Happy birthday to me. Today I turn 23 years old. After 21 I was fine to stay an immortal hot vampire/Tuck everlasting type. But I’m told it doesn’t work that way.
When I was younger, I always thought 23 was the ideal age—your peak as a woman so to say. I also for some reason thought that Paris Hilton embodied 23, and envisioned myself at this age as the hot girl getting in the front of the line at clubs, men fawning over me and me just being like hahaha you wish, Clint. Admittedly, my eleven-year-old worldview and ambitions were pretty fucked up, but I’m also astonished by the optimism I had for my future self. I always just figured I would be wealthy and have a lucrative yet fulfilling job, be stupid hot, and overall have the perfect life. This wasn’t really grounded in anything I was told either, because while my family had a nice house in the burbs, I saw myself sunbathing by my infinity pool in Bellaire. And while I wasn’t an ugly kid, I had no business expecting myself to be supermodel hot, particularly given my entire extended family being under 5’8’’. So WTF, fifth grade me? Who were you?
Though I don’t wish this idea of 23 on myself anymore, it is a stark contrast from reality as I wake up at noon on my 23rd birthday, hungover, wearing my waitress uniform from the night before, with the faint smell of popcorn in the air from the bag I stuffed my face with last night. I don’t mean that figuratively, I literally licked the butter off the inside of the bag. Obviously, the picture of glamour. But in all honesty, I expected to have my shit together at 23! I’ve continually felt like I missed the metaphorical adult train, where you start doing things like ironing, and using coasters, and having a “grocery shopping day.” Since graduating, things like napping for three hours at a time and eating ramen every night stop being cute and start being sad. Pile on top of that the sense of dread and anxiety that rise as you lay in bed with no idea what the fuck you’re doing with your life, scrolling through your newsfeed to see friends getting dream jobs from their mom’s friend’s cousin’s optometrist. I’m like soooo happy for you Amy, congrats! You definitely weren’t significantly dumber than me in high school and totally deserve it!
But rather than cry and succumb to the darkness of my windowless room (I live in a den with no windows for cheaper rent…just like Paris amirite?) I try and reflect on the things that have changed from 22 to 23. I graduated. I should start thinking of that as an accomplishment, rather than a death sentence. I buy cheap wine by the bottle now, rather than the box. I can’t skip things anymore. If I skip work, I’m fired, so though I may be 45 minutes late and look like a zombie that a truck fell on, I’m still there. I pay (most) of my own bills now. Which is pretty much the worst, but I’m four months in and haven’t gotten evicted (an achievement for a number of reasons). And while I still may be horrible with finances and have to call my mom for help every time I fill out a W4 (or is it the W2?) I’ve learned that every day can’t be treat yoself day. Maybe I have to buy the ugly ass fake wood dresser from Wal-Mart instead of the oh so lavish matching IKEA set. So though 23 might be a little more chaotic and messy than I anticipated, I take solace in the small signs of maturity along the way. Who knows, maybe by 24 I’ll only be eating fast food once a week? One can dream.