I wake at noon. I brush my teeth. I proceed towards the kitchen to grab my lunch. I head out of the bedroom towards the living room, turn the telly on to FOX, and I open up my laptop to surf the internet.
what I have just described is my typical Sunday routine, and today is no different. except for the fact that I’ve just turned nineteen.
nineteen years old on the nineteenth of october. huh? how ’bout that.
I expected nineteen to feel different; to feel like a sudden sense of maturity and age and responsibility has been bestowed upon me; to feel everything that screams I just grew one year older!, but I am at a terrible loss. I feel exactly the same as I did a day before, three days before, the week before, and perhaps even the month before. I expect to feel; to be different but everything’s the fucking same!
it is with this realisation of progress (or lack thereof) that I realise— this is probably what growing up feels like. a birthday becomes just another one of those dates that linger at the back of your mind; one of those things you feel should really be important but you can’t seem to really care about. a birthday is not as important or significant as what’s on your to-do list or some big and important events that are coming up.
I had this conversation with a choir mate, let’s call him J, during my JC2 year on his birthday:
“happy birthday J!”
“so whatcha gonna do today?”
“what do you mean nothing? it’s your BIRTHDAY! YOