Birthday: 23

I awoke on this, my day of birth, to darkness and quiet.  It was five-thirty in the morning, a time I prefer to sleep through unless I’m doing something particularly important such as going to the airport or being born.  I was born twenty-three years ago around five-thirty in the morning.  I was ten days late, which is a little more characteristic.  I suspect that I wished to avoid the great spectacle of emerging into the world for as long as possible, and then perhaps decided all at once to get it over with.  Perhaps it was getting uncomfortable in there.  Perhaps my lower back was twingy even in utero.

It was just too magical that I randomly woke up twenty-three years later so close to the time when I was actually born, so of course I wasn’t going to go back to sleep.  I tugged a blanket off my bed and wrapped it around my shoulders as I staggered to the living room couch.  Ruby was there, dozing on the rug.  She summoned some enthusiasm to greet me, and then settled back down.

The sun began to rise.  A thick orange stripe appeared from behind the tree line, padded above with grey sky and below with grey lake.  The bright globe at the middle of the stripe seemed to burst before my eyes, coloring the leaves of our backyard ash tree.  The stripe lightened to peach and then to pale yellow.  Orange flecks fell onto the lake, tracing a path from my window to the sun.  And then it was over, or at least I stopped watching because Ruby whimpered to be let outside.

Mom and I went to church later in the morning, where we were prevented from leaving our pew at the end of the service by two elderly barricades who had knelt to pray for the next person to die in the parish.  We couldn’t interrupt, so we stood still and considered vaulting over the shorter of the two.

Then came the all-important Vikings football game.  I feel asleep briefly in the second quarter, but was roused at halftime to help Dad remove a dead mouse from its dusty mausoleum in an air duct.  Because sometimes, even when you’d like to prance around in a plastic tiara that reads “it’s my birthday, spoil me,” dirty jobs have to be done.  And decomposing mice have to be discarded.

Dinner and dessert, as per tradition, were at the birthday girl’s request.  I chose ribs (we’re entering those last few precious days of grill-conducive weather, after all) and this cake.  Amy went off to college a few weeks ago, the skunk, so poor Mom and Dad were left to harmonize a happy birthday by themselves.  Luckily, musical expectations are low in my family clan.  I opened presents, the contents of which I will likely detail in Friday Favorites, where I can be openly materialistic.

This year’s birthday was a little different from last year’s.  But as always, I felt the satisfying weight of another year’s worth of lessons and discoveries.  I’ll try to use them wisely.

Wild Dogs

There was a party last night.  It was a birthday party/LSAT completion party.  It would be, I knew, filled to the brim with philosophy majors and English majors wearing velvet jackets and hoods (the theme was Lord of the Rings).  The house would be clean underneath, for these men knew, as their mothers and fathers had known, that to throw a party is to tidy the house first.  On the surface, however, at least by the time I arrived, there were empty cans and bottles strewn about.  Plastic sheathes that had once held neat rows of Chips Ahoy and Oreo were empty, littered with only crumbs.  There were spills, too.  Splattered on Travis’ shirt and on the couch cushions.  A game of Never Have I Ever was going on; wobbling twenty-somethings sat around a table holding up varying numbers of fingers.  After each question, a large groan would ring out, and cups would raise to lips and fingers would be subtracted, sometimes with drunken sheepishness.

I hate parties like this, when I’m surrounded by people I know, sometimes very well, but I don’t recognize any of them.  That’s the worst thing drinking does to people, I think; it turns  them into strangers.  There’s maybe a small bit of that person buried beneath sips of Red Dog, but when it tries to form a coherent sentence, the result is alien, although draped with an earnestness that is almost piteous.

I left after an hour, having had only about a quarter of a drink, and went home, where I read until I felt like myself again.  And then I fell asleep and dreamed that a family was swimming in one of those natural spring pools out west, and suddenly looked up to find the pool surrounded by wild dogs, who were gnashing their teeth and growling.

Slam

I wish I could do this.  But if I can’t, I am sure as anything glad that there are people in the world who can.

