Wednesday, February 08, 2006

'we'll be invisible this christmas' - harry and the potters

tomorrow is my seventeenth birthday, so i thought i'd give you all a state-of-the-union.

it's hard to put my finger on what's changing, or what's changed about me. as recent as last year i would wake up the whole week of my birthday with a big smile on my face. inwardly i would call myself silly and selfish for feeling like this, but i'm telling you, i floated through the entire first half of february waiting to be ambushed with attention and love. on my actual birthday, i felt like magic actually existed. as much as i tried not to think about it, every two seconds part of my brain would shout: 'hey! it's your birthday! everybody loves you!'

this year is the first year i'm not home for my birthday, a fact which did not actually occur to me until my ex-roommate left me a note a few days ago that said, 'hey, your birthday's coming up, isn't it?'

and all i could do was stand there and stare, dumbstruck by the notion that someone remembered my birthday before i did.

it's been like that all week. i keep forgetting. i guess it's because when you're one person in an 800 person building you don't expect people to remember your birthday, and it becomes a day just like any other. also, when you're in a small town that stays pretty much static from day to day, your birthday is the one time of the year that the impossible can happen. something new. something exciting. someone could surprise you, and you don't even have to suffer the usual fifty-fifty chance of that surprise being unpleasant!

but around here, you need so much brain power just to keep track of everything you're supposed to have done and when. when i think of thursday, i don't think woo! 17! cake time! i think, woo! no class till 1:45! i can catch up on my journalism reading and take a really long time to eat breakfast!

and there is of course the inevitable downing factor, which is that 17 may be older than 16, but not so that you'd notice. apparently, some of my friends here have spread the word, because over the past week i've had a bunch of quasi-acquaintances wish me a happy 20th birthday. then we have to go through the humiliating age-haggle ("what, 19? no. 18? 17?! what are you even DOING here? you should be in HIGH SCHOOL!")

at the same time, though, i don't really feel like a kid anymore. before anyone gets their knickers in a knot, i'm not claiming to be an adult, either. as i've said somewhere, i think adulthood is a title you have to earn, and chronology has nothing to do with it. taxes, maybe. if you have an income and pay taxes, then i can see it.

mostly, i feel like an outsider...somebody watching a movie; an unseen audience. i don't really recognize myself a lot of the time. a few days ago somebody stopped me at a corner near times square and asked me how to get downtown. this is a stunt nobody would have tried to pull in my hometown, a place where i have lived for oh, fourteen years. it is a well-established fact that i still don't know how to get home from pic n save. yet i found myself answering this stranger clearly and concisely, without hesitation. i actually knew which trains go downtown. this weirds me out a little, as it is a decidedly un-me like thing to know.

but then, a lot of the things i do now are very un-me like.

i find myself sitting through meetings in board rooms with coffee and various personages in blazers and high heels discussing the ramifications of biased journalism on munich (really); taking the subway to discount stores that sell things cheaper than midtown; interviewing; copy-editting; debating politics on the radio; and watching football on the couch while knitting ("we all turn into our parents. it's inevitable"--the breakfast club).

and i do all of these as though they are reasonable things for me to be doing.

sometimes i feel like a stranger just walking through the halls of my dorm, looking at the pictures people have posted on their doors. which ones are decorated with mazal tov signs, and which ones have messages from their friends scrawled over their whiteboards. i walk up the 18 flights, thinking about all the people who i see everyday and know nothing about. i think about all their friends and their families and how they were raised, and how they're here now, in bio class, just like me, only so much different than me. and i see myself as they must see me, another one of the messier girls who stumbles into bio class out of breath with her hair disheveled and collapses at the back desk.

somehow, we all get along.

so that's the difference between this year and last year. last year, i was definitely me. and everybody was my friend and my family loved me and it seemed like at any moment something amazing could happen (quoth i the incredibles).

this year...

this year, i am not really sure who i am or what i'll be capable of next. not everyone is really my friend...and that doesn't bother me. my family still loves me, the last time i checked, and it means more to me now than it did then. and amazing things have come and gone without me even realizing that i'd lived through them.

and i'm beginning to realize that being here so young presents me with a distinct advantage: unlike every other kid who gets thrown into college cold, i get to observe for a round. by definition, i'm too young to play the marriage game; too young to get a serious job. but i'm still in the thick of it, watching people and noticing things. making notes. i think it'll be an interesting year, and hopefully, i'll get some hecka compelling writing out of the things i see.

until then, i will be where you lef me: markering up the last number on forms that ask for my date-of-birth.


Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der ┼íteg) said...

happy birthday!

will you have a special birthday edition of your radio show?

8:28 PM  
Blogger PsychoToddler said...

Happy Birthday, Fudgeipoo!

We miss you very much here. But when I consider all the things you've done since leaving home, all the things you are doing and creating and accomplishing now...I can't imagine what this year would have been like for you had you stayed in high school.

So I'm glad you're not here, but sad for me and the rest of the family.

9:46 PM  
Blogger zahava said...

happy 17th birthday, fudge! and many, many happy returns!

mazal tov, too on your show at the JIBs.

2:22 PM  
Blogger tuesdaywishes said...

Happy Birthday and many happy (and interesting) returns!

As for the difference between being a kid and being an adult it backup. When you're a kid, there's always backup. If you really blow it, your parents or teachers or someone can be counted on to fix things for you. As an adult, no such guarantee exists. As a college kid, not living at home, you are in the middle. We know your folks aren't there, but you're in a pretty supportive enviornment. There are still some safety nets. Don't rush things. You'll be out there winging it with the rest of us soon enough.

7:11 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

Happy Birthday!!

I think you know who you are far better than you give yourself credit for; and far better than many "adults" I know. Part of college is the sad realization that it is in fact impossible to know everybody; but it seems you're doing pretty darn well adjusting.

It is not hard to see why your parents are so proud.

12:00 PM  
Blogger Tzipster91 said...

As Challah mispronounced it in Frech, "Bon a flette a toi!"
Many happy belated returns of the day, week, month, year, etc.

6:08 PM  
Blogger PsychoToddler said...

Hey, no French allowed.

7:03 PM  
Blogger 30cal said...

your date of birth is feb 9. in case you forgot. Which you shouldn't have, because it's your birthday,but i thoguht i'd remind you, just in case. happt birthday. send mayerhof my regards.

9:53 PM  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Happy birthday! (Better late than never.) Hope it was a good one. May you be blessed with many more, and may they all be good ones.

9:04 PM  

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