Sorta Glum About Twenty-One

Elsewhere in this site I write about being mostly “boringly well-adjusted and secure”. I should say that one chink in this smug little encasement is birthdays. I turn 21 in 10 days. It’s stressing me out.

The eternal question is how I’m supposed to spend it. There’s always this pressure to do something exceptionally decadent and exhibitionistic. Throw the parrrdddeeee of the year. Kill a couple billion liver cells. Chill with God on the astral plane. Surpass the Kama Sutra. Oh, and another thing: it’s all supposed to be incredibly social; your friends are meant to turn out in droves to take embarrassing photos of you getting utterly wasted, and carry you between bed and toilet bowl as required once you’ve truly succumbed to the ecstasies of the moment. Once you’ve come of age.

But my friends right now are scattered around the world. Lots are in Singapore. A significant number are in the US. A couple are here. And even if they were all in one place, most of them wouldn’t get along. The A’level scientist classmates would be incredibly helpful, and clean up afterwards. The O’level convent classmates would sit in the corner and laugh maniacally. The arty eccentrics would write and perform a commemorative interpretive dance-poem. The Singaporean debaters would lounge on comfortable furniture and make fun of everybody. The UCL debaters would be getting drunk wherever the alcohol was. And I would be running around desperately between groups trying to make sure everyone was having fun, and having none myself.

Birthdays are meant to be an affirmation that your birth was worthwhile, a celebration of your life so far, a symbol of hope for your life in the future. Can all that be captured in a party?

For my 21st birthday I want to slalom through the Northern Lights the way children run through floor fountains. I want to ignore the realities of clouds and snuggle up in a fluffy one somewhere between the ground and the stars with a radio which can only just catch the frequencies so that everything sounds tinny and otherworldly. I want to redefine science so that molecules don’t merely move up and down in response to the energy transmission of a wave but always at its crest, and then I want to transmogrify myself into rain and explore the waters of the world. I want to go to Tolkien’s Middle Earth and beat the shit out of Gollum. I want to go to a jazz club with Dean Moriarty.

I want to skydive with a parachute that jams until just before landing, and spend ten thousand metres of free fall realizing just how much I still have to do with this life.