The morning after my twenty-sixth birthday, I woke up with a massive hangover, and an even more massive awareness of my fleeting mortality. While I am aware of how melodramatic it is to wake up and throw my head back in despair about making the transition to my late twenties, I couldn’t help but notice the seemingly overnight changes I felt as thirty continues to loom nearer and nearer.
For the first time, I had spent my birthday at work, because that’s what grown-ups do. I didn’t request off or make a big fuss, because as has already been explained by thosefar wiser than I, at a certain age your birthday stops being noteworthy. (I don’t want to brag or anything, but one of my skype contacts at work did send me an e-card. No big deal.) And after work, since my birthday fell on a weekday, I just wanted a nice, relaxing dinner, maybe some wine, and an early bedtime to catch up on my beauty sleep. Because adulthood.
This both did and did not happen. The evening started with Italian food, book-ended by rose and Chianti, but ended many hours later with a dance party in my kitchen. That night, I found myself trying to straddle the recklessness of previous years, while tempering it with the heightened sense of my own fragility as a person subject to the randomness of the universe. On one hand, I’m a person who can substitute Redbull for sleep, considers wine lips a passable substitution for lipstick, and wakes up most morning feeling invincible. But on the other, I find myself talking to and with others about ailments more and more, and get excited about trips to The Container Store in search of the perfect shower caddy.
The next day was all about damage control. There’s nothing like spending eight hours in a florescent-lit office to make you reevaluate living like Bacchus. As I got home that night and began complaining to my sister about my various aches and pains, I was suddenly aware of how alive I felt in that moment. While the night before had been about making memories and living it up to feel alive, the next day and its painful hangover made me feel alive in an wholly different way. In every way possible, my body was screaming at me: Feel this? You’re alive (but maybe not for long).
Ever since I read about the accident, I can’t help thinking about that man who fell through the cellar grate mere blocks from my apartment. Forgive me if I sound glib, but along with sewer alligators and evil empires built under the subway lines where I am taken captive, the idea of falling through those cellar doors is one of my daily anxieties. Every time I feel that bit of extra give, I have fantasies where I plummet down and shoot miles below the earth, until I’m trapped in some Labyrinth-stylechute toward certain death.
As a twenty-something trying to figure things out, I’m haunted by those words of inflated confidence Sarah says, working her way through the maze, right before being blindsided and falling to her doom down the labyrinth’s trapdoor, “I figured it out….This is a piece of cake!”
**Originally published on TwentysomethingNYC on January 25, 2015**