The other day my mom was looking through old photographs that we had boxed away. She found one of me at twenty one. I was with my sister and my cousins at the Empire State Building in New York, We’d gone to the city to celebrate my 21st birthday.
It was such a wonderful adventure. To start, we had breakfast at a really posh restaurant, did the whole Empire State Building experience, then indulged in some of the yummiest macarons at Ladurée near Central Park.
That day has always stood out to me as one of my happiest memories from being twenty one.
Having such a good start to a year gives way to setting high expectations for the rest of it. On my flight back to Florida, I watched New York’s skyline fade away with an optimistic smile. If my birthday trip that marked the beginning of a new age in my life went so well, the rest of the year had to go just as smooth, right?
Sometimes I wish I could travel into the past just to smack myself in the head for my constant overoptimism.
It only took a couple of months for things to begin to go awry. I had encountered your typical bumps in the road:
- Unexpected school expenses that I couldn’t handle. (I thank my lucky stars for the supportive parents I have)
- Going to Urgent Care because one of my eyes wouldn’t open.
- Being too shy to give myself the opportunity to hang out with this guy I thought was cute before he left the city.
Nothing that I couldn’t get over in a week, but still annoying to deal with. Life can’t always allow you to be great, right?
We all go through personal trials that test our limits every age, I naively thought these were mine. I didn’t know that my troubles would go deeper than that.
At the time, I sincerely believed that being twenty one was the official marking point in life where you cross the threshold of becoming an actual adult. You’re allowed to drink, get into more bars and clubs and people call you legal, so that means you’re an adult right?
Please, take as much time as you need to facepalm or shake your head at my twenty one year old stupidity.
I was the typical mold of your average twenty one year old idiot. What made it worse was that I hadn’t fully come to terms with being comfortable with who I was, so I just did what I could to please people and to fit in. All of this doesn’t get any better considering that I’m one the most stubborn people you’ll meet.
Have you ever felt so distant from your actions that it seems as if you’re watching someone else? Doesn’t it suck when you tell yourself “Oh no, that really is me!”.
Twenty one year old me, was not who I truly am.
I don’t drink a lot, I hate clubs because there’s so many strangers all at once (and they smell terrible), I think the idea of hookups is weird and pretentious people anger me. Yet there I was, indulging these things.
Remembering everything about who I tried so hard to be at twenty one always makes me so angry. Sometimes I think about if there were ever a year that I could delete from my life, it would be twenty one.
As much as that age hurts me, I wouldn’t get rid of any of the memories it gave me.
All the bad of becoming someone so outside of myself was a lesson. I didn’t want friends that only liked me because of what I showed them. I didn’t want to be with guys who made me feel that there was no reason to go past the surface of who I was. I didn’t want to pretend anymore.
I just wanted to enjoy being me.
It took a lot for me to learn how to step away from the herd and stop being a sheep. To this day, I still can’t believe that the moments I sacrificed being myself and exercising self-care just to please others are moments that were real.
The day I realized that it was time to step out of this personality I had adopted was simultaneously the most empowering and embarrassing day of my life.
The Embarrassing Part of That Day: I was crying in my sociology class and walking in and out of the classroom to scream at someone on the phone in my school’s parking lot over something really stupid – a boy.
The Empowering Part of That Day: I realized all at once that I was worth more than who I pretended to be.
As much as I despise everything I did – and I mean everything – at twenty one years old, I’m grateful for what I learned from my actions.
I’m now twenty four and I’m not only comfortable with who I am, but proud of who I keep on becoming. I’m a young women driven towards her success and happiness. I still have my quirks, but Rome wasn’t built in a day and I’m always going to find room to improve myself.
I’m closing the chapter of looking at who I was at that time with distaste and moving on to accepting my actions. I can’t change those memories. I’ll never get rid of them, but I can accept that was who I was at the time and who I am today is growing to be better.
So to my bad memories, thank you. You’ve taught me who I don’t want to be.