I'm turning 28 this weekend and the only real thought I’ve given to the fact that my birthday is coming is that my driver’s license is expiring and I am now going to be forced to get one of the “new” licenses where they don’t let you smile and they mail you the new card so you have a fake paper one for a while. I know other states do this, but ever since I was 14 and got my learner’s permit, I’ve loved the feeling of the brand-new license, still hot off the machine, examining my picture while I walk back out to my car. I don’t know what it is about a fresh license but I’ve always loved the new-ness of it. I don’t like that I’ll have to wait for a new one to come in the mail, or that if I manage to have a good hair day tomorrow I’ll probably try to squeeze in a DMV visit over lunch and get it out of the way, therefore relegating myself to a weekend of getting carded and having only a black and white printout of an unflattering picture to show for it. I suppose I could wait until Monday… you have 30 days after the expiration to get a new one, right? Unfortunately, once I get it in my head that something needs done, I am absolutely restless until I accomplish it.
Also, the no-smiling thing irritates me. I don’t WANT to look like a scowling bitch in my primary means of identification, but…I guess they yell at you if you try. Although someone on facebook told me that you can smile as long as you don’t show teeth. I practiced a little bit in the mirror this morning, smiling without really smiling, and quite frankly, I just look ridiculous. A lot of people hold the theory that it’s because you won’t be smiling when you get pulled over, but I know someone who was told that it was so they could more easily identify you if they found your corpse in a ditch or something. So, that’s cheery.
It’s all irrelevant, anyway. It’s just a new driver’s license, it’s not the first time I’ve renewed it and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to hold out this long on the new design. Whatever, it doesn’t matter.
What’s interesting is how I’m so totally ignoring the fact that, hey, it’s my birthday.
We were always big on birthdays in our house... I think it was largely my mother’s doing, to make sure we had some sort of tradition in place. To this day, we still get together at the house I grew up in, have a nice dinner, and make homemade ice cream on the back stoop. When my grandfather passed away, my dad took over the reigns and was the Chief Ice Cream Maker. In past years, my brother-in-law has been lending a hand. It’s almost ironic that it was my mother who was all about the forming of a tradition, and now she doesn’t even get to participate in that bit. Divorce will do that, I guess. We’ll have to figure out our own new tradition, since she moved down to my area of the state and lives close by.
My 12th birthday.
Which has nothing to do with anything, but I recently found this picture and it's funny.
Birthdays aren’t as exciting when you’re older. When you turn 21, it’s a Big Deal because you can legally drink. Except when I turned 21, all my friends were still 20, and my boyfriend at the time decided to get drunk at his friends’ house so he couldn’t even take me out for my first trip to the bars. (He was so thoughtful, like that. I should have taken it as a cue early on but I continued to date him for another few months.) I’ve had pretty low-key birthdays since then – my 26th birthday stands out to me the most, because it was a perfect, fun night out on the town with my best friends and the best pizza in town and crash helmets and, well, I don’t know. I just remember having fun and enjoying it.
Last year was pretty fun too – though I could feel the onset of old age and the lack of wanting to go out and get crazy. We had dinner and played Adult Mad Libs and then ended up across town at the fanciest bar in town (to my knowledge)(which isn’t saying much, but, y’know, in the context of being a college town, this was a “grownup” bar) and were probably home by eleven.
Twenty-seven was good to me… but I’m kind of giving the side-eye to twenty-eight. Next year will be my last birthday that starts with a 2. I feel like I should have my shit together more than I do. My apartment is eclectic and messy and it feels, well, young. Like it belongs to a young post-grad artsy professional. Which it did, when I moved in. But I’m no longer in my early to mid-20s and I’m really not that artsy anymore. I feel like a fake – why do I still have all these design books? Why do I cling to the illusion that I could still be a graphic designer or photographer? Who am I kidding? Myself, mostly. I have all these ideas, sure, but I have no energy or method to execute them. So I’m sitting on thousands of maybe-good photographs with no destiny other than to take up space on my already-full hard drive, and all these design books that make me wish I could just design a stupid poster for something. I have lots of clothes I don’t wear or can’t fit into. I have so much organizing to do, that I both simultaneously want to get started right away and hide under the covers forever until it goes away on its own.
I have the most wonderful boyfriend that I sometimes feel like I'm still imagining, I have a good job that I enjoy and coworkers that I adore, I have friends that I love and a mostly-well-behaved kitty cat that doesn’t get near enough of my attention. My rent is affordable, I don’t use all that much gas anymore now that my 40-minute-away boyfriend is now 5 minutes away, and I’ve decided that I’m stable enough to start putting most of my bills on auto-payment. Best of all – my credit card debt is gone. GONE. That deserves its own post, but it was kind of the crowning achievement of this particular life stage and almost feeling like an adult.
But I’m still sorta flaky and chaotic and sometimes I really want to be spontaneous and spend my money on stupid shit and eat ice cream for lunch and stay up late reading blogs and roll out of bed at the last minute and haphazardly groom for work so that I look about as worn out as I feel. I take advantage of the dress code that allows me to wear jeans and t-shirts as often as I want (not just Fridays!) even though I know it would be professionally advantageous to try and dress nicer on a regular basis. I’m still emotionally stunted, I don’t know how to open up (I’m getting better!) and I’ve apparently reached an age where I will cry at the drop of a hat. Good cry or bad cry, doesn’t matter. I cry at weddings, I cry at movies, I cry when I’m stressed, I cry at any perceived insult or injustice. It really needs to stop, I felt more in control of myself when I could pretend I was an emotionally closed-off bitch. Alas, those days are GONE.
In fact, these days, I’ve been going around in a perpetual state of personality crisis, because I've been thinking about things like money and the words “financial planning” stress me out in the way that wondering if I was going to be able to pay all my bills each month used to, because OMG I should really start focusing on my retirement plans and I should really think about increasing the monthly payments on my student loans so I can pay down that debt faster, and maybe I should set strict monthly budgets for coffee and Target and books/music (the danger zone). I’ve started exercising 3-4 times a week. I have considered getting up early to squish in some activity before work, and the one sign that I haven’t completely become a grownup is that I always choose to hit the snooze button instead.
There are other things, too, but I'm sure they deserve their own post on a different day when I can make sense of them all. For now, all I know is that I should be a grown-up by now but I don't feel like it. Some days this bugs the hell out of me, other days I wish I could just get a ticket back to college when life wasn't this hard to figure out. Feeling like I'm 24 when I'm about to turn 28 just kind of makes me feel stunted, somehow, or like a failure. Except I know I'm worlds away from where I was back then, so I don't know what I think anymore. I'm more mature than I was, but maybe not mature enough? I have no idea. There were no textbooks for this.
Ugh, this sucks. I'm going to file all these thoughts away and focus on more important things like what to wear this weekend. Decisions, decisions.