good and bad birthdays, but that one was clearly the worst.
This year's wasn't bad, it just was blah and busy. I worked really hard really quickly all day, trying to get a million things done so I could peacefully take Friday off. I went to rehearsal, which was fun, and afterward I was going to go out and party the night away (because I could sleep late tomorrow), but for a variety of reasons I ended up staying home.
So it was pretty uneventful.
But Kim and Wing sent me lovely gifts. And my grandmother and uncle sent me an awesome snack basket. And a friend at work gave me a pop-up Wallace & Gromit card. And Rebecca made a chocolate cake. And Tracy made a joke about her nipples. My family called. And I got lots of nice e-mails and some instant messages. And the MBTV folks started a thread for my birthday on the recapper's forum. And Nick, from LCP, sang a very quiet "Happy Birthday" during rehearsal so as not to disturb everyone else.
I kept wondering through all this what my problem was that I couldn't enjoy my birthday more. Maybe it's because I was so busy that I felt bad when I couldn't just stop everything and tell these people how much I care about them and how much it means that they remember (even when they don't necessarily) and how I hate aging, but I love the attention, and how I wish I was happier right now so that they could see the shining guy in me again that made many of them my friends in the first place. Because sometimes, like today, I don't feel it, and it scares me because it makes me feel like it will drive them away when I can't always be as good a person, or as fun to be around, as they deserve.
And then they smile because they don't see or notice that and they tell me Happy Birthday and I feel better even when I don't. And I finally stop running, stop rushing, stop feeling like the days are getting away from me, and I take a few moments at the end of the day, like I always do when I sit down to write. And I smile, and I get a little teary. And I go through these e-mails and I keep wondering if I'm going along the right path. Because I get like that around birthdays, all sad and introspective and sure that I should be moving in a new direction.
And then my Dad asks if I'm okay because I seem a little sad lately, and I have to smile at that too, because I know how much he cares when he asks me that.
Which I think is kind of fine for this site because it's an imperfect kind of happiness I feel a lot of the time. I don't know if I'm doing the right thing with my life. I don't know if I'm in the right job, living in the right city, being around the right people. But all that is secondary, because half the time I wonder if it's me that's not right in all these situations. If somehow my personality has been transfigured by all the things I do all week and all the putting off I do of things that are directly fun or relaxing or me. Which is a very downer way of saying that sometimes things don't really feel right because there's so much to do all the time. And so I write stuff in the brief moments of free time there are that I think are funny because it makes me laugh and then it feels good to hear that other people thought it was funny too. It's not an escape, really, but it's a purpose. A small, but noble one, I think.
And then (there's a lot of "And then's" when my mind starts to go like this), I meet my landlady's daughter on my way out this morning. And she is mentally handicapped. And it's one of those horrible Disney cliches about how a woman like her should be meek and blessed, but in the five minutes that I'm leaving for work, she asks me about my air filter and whether I've changed it. She's working on the empty duplex next door when she greets me. She offers to help me. She tells me she reads my stories in the newspaper. She touches my shoulder and tells me how proud she is that I change my air filter without being told. She smiles and she laughs and I feel touched by something otherworldly. And it's not that she puts things in perspective so much as she just blinds me with the sweetness of her character and the brightness of her personality. And I feel like an ass.
For feeling regret.
For feeling powerless to change things.
For not being grateful and for allowing myself to become clouded with feelings that obscure the good.
So here I am.
Afraid and hopeful at the same time.
At peace with nothing, really, but stirred by something deep within that wants to do better.
And I'm not sure if I can.
I spend half my time resisting change, when really it may be what I need most.
Friday morning: And then I wake up the next morning, head cloudy from staying up late, but thrilled that I don't have to get dressed and go to work. Happy to have this day to decompress and rest. Looking back over what I wrote the night before and hoping it doesn't come across as sad or depressing. They're just thoughts, is all. And there will be moments this weekend when I'm having so much fun (hopefully as the karaoke bar), that I'll forget all these concerns, and I'll feel nothing but happiness.
I'll be grateful and surprised and content to live where I do and be where I am.
That's the yin and yang of my birthday.
"Swim? I thought we were just playing 'floating penguins' today."