“I’m going to be 40,” cries Meg Ryan as Sally in the classic movie “When Harry Met Sally…”
“When?” asks Billy Crystal’s Harry. “Someday,” she replies in hysterics. “In eight years,” Harry responds with a calming yet logical tone.
This scene is how every young woman feels. Well maybe not every one, but definitely this one. In 12 days, I will turn 21. And while I’m not anywhere near 40, it still sits there on the horizon awaiting me.
I’m not afraid to admit that I’m scared to turn 21. It means I’m that much closer to having to be a grown up.
I can’t even call myself a “woman.” I still refer to myself as a girl. I still feel like a kid. I still feel like the little girl with the red hair who got straight A’s and was the teacher’s pet. I still feel like the little girl who went sledding on the hill around the corner, and not the big sledding hill because I was too scared. I still feel like the little girl in the velvet dress at the Christmas pageant.
But the truth is I’m not. I’m not that little girl. I’m a young woman who attends college 1,998 miles away from home. I’m a fully functioning college student with classes, a job and a column to write for the newspaper every other week.
I’m just not sure I will ever feel like an adult who has go to work 40 hours a week for the rest of my life (not just for six months). I’m never going to want to pay bills and eat well every day because my metabolism is bound to slow down. I don’t want to have to decorate an apartment like an adult with neutral tones and tasteful art rather than have my zebra comforter and Taylor Swift, “Friends” and “Girls” posters on the walls.
Growing up is no fun. But I guess there are certain benefits. I’ll finally be able to rent a Zip Car. I’ll finally be able to supervise a driver with his or her learner’s permit. I’ll finally be able to hold a pilot’s license. And I can finally run for mayor.
Oh, and, alcohol. I guess there’s that, too. Bars, drinks, bottles of wine, racks of beer, handles of whiskey. It’s not like I’m excited or anything.
Sure the perks may outweigh my fears. But here is my biggest realization that really scares me. After this birthday, I have no big birthdays to look forward to with a youthful exhilaration.
So these next 12 days can go as slowly as they’d like. I love my birthday, but I just want to love it for the rest of my life. I don’t want to be depressed about getting older.
I like being young. As Taylor Swift so eloquently put it in her new song “22,” being young is “happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time/It’s miserable and magical.”
There’s a reason people crave it. There’s a reason people envy it. There’s a reason so many sing about it. Just ask One Direction (“Let’s go crazy, crazy, crazy till we see the sun/And live while we’re young”) and Ke$ha (“Young hearts, out our minds/Don’t care who’s watching when we tearing it up (You Know)/That magic that we got nobody can touch”).
There’s something so beautifully imperfect about being young. We have the energy and desire to do and see so much. We have the opportunities to do and see those things. But we also have the opportunities to make mistakes, fall in love, try something crazy and laugh ourselves out of our seats. We have plenty of time to learn, change and become something. We have time to be stupid, smart, silly and serious.
I’m not optimistically anticipating getting older, but I am anticipating everything that comes with being in my twenties. The late nights, the constant changes, the revolving door of people I will meet and experiences I will encounter.
So I’m going to be 40, but thankfully not for 19 more years. And I hope I have a lot of good memories to fill those years before I’m really doomed.
– Maureen Quinlan can be reached at inside@HuntNewsNu.com