Monday, January 7, 2013

A Quarter Century: The End

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I've said it before but under the circumstances it bears repeating: I hate birthdays.

I find the whole concept depressing and hardly worthy of celebration. Plus, the endless stream of well-wishing Facebook posts and other displays of affection only seem to make it worse, like pressing salt into an open sore (not to sound unappreciative, thank you all for caring).

Which is why, in a bit of poetic justice, I find it more than fitting that I'm spending my birthday this year at work, on a Sunday, fighting back a touch of the flu. Misery truly loves company.

One year ago today I turned 25. It is an unpleasant thought, rivaled only by the fact that today I turned the even-more-depressing 26. One more year and I'll be 27, in my "late" 20s and from there life – as I understand it – is just a slippery slope to 30 and 40.

Before I know it I'll be back here writing my "Half Century" posts in 2037.

Gross.

Time, as we know, is fleeting. By doing absolutely nothing at all I have landed on today, the 6th of January 2013. When I began this series, I remarked that the word "century" is like "million," in that it is so large I can't even comprehend it. I said then that it was this faceless thing that brought to mind black and white images of men laying rail lines and building large bridges.

I have now lived long enough to see slightly more than one-fourth of a century. In that time we've gone from flipping over cassette tapes to having thousands of songs in our pockets. We've seen the proliferation of the internet and the realization that anything and anyone can be found, from anywhere, with a few keywords and the click of a mouse.

I've also seen my generation become shrill, demanding that the entire world cater to their every whim and, as if that weren't enough, do it for free.

I can not fathom – and in a way it scares me to try – what changes are in store in the next 25 years.
In writing this series, it has been easy to over-romanticize the past. People do it all the time in music, movies and bad YA fiction, but as much as I dislike forced sentimentality I would argue that, in some cases, the past is worthy of over-romanticism.

When you're young, adulthood is an idea filled with visions of staying up as late as you wish, eating pizza and ice cream every day and doing fun, exciting things. You're not sure what those things are, because you are not an adult and frankly, you don't know what they do for fun, but you can only imagine how great it must be.

No one tells you the truth, that adulthood means facing a future of such oppressive weight that it stands on your chest, pinning you to the ground and making it difficult to breathe. It means a lifetime of bills and mortgage payments, scheduled vacation time and a perpetual state of exhaustion. It means diet and exercise and business-casual attire. It means forced conversation at dinner parties and watching your friends slowly, but surely, slip away.

At 26, my joints pop as I step out of bed in the morning and my reflection shows love handles that no amount of cardio will kill. Waking hours are consumed with work and transit and despite what the clock tells me it feels like I barely have time to fix a meal in the evening before culling up in bed to start the show over again.

At 26, I'm legally beholden to an employer for health insurance and, consequently, health care. I suppose that is all well and good, as long as I have an employer, and as long as it's the one I want.
Is this adulthood? It certainly isn't what I imagined and I only have a fraction of the responsibilities that time and age will eventually thrust upon me.

Again, I say, gross.

So here we are, embarking on yet another year. I'd like to think that big, exciting things await me in 2013 but real life changes at a snail's pace and, if history is any indication, it's more likely that I'll just keep on keeping on.

I suppose that's not so bad. Adventure takes so much effort and I'm already feeling tired.

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