One of my housemates drank the home-brewed beer that my friend Andy gave me for my birthday.  It was a nondescript bottle, labeled with Sharpie, waiting between the milk and the ketchup for the special occasion I had been saving it for.  Not a specific special occasion, but perhaps a Friday night when I had my wool socks on and my friends around me.

Apparently, someone else had a greater need than I.  I’m resisting the urge to leave a passive aggressive sticky note, as I know it wouldn’t be becoming for a twenty-two year old to pout, or to throw a tantrum on the linoleum.

So I’m in my room, taking small bites out of The Faerie Queen and scowling at Sunday night and all it implies.

And watching Slam, of course.

First Day of Twenty-Two

I did some things yesterday.  There aren’t pictures, because I’m a goon, but basically, I had a birthday.

I pulled an all-nighter, of course, only going to sleep once 5:30 (and official birthday time) was upon us.

When I woke up, I tore into the mysterious box that had been looming with promise all week.

Then I grocery shopped.

Then I cleaned.  I did piles of dishes, glared at Joey when he dared to dirty more for lunch.  I swept, arranged chairs, baked a cake, licked the bowl used to mix up said cake, did laundry, made up with Joey after he agreed to mow the lawn, arranged pitas in attractive spirals on a chipped plate, spent an hour creating a party playlist, and changed outfits twice.

Then I paced.  And paced.  And asked my housemates if I could do anything else.  And paced some more after they said no.

I couldn’t decide if it would be worse if people didn’t arrive, or if they did.  You see, now that we’ve gotten to know each other a little better, I feel that I can tell you that I don’t like parties.  I’m not good at mingling, I’m never the most outgoing person in the room, and I tend to shrink into a corner when people start dancing.  And even though there would only be friends at this party, many of whom I have known since freshman year, I was still worried that this party would be some sort of horrifying dud that would involve many polite coughs and eye rolls.

Furthermore, Jordan, not knowing about my meticulously-crafted birthday playlist, had attached his iPad to the speakers.  Upbeat Latin music was blaring, and I was pacing, and the scarf I had eventually decided to wear was feeling more and more like a noose with each passing second.

And then I unplugged Jordan’s iPad and plugged in my laptop.  The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” started to play.  And I felt infinitely better.

The party, of course, was fantastic.  Everyone brought loads of food: sushi, soup, shish kebab, snickers salad, homemade salsa, soda, fruit snacks (it was a college party, after all), brownies, pasta, etc.  It was a little strange to realize that everyone was essentially there to see me, but I tried to bounce around to all the groups, and to talk to every person there for at least a little while.  And, although I invited people from different walks of campus life (there were my friends from my freshman dorm, my English major buddies, and my MCSA comrades), everyone got along and seemed to have a good time.

The best moment, however, was when Maddie walked out of the kitchen holding a lit cake,  and everyone started singing.  I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so perfectly happy.

Last Day of Twenty-One

It’s a glorious day to be twenty-one.  Winds are high, the air is sharp with cool, and Friday seems to have shaken itself out over campus, draping everyone in bright cheeks and worn-in jeans.

Tonight will contain the last few episodes of Game of Thrones (season one), perhaps striding the streets of Morris, grinning under flickering lamps, and pausing at the Met Lounge to see friends who have come into town for the weekend.

Tomorrow, unbelievably, I’ll be twenty-two by the time I wake up.  There is a promising pile of packages sitting by my bed; I will attack those first.  And then I’ll likely draw up my knees and think about the enormity of being twenty-two.  It’ll feel enormous, I suppose, because I remember being eight, and fourteen, and (heaven forbid) sixteen.  I remember all those years and yet somehow now they’re all lodged inside me like little bundles I only draw out for nostalgia’s sake.  And I’ll be forced, beginning tomorrow, to trudge forward into the age that means the end of school, at least for a while.  That means leaving my friends and my professors and all the wonders of college.

After a few minutes, I expect I’ll shake my head and begin getting ready.  There’s a parade tomorrow morning.  It’s not in my honor, but I’m pretending it is; I’m marching in it in support of a local DFL candidate.  I don’t know said candidate, but I’ve been bribed with a free t-shirt.  That’s really all it takes to make me happy.

