I turned 21 on Monday.
When I was a kid, I always daydreamed that year 21 would be my last hurrah — my final year of college basketball before I declared for the NBA draft. Unfortunately, 5-foot-4-inch South Asian point guards aren’t exactly professional basketball material.
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So instead of getting ready for the draft and dreaming about the Green Room, I’m getting ready for second-round interviews and dreaming of never having to set foot in UCS again.
Even though I realized a long time ago that there was no way in hell that I was going to be a professional athlete, turning 21 made me think about how differently I imagined my life turning out. All my dreams as kid — going pro, starring in a “Space Jam” sequel and dating Britney Spears — have absolutely zero chance of coming true.
I want to go back to when I was 8 years old, when every kid on the playground thought he was going to grow up to be the next Michael Jordan. I want to go back and have an entire world of possibilities open to me. I want to go back and steal some human growth hormone.
It’s dumb, but I always wonder whether things could have turned out differently. What if I had spent more time practicing my jump shot and less time playing Madden? What if I hadn’t broken my leg in third grade? What if I drank more milk? What if I had actually gotten those Air Jordans for Christmas?
After a miserable zero-point, three-turnover performance in a rec basketball game in sixth grade, I started to come to terms with my athletic destiny (or lack thereof). I tried to rationalize it by telling myself that I was more cut out to be a coach anyway. My dream shifted from going pro to owning a pro team.
I realize the closest I’m probably ever going to come to professional sports is covering Yale football for the News. It’s kind of like figuring out all over again that Santa Claus isn’t real.
After daydreaming about “Space Jam” some more, I realize that my now-abandoned athletic dreams are a metaphor for growing up in general. As I get closer and closer to graduation and the real world, it seems like more and more doors are closing. Although I’m incredibly grateful for a mostly satisfactory 21 years, a huge part of me just wants to go back to that third grade blacktop, where the sky was the limit.
So forget being old enough to drink. I’d settle for getting my dreams back.
Karan Arakotaram is a junior in Ezra Stiles College.