Britney Spears’ pop ballad “Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman” came out in 2001. I was 7 years old. I remember listening to the song on my new-millennium-blue walkman in the backseat of our minivan and thinking, “this is so about me.”
I have since realized that Britney was not singing about why it was so unfair that my mother wouldn’t let me wear a rhinestone-encrusted halter top to school in December. I have also had the realization, at the ripe old age of 22, that this song is now finally so about me.
A week before my birthday this year, I was sitting in a booth at my beloved campus dive bar when a friend approached my table. She wished me an early happy birthday as her roommate stumbled up and stood beside her.
“Are you turning 22?” asked the friend. I didn’t know if she was leaning onto our table for stability or trying out a new power stance.
“Yes, I am!” I said.
With that, in a move that only a few too many vodka sodas would deem socially acceptable, she grabbed both of my wrists and looked dead into my eyes.
“Don’t do it, its terrible,” she said. “Just TERRIBLE!”
After she released me from her death grip, I sank low into my seat. I felt like Leonardo DiCaprio in Romeo & Juliet when he realizes he just killed himself for no reason. Who was this ominous tipsy girl and what was so bad about turning 22?
I spent that week dreading my birthday. Everyone I encountered during those seven days told me that this would be the least fun birthday ever.
I mentally formed a list of all of the cons of turning 22. I would no longer be twenty fun, and that was sitting at the top of the list. There isn’t anything punny about 22!
When my birthday rolled around, however, I ended up having a great day. I hoped that the good vibes would continue, and that is was not all downhill from there.
I have since had some time to get acquainted with this age, and I think I have figured out what everyone was warning me about.
I have realized that what’s so miserable about being 22 is the fact that you still kind of want to be 21. You want to justify taking bright purple shots of God-knows-what on a Tuesday just because everyone else is doing it, “it’s $2 Tuesdays!” You want to pretend you aren’t graduating because the real world is terrifying. And also because no one goes out on a Tuesday in the real world.
We’re not girls, not yet women.
Except that I totally am a woman, I just have not fully figured out how to be one. This all feels like I am giving the adult life a 12-month long trial run.
My mother got married to my father this age, and this number has always loomed over my head. Maybe I am little jaded by my notoriously unlucky track record, but I am nowhere near being ready to make such a commitment.
The other day I changed my mind approximately 5 times before I ordered my entree at a restaurant, and then ended up lamenting over the decision I made. I thought, no wonder I’m lost, I am indecisive about nearly every decision I am faced with.
And not to make a metaphor out of chicken piccata, but that’s what really sucks about being 22.
We can’t flake out on this trial run, this is all really happening. We are beginning to make real, adult decisions while learning how to shed the behavior we grew to know and love these past few years. We are suiting up and entering the work force, and then retiring to our childhood bedrooms. We are in limbo.
But with all of that being said, it is important to have a little perspective on the situation. Yes, we are older than 21, but we are also a hell of a lot younger than 50. This is still an incredibly young age, and even though you are going to have moments where you show your youth, the stakes are pretty low.
You will still get in silly fights with your family, try every filter Snapchat has to offer, and text your ex. You will have a lot to learn, and you will make mistakes, but the important part is trusting the process.
So, cheers to my fellow 22-year-olds. It’s kind of terrible! But it’s not the worst!
And at least we can wear rhinestone-encrusted halter tops year-round, right?