Tomorrow night is the enormous birthday gathering I’ve planned for myself.  It seems sort of vain to throw a party for oneself, but as I haven’t had a ‘friends’ party since I was eight, and as it’s my last chance to throw one with my UMM friends, I’m going for it.  I tried to think of a theme: something about the Beatles, perhaps, or something literary.  But then I decided that the important thing is to have all of my friends under one roof.  And to have a potluck so that said friends can eat and be merry.

Making Friends at Work

Things That Happened Today:

1.  I got The Birthday Package From Home in the mail.  I retrieved it at noon or so, and because it’s now 11:53 pm and I’m still on campus, it’s safe to say that I’ve been carrying a box roughly the size of a microwave around for twelve hours.  Mom, Dad: I hope you didn’t get me a puppy, because there’s a good chance that he didn’t make it.

2.  I helped a freshman (oh the glorious first few months of classes when it’s cake to spot them in a crowd) unlock her mailbox.  She was almost crying at the Post Office, and I can remember only too well when a letter from home was enough to open the floodgates for the rest of the day.  I thought she might hug me when I finally clicked the lock and wrenched the tiny door open, but instead she shuffled her mail into her eighteen-year-old arms and skipped away.

3.  I worked a Higbies shift during which I a) made a berry white mocha cooler for the first time b) took about ten minutes to make said cooler, as I had never made one before c) finally blended and whipped and drizzled said cooler into perfection, and d) proceeded to drop the entire thing on the floor, where it burst rather spectacularly, drenching my legs and feet in a wave of pink froth.  The orderer, who looked like she wanted to burst out laughing, said no when I told her I’d make her a new one.  “I’ll have a white chocolate cooler instead,” she said.  I emptied the sugary juice from my shoes before making her the drink.

Excuses, Excuses

I’ve been failing with this project lately, and I want to let you know that I am very aware of it.

I’m busy, yes, incredibly so, but I was busy last spring running a campaign, and I managed to post then.

I’ve been having trouble thinking of things to post about, yes, but isn’t that the entire point of this blog?  That by writing even when I have nothing to say I will be forcing myself to move away from the idea of writing as glorious inspiration, and toward the idea of writing as mostly hard work, with spurts of glorious inspiration?

So here’s what I’ve been busying myself with when not blogging:

1. Learning to diagram sentences for my Grammar and Language class.  I always suspected that I’d enjoy this class, and thus far I’ve been happily right.  Learning the finer points of grammar is like math for people like me who are miserable at math.  Grammar has the structure, the right-or-wrong answer, the tidiness, the rules that math does, but without the general headache that seems to stem from crowding numbers together into an equation.  Additionally, as we talked about last week in class, much of grammar (unlike much of math) is instinctive.  We’ve all been using it since we were two.  We know what’s up.  Sure, some of the official names for things (predicate, adverbial, etc.) are unfamiliar, but the arrangement of sentences is innate.

2.  Gathering copy editing minions to do my bidding.  The first edition of the year of the UMM school newspaper (The University Register) comes out Thursday.  As I have been voted Head Copy Editor, tonight I will be huddled in the copy editing dungeon from 8 pm to 2 am using my red pen all over submitted articles.  So far, I have about 30 people willing to join me in this task, which is quite encouraging.

3.  MCSA.  Always and forever.  Besides my secretarial position, I’m currently in charge of planning the Fall Retreat, am serving on the election commission, chair the Student Services committee, and am the head student representative on the larger Student Affairs Committee.  Luckily, I’m passionate about this stuff.

4.  Work: Higbies (coffee counter on campus), Social Science Division Office, library Writing Room.

5.  Socializing.  Of course.  I mean, I haven’t seen most of these people all summer.  Plus, it’s senior year; I plan to leave UMM with as many friends as possible.

6.  Sleep.  Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes I sit in class and daydream about it.

7.  My birthday is next Saturday!  While I’m trying desperately not to think of the implications of turning twenty-two (aka being old, not having any more significant birthdays until thirty, etc.), I am planning a birthday party for myself.  I don’t think I’ve had a “friends” birthday party since I turned eight.  I remember that party fondly, although I’m thinking my twenty-second won’t feature a scavenger hunt with Lip Smackers for prizes.