“We’re freshmen as far as being grown,” he said.
I thought of this, looking at the crowd around me. Aunties in their 40s and 50s in their sequined suits. Girls in their 20s in their re-purposed club dresses. Career-climbing peers in their red-bottomed pumps. I found what I usually found — no kinship to any of them.
“Freshmen as far as being grown,” I repeated back to him. “I hadn’t thought of it that way.”
“Yeah,” he beamed. “All the good stuff happens after 30.”
Does it? I wondered, my chorus of “But what if you don’t care for marriage, children, or career?” lying in wait on my tongue. Not here, I soothed. Not with this 30something heart attack survivor who — by all appearances — possessed a thirst for life I long abandoned.
“I know I’m not old,” I explained a few days prior in a pew at a friend’s wedding. To a young man I later learned graduated high school in 2009. “But I’m too weary to feel young.”
A year ago, I happily played Fun Auntie. A year later, performing “fun” to validate my life decisions bores me. Fun Auntie hangs in the closet next to the rest of my ill-fitting old identities: the Perfect Girl Next Door, the Career-Minded Go-Getter, the Creative Bohemian, the Guys’ Girl, the Defiant Feminist Bachelorette.
“Freshman year,” I repeat to the air above the firm queen-sized mattress for my aging lower back. That’s not it, I decide before nodding off. A freshman year requires faith — in my specialness, in some dream, in a world where it can come true, in endless possibilities. I don’t have it.
This phase…this phase is something else.