19 April, 2012

Wouldn't It Be Nice

In the second week of March, two-thousand and twelve, I turned twenty-five years old. As Wikipedia informs me, 25 is the number that comes after 24 and before 26, a song by Veruca Salt from their 1994 album American Thighs, and, in baseball, the number that teams reserve for their best, heavy-hitting slugger. Twenty-five years is a full quarter of a century and about a third of the life expectancy of the average adult human, give or take a few. In dog years, 25 is roughly the equivalent of 3.5 human years, which means if I were a dog, I'd be at that boundingly energetic yet not-quite-a-puppy-anymore stage, where I’d be fully house trained but also not completely trustworthy near small children.

If I were 25 in the middle ages, I would earn 6 haypence reaping hay or whatever, and then I’d still have to go home and tend to my children, of which I’d have at least 8 because you know there’s always at least two weak ones that will die of scurvy. In the 1800s, I’d probably be married to a man with acres of fertile ol' western land and creating little farm children and teaching them the bible by now.

But in 2012, I, along with many of my peers, am in this weird childhood-adulthood limbo that is basically a long, drawn-out extension of what we all should have gotten out of our systems when we were teens. Some of us (me) stay up late, thinking long and hard about how we (I) should “follow the bliss” and figure out our (my) "life plan,” but ultimately, many are only really interested in figuring out how to stave off adulthood for at least the next 4-6 years when, for all intents and purposes, you (I) are (am) a fully formed human. An adult. A grown up.

To make myself feel better at this ripe old age, I looked to some historical figures from which to draw inspiration. At 25, Orson Welles co-wrote, directed, and starred in Citizen Kane, which is allegedly the greatest film of all time. (I disagree- I saw it both before and after wisdom teeth surgery, and even with the benefit of pain killers, I was whelmed.) Twenty-five year old Charles Lindenburgh flew the Spirit of St. Louis solo across the Atlantic, the first man to ever do so, and won a prize equivalent to over $300,000 today. At 25, Joseph Smith founded the Church of the Latter Day Saints. No big deal. So far in my 25th year, I’ve written a few really solid emails (that I still am particularly proud of) and I finished not one but two full television series on Netflix. Slow down, Em! (You seem to say.) There is so much to live for, but you live so wildly and with such reckless abandon!

Though I am not confident 25 will be the year where my hordes of adoring fans will first create and then subsequently flood my Wikipedia page to share with the world the greatness that I have bestowed upon them, I do solace myself with other internet mediums. Namely, a quick trip to Yahoo Answers demonstrates to me that, even if I don’t have a wiki, at the very least I’m middle of the pack in terms of having an existential crisis about my life. For one, I'm not seeking counsel from an anonymous internet forum filled with uninformed citizens imparting their best, uninformed guess for that weird color your rash is turning. And secondly, I can consistently spell existential, which has to give me some bonus points.

Perhaps I have not “come into my own” at 25 years because, up until this point, I have been unable to fathom what 25 or beyond would actually look like for me. Growing up, I had a clear picture of the important events in my life: high school, college, the first long-term relationship, new jobs, new cities, new living spaces. I had a basic grasp on what “life”  consisted of until around 23. But then after that- pfft. Nothing. It’s like my brain couldn’t comprehend anything after that point because it was overwhelmed with the plethora of possibilities. Or, maybe, it just simply fizzled out because all the good stuff was behind me and there was no point envisioning a bright future as I was already passed my prime, like one of those toddlers who ages up in the beauty pageant contests to the 7-9 age category but desperately wants to stay in the 5-6. I was really good at being in my early mid-twenties. But then I aged up.

The only substantial, tangible change that has occurred now that my life has clicked over into middle-twenties-hood is this: I can now rent a car more cheaply than I could a few weeks ago. Yay. If that’s not something to celebrate, then I just don’t know what is. Being an adult = awesometown, population me!

At the very least, this inability to perceive the future has been with me throughout my life (kudos for consistency, brain). I have a perfect memory of trying to envision what my future life would hold, and failing at it.

I was standing in the living room in my old house, in front of the big picture window that served as my dance studio mirror at night. I had just switched over from the Backstreet Boys’ “If You Want It to Be Good Girl (Get Yourself a Bad Boy)” and was a bit winded from my emphatic dance style (what I would later in life start calling "edgy" to make it sound more intentional). I picked up the next album in our family’s alphabetized collection- the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. I knew it would be a good choice because at the time I thoroughly enjoyed all pets, namely my own spastic puppy named Eddie and spotted hamster named Reilly. So the idea of the sounds of pets was very appealing to me.

I remember staring into the window-mirror as the first song, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” came on. I was looking at myself in the mirror, wondering when the dance-y part would kick in, when the lyrics started. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older, then we wouldn’t have to wait so long…” Wait so long for what? I wanted to know. What would happen when I was older? With the impact of a thousand bricks, I realized that things were eventually going to change, I couldn't stop them, and I just couldn't comprehend anything after that.

The best way that I can think to describe what I felt in that moment is in the Korean word, “Han,” loosely translated as sorrow without tears. I was a very deep child. I felt thoroughly, irrevocably old, with no clear direction for what would happen when I was "older" but I knew it wasn't going to be as good as it was then in that moment, dancing in my living room. I was 9.

That’s sort of how being 25 feels to me right now. People are telling me that it gets nicer when you're older. There's travel and friends and marriage and babies and birthdays and fun to look forward too! And I'm trying so hard to picture what the future could be, the future where the Mayan prophecy isn't right and we all wake up blinking ashamedly on December 22nd, still having to go into work. And I'm trying really hard, desperately hard to picture what that world will be like, but there's just... empty space. I'm Harold, without his purple crayon. And that's a lot to take in as a 25 year old. 

But I could also go use that cheap car rental to drive me and some friends somewhere to try to figure it all out. Maybe even pop in that Beach Boys album and see if it gives me any new insights, this time around.