Today is my birthday. Happy birthday, me! Today I turn 22, which is old enough to feel ancient when walking by Yale’s newest batch of 17-year-old freshmen, but young enough for older folks to think it’s ridiculous that I feel old at 22. It’s also the perfect age to make Taylor Swift references, but that song came out two years ago. Twenty-two is too high for Blackjack (that’s 21), too low for a conspiracy theory that inspired a poorly received Jim Carrey thriller (that’s 23). Twenty-two is aesthetically appealing: two twos sitting nicely and neatly next to each other. But that’s about it.
And yet, there’s something monumental about being 22. Gone is the thrill of my last birthday, in which I relished being able to buy a case of PBR from Zach’s; or the birthday before, in which I celebrated being free from teenage years. This is the first year I haven’t tried to make a big deal about the number I now am. This is just another year, another 365 days. That age thing? It’s all just a construct, maaaaan.
The so-not-a-big-deal-ness of turning 22 is, strangely enough, a big deal to me. Could this be maturity? Perhaps not, but it feels as if I’m approaching some great precipice via a moving beltway — there’s no going back now. Between now and May, I will experience my last year of university, graduate (hopefully), find a job (really hopefully), and be happy. This place I have lived in for four years will be condensed into a single memory on which I will reminisce in my later years, sighing, “Oh, college.”
My older friends have told me that senior year is the most fun. But it’s not all fun and games. There’s an anxious undercurrent of, “Am I doing this right?” Taylor Swift’s vision of 22 is carefree, staying up late and making fun of hipsters. My experience so far has been more of the boring, grown-up shit, like paying the utility bill for my Howe Street apartment, spending eight hours building IKEA furniture, and drafting professional and courteous emails to potential employers. There are nice things, like the Senior-only wine and cheese events for us in my college master’s house, but all the while there are reminders that we are on our way out the door. We’re passing torches of our college council boards, athletic captaincies and publication editorships. We’re dropping off résumés, scheduling interviews and reaching out to past contacts for a helping hand. The transition to the real world is seeping in slowly but surely.
I spent this last summer — my last true summer vacation — interning in New York City. I lived in a tiny room in a fifth-floor walk-up in Chinatown with six other people, who mostly kept to themselves and kept the kitchen a mess. After my first day, I flung myself on the bed and couldn’t get up for a while. Is this what it’s like? I thought to myself. It felt amazingly lonely, despite the many friends who were also in the city, despite the millions of people crammed into this concrete jungle. I dreaded this potential future. I wanted to quit my job. I wanted time to stop.
But something about the promise of senior year, the promise of 22, lifted the doom and gloom. The grandeur of being a senior, being at the top of the class, having priority in seminars, the wine-and-cheese receptions — it all gleamed beautifully. And even though this Yale gig is only for eight more months, and I probably won’t be making breakfast at midnight, I can revel in this year. I can blast Taylor Swift’s ode to my age at my birthday party. I can anticipate the future without fearing it, because right now is too damn fun.
Here’s to 22, and all the years after.
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