I don’t want to turn 23.
It’s July 20th, 2020, and I have just finished month 4 of living in my parents’ basement. In these sacred halls, I have graduated college, joined countless Women in Technology meetup groups and slack channels, gotten depressed, gotten un-depressed, updated my LinkedIn profile repeatedly, and watched just about every TV series under the sun.
I have it better than some — at least I’m not actually living in my childhood bedroom. My childhood bedroom, with its painted pink, blue, and green and Doctor Who and Green Day posters adorning the walls, has since been converted into my mom’s office. I’m glad she likes it — it would freak me out if I had to stay there. Instead, I’m living in my older brother’s old bedroom.
But still, my 23rd birthday is looming around the corner, and for the first time in my life, I’m not excited for a birthday. Sixteen was great — I don’t even know how I celebrated, but less than two months later, I had a driver’s license. I could drive to hikes by myself, take friends to arts events in corners of Seattle too far for a bus ride, on road trips to Portland, or just to the store to buy some sushi.
Seventeen was one step closer to eighteen, and eighteen meant that I could exercise my constitutional right to vote. (And buy cigarettes, but I didn’t really care because the anti-nicotine messaging really got through to me.) I turned nineteen during my freshman orientation of college, symbolizing another step of my independence and slow, steady transition into adulthood. Twenty inaugurated a new decade of my life, and I realized that I could remember things that happened ten years ago, and that was pretty cool.
21 was the big one — finally, I could drink in public! I’m bougie as heck, so for me, it meant that I could go to concerts without first checking the age limit and drink expensive cocktails at bars. I’d been looking forward to my 21st birthday since I was fourteen and discovered that cool underground shows depend on drinks profits. 21 was a good year, a really good year for me.
But to me, 23 seems like a worse version of 22. With 22, at least there’s a Taylor Swift song. Twenty-two year olds are hot. They’re young. They have sex with strangers and act crazy and make bad, story-worthy decisions. Twenty-three year olds have real jobs, like software engineer or teacher. They may not have their lives together, but at least they pay their own rent. Some of them, maybe most of them, have no idea of what they’re doing, but at least they’re doing something and that something is on their own terms.
I feel like it’s too soon to turn 23. I haven’t done enough with 22! I haven’t danced enough at concerts, touched enough strangers, or drank enough $15 cocktails for 22 to be over already. My stupid decisions are reduced to impulse buys at the supermarket and smoking too much weed on a Tuesday afternoon.
But like so much in this pandemic, I don’t have a choice. So I’ll turn 23, and pretend to be happy about it. At least there will be cake. I like cake.