Where Would We Be If Things Had Gone Differently?

I turned 22 on December 23rd, 2019.

It was a great birthday. I didn’t get terribly intoxicated (though I did preemptively celebrate my birthday a week prior and that ended in me coming home and throwing up in a pile of my clean laundry) (Trashy but make it classy). I went to Applebee’s with my friends back home, whom I haven’t seen since summer.

We’re all in that part of our lives where we’re slowly transitioning into full-time adults. Halflings. Half-children, half-men, and half-women, clinging to our mothers and fathers as we slowly lower our toes into the water.

Some of us live at home, some of us scrape by in tiny apartments, some of us are in college, some of us fight with our parents, and some of us can drink in bars. We work hard and we have a good time because we all know it’s coming. One day, we will become completely wrapped up in ourselves and the lives we’ve built. Most of us will have kids, others will focus on our careers, and some (though I don’t like to think of it) will live far, far away and we’ll only see each other, if we’re lucky, every few years when we can shoot the shit and mutter to ourselves every other sentence, “Wow, time flies.”

As we were sitting in that Applebee’s in 2019, my mind was running through the typical train of thought one follows when they’re turning a year older. You look back on where you started, you look towards where you’re going, and if you’re lucky, you’re excited about the future. I was truly excited. I remember thinking how good it felt to be 22. I had my friends, my shoebox apartment, my budding career, and a new year. I was young, I was healthy, and I felt incredibly lucky.

The day is February 20th, 2021 and hOlY fUcKiNg ShIt.

It’s strange to think back to moments just before our youth was stolen. That’s what it feels like sometimes, and I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this. I’m 23 now, and sometimes I can’t help but feel like the time in our lives that we were promised would be the greatest was stripped from us. A whole year of our lives has vanished into the new world order.

Where would we be if the world hadn’t fucked up?

Where would I be at 23?

Since March of 2020, the whole world has undergone one thrilling, continuous, collective existential crisis. The plans we made, the future we pictured, it doesn’t exist anymore. We’re a generation of fucked up individuals, and we’re the ones who have to clean up this mess.

When the pandemic started, I was finishing up my last semester of college. Once I had finished in May and my lease had ended on the 31st, I went home to my parents. Where else was I supposed to go? The “real world” that every other adult bragged about being a part of no longer existed.

I stayed with my parents for two months. By that time, we had all gotten used to nothing. Nothing to do, nothing to see, nowhere to go, nowhere to be.

But something had happened that summer. It was the first time in a long time that me and my high school friends were all in the same place with nothing. None of us had jobs, none of us had school, none of us had rent, and all of us were free. When was the last time it was a Wednesday night and all your friends had nothing to do so you decide to fuck around with some beers in your parents’ basement? That was our summer. My parents’ basement. It felt like high school.

Every day there was something stupid to laugh about. We got creative when we got bored, just like when we were 16 years old. It was simple and we were free.

And that’s where I found myself at 23, on December 23rd, of 2020. It was a Wednesday night with nothing to do, nothing to see, nowhere to go, nowhere to be. So we decided to fuck around with some beers in my parents’ basement. Strange to think a year ago we were at Applebee’s.

I don’t know. Was our youth stolen? Even in good company, there is this cloud of uncertainty. Where will we be once the world is free? Will we get back to our lives as halflings? Will we be allowed to slowly transition or were we just dumped into the water without any forewarning? And how long will it be until we’re allowed to go back? Is there any going back? I don’t think there is. I think we’re a generation of lost youth.

And I look at my friends a year later. A year from who we used to be.

Some of us still live at home, some of us still scrape by in tiny apartments, some of us are still in college, some of us still fight with our parents, and none of us can drink in bars.

But we find ourselves in my parents’ basement on a Wednesday night with nothing to do, nothing to see, nowhere to go, nowhere to be. Attempting to live our twenties in the new world order, clinging desperately to our youth. Seeing a world we wish we hadn’t seen. This is the new world. It’s our real world. It’s different from most. And I still can’t help but ask myself, Where would I be at twenty-three?

About the author
Funny girl, writer, & clueless. Follow Valaniece on Instagram or read more articles from Valaniece on Thought Catalog.

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