Emily is in town visiting from New York, so we’re at Powell’s. She asked about coming here sheepishly, like it was embarrassing to want to visit the best bookstore in the world on a short trip to Portland, but Alley and I were thrilled by the suggestion. In the same way that New Yorkers rarely make it to all the “tourist attractions” the city has to offer unless there are actual tourists in town requesting to go to said attractions, Portlanders can get stuck in their neighborhood bubbles. Plus, I really appreciate the fact that everyone who visits me asks to come to Powell’s. It makes me feel like my friends and I are good matches, ya know?
Anyway, here I am in Powell’s, typing away on my constantly-almost-dying computer that clearly needs a new battery I’m not going to buy. There’s a young woman at a table right behind me who is an admissions officer for a college – I know this because I noticed her name tag when I walked in to the cafe area and it says “admissions officer” but I didn’t catch which college she works with. She seems really young, so I wonder if maybe she’s a student ambassador or recent alumna. She’s had two young prospective students come to sit and chat with her in the time I’ve been sitting here, and eavesdropping on their conversations is making me oddly nostalgic for…I’m not sure what. Being 17? Not really. But maybe just that time before I knew which school I’d be going to, when I had applied to NYU early but didn’t know if I’d gotten in, when it seemed like “The Future” stretched before me in a long, limitless way.
Ten years later The Future (whatever that means, exactly) is arguably just as limitless, but it doesn’t feel that way. No matter how carefree I’d like to pretend I am, the truth is the choices I’ve made over the last ten years have narrowed certain passages of opportunity and broadened others. My Life (again, whatever that means) is taking a particular shape, and even if that shape is large and limitless in its own way, the truth is it is not, actually, large and limitless. Making choices does that to a life. It’s not bad, I guess I just miss feeling like a kid in a candy store when I thought about the future. Like, remember when I thought I was going to major in Judaic Studies? I could still get a degree in Judaic Studies, of course, I totally could, but the reality is I’m probably not going to. Which is fine. Anyway! Anyway anyway anyway. ANYWAY.
It’s my birthday tomorrow and I’m turning 28. When I turned 18 I was living in Greenwich Village, in an NYU dorm filled with 800 other freshmen. I was best friends with Ali and Katlyn and Dara and Matt and John and Jeff, and in honor of my birthday we decided to go to a hookah bar. I bought a brand new (hideous) shirt at Forever21 in honor of the occasion and straightened my hair and put on a lot of green eyeshadow. We met in Matt’s room early in the evening to pregame before going to the bar. I proceeded to take six shots of vodka in rapid succession – that was a mistake. The walk to the hookah bar was eventful. I tripped a few times and complained about having to pee, eventually pulling my jeans down behind a dumpster and relieving myself. My friends suggested that perhaps I would like to go home many times – to be honest, when they told me about it all the next day I recognized that I had been a total fucking nightmare the night before. Even at 18, I could recognize that!
I didn’t make it to the hookah bar. John and Ali convinced me that I needed to go home before we even made it there, and then they helped my sloppy drunk ass get back to my dorm. Everyone else did go to the bar and there are photos of them toasting me at midnight, for my birthday, except I’m not there, because I was passed out in Matt’s bed.
John and Ali had walked me home, helped me get into my room, apologized to my appalled roommate who did not drink and was not my friend, gotten me out of my jeans and new green fake silk shirt, put my pajamas on my body, and sat with me while I tried to puke. In the hallway, a random girl we did not know took one look at me and said, “that girl needs a hospital!” and it made me upset so John chased her down the hall telling her to mind her own business. I thought I locked myself out of my room and couldn’t figure out how to get back in so they took me to Matt’s room and put me to sleep in his bed. The next day I realized my room key had been in my pocket the whole time. Matt slept on his couch when he got home from the bar and realized I was in his bed, and when I woke up at 5am, not hungover just very embarrassed and desperately craving fresh air, he got up with me and we walked to a coffee shop on MacDougal. I didn’t drink coffee – I still don’t – but I didn’t even like tea then, so I ordered a glass of milk. We sat on a sofa in the front of the coffeeshop and I drank the whole glass and felt like a little kid and I fell in love with Matt while we talked about everything. I think it was in college that I really started falling in love with my friends. I didn’t date anyone seriously during those four years but I had so many important love affairs (and breakups) with my friends. I want to call out that magic – loving your friends so hard it’s like falling – but I’m not sure I have the words right now. That could be a separate post, a series of posts, it could be a book…it is another story.
I’m not sure why I’m telling this story now. It’s not cute – that time I got trashed on my birthday and didn’t even make it out to the bar. I don’t think I’ve ever written about it before. But maybe it’s easy to talk about now because it was ten years ago. I suppose that’s why I started writing about it in the first place, to reflect on the fact that ten years ago I turned 18 and tomorrow (actually, in 9 minutes!) I will turn 28 and wow, those are two very different ages. I’m not getting old, I know that – I have way too many friends in their 30s, 40s, 70s, etc. to be so arrogant as to pretend that 28 is old – but I am getting older. It’s nice to realize that even though I miss certain things about being a freshman in college (like feeling as thought the future was limitless! And also the breakfast buffet in Hayden’s dining hall if we’re being real…) I am happy about growing up.
I am happy with the version of myself I am becoming.
“You’re gonna be in your late 20s soon,” Diana texted me earlier today.
“I’m ready!!” I replied.
And I am.