This time last year I was not feeling twenty-two, despite Taylor Swift’s catchy lyrics. With just a month before my birthday, hearing the song would send me into a panic spiral. Twenty-two meant that I was graduating from college, and leaving behind my best friends, the meal plan, the convenience of living near 75% of the people I love, and most importantly my comfortable life. I didn’t have bills to pay yet. I didn’t have to find a real job, I didn’t even have to make my own food—it was awesome. For the most part all I did was study, read, write, hang out with my friends, and most importantly have fun. I know I’m sounding like a clichéd sorority girl, but I loved college.
Twenty-two meant the real world was waiting and it was going to take me whether I cooperated or not. It meant I would either be heading to some new city for graduate school, or I would be going home and finding whatever job I could. It meant that I had to grow up, and I just wasn’t up for that yet. I wanted Peter Pan to kidnap me and send me to a Neverland College, one that I would never graduate from.
But Peter never showed up—that bastard, and I grew up.
As long as I can remember I have always had expectations for my new age. I had high hopes for sixteen that quickly showed me sixteen isn’t always sweet. I knew that nineteen wouldn’t be all that exciting. Twenty-one, the most looked forward to birthday in American society, that year really lived up to its expectations. Most people cannot wait to turn twenty-one, no one really gives a shit about twenty-two.
Except for Taylor Swift.
T Swift wrote a song that changed a lot of people’s perceptions about twenty-two. And it had nothing to do with the lyrics, it was just the fact that someone had highlighted the year; it gave us something to be excited about. It gave us a song to pre-game to. It gave us hope that life after twenty-one could still be fun. It gave us a theme song. I know I used plural nouns there, I could just be speaking for myself, but I have to believe that I wasn’t the only twenty-two year old who clung to this song for a whole year.
So the night I turned twenty-two I went to a local bar with a lot of my friends. The lights in the bar were dim, but there was an American flag made out of Christmas tree lights on the ceiling, so it made it a tad brighter. There was a guy playing guitar in the corner next to the chalkboard wall that had all the drink specials written in pastels, my friends all bought me drinks, and the conversation was great- or at least I think it was, I was real drunk. I decided it wasn’t a proper twenty-second birthday party without hearing Taylor Swift. So I began heckling the nice young man with the guitar to play it. He ignored me and played happy birthday— I should have been ecstatic to have the whole bar sing to me, but the drunk twenty-two year old knows what she wants, damn it.
But I got over it; I listened to 22 more times than any other song this year. I am twenty-two and I am alive. I knew that while I was getting older, I was also still young enough to eat breakfast at midnight, and make fun of exes and dress like a hipster. There was life after twenty-one.
But all those lyrics aside, twenty-two meant possibilities. I was leaving my comfortable life and being thrown into the real world. Of course that is terrifying, but it was exciting at the same time. The best times of your life happen when you decide that, while you are scared shitless, it won’t paralyze you. That’s why I packed up my things and went to a new city for grad school. I didn’t know anyone in Asheville. I didn’t have a job yet. I met my roommate off craigslist (don’t worry she’s cool guys). I was so unprepared for the real world. But if I waited until I was prepared, I would have never left.
Twenty-two was one of the best, most anxiety-ridden years I have ever had. And I wouldn’t take back any of it. But how would it have been if I decided that this was just going to be the first anniversary of my twenty-first? What would have happened if I just lived in the past? Well, I wouldn’t have been dancing like I was twenty-two that’s for damn sure.
The down sides of clinging to that song means what do I cling to at twenty-three?
It doesn’t help that I have heard through the grapevine since ’99 that no one likes you when you’re twenty-three. Thanks a lot Blink-182 for really helping me look forward to this year.
I’ve seen articles about why no one actually likes you when you’re twenty-three, and tweets, and instagram captions, and just as an overall phrase for the year. I’m not about it. I don’t want to believe that this year will be filled with people hanging up on me, or walking out on me, or asking me to act my age.
With all of this I have been dreading twenty-three. It’s a year that holds a lot of weight. What do you do at twenty-three? I’m out of college. I’m in my first year of grad school. I’m still young, but I am getting closer to my mid-twenties. What is there to look forward to with this year?
Then it hit me. This isn’t the year everyone is going to hate me. Okay, some people might hate me, but haters gonna hate, right? This is going to be my Jordan year. I’m going to pretend that every single day is the ’92 finals and I’m on fire. I’m going to live every day like I’m going to be the MVP. I’m going to cry tears of happiness because I’m holding Larry O’Brein Championship Trophy (NBA Trophy). I’m going to be on the Dream Team in the ’92 Olympics and dominate the competition. But most importantly, I’m not going to let some high school coach, or anyone for that matter, tell me I’m not good enough. This might not be my best year, but I will be damned if it will be my worst.
I encourage all twenty-two year olds who are feeling like they are going to cling to Blink-182 when they turn twenty-three, to drop that and go with the Jordan year. Now to be clear I am absolutely not dropping this philosophy on Blink because I’m not a fan, seeing their reunion tour in ’08 is still one of my greatest memories. I’m saying to drop it because it starts your year off on the wrong foot. Regardless of what you do, that whole year everyone is going to hate you. But if you live like Jordan, everyone will love you (okay maybe no everyone, even Jordan had haters, but that’s just because they were jealous of his raw talent). And hey, if you want everyone to hate you, by all means have yourself a Blink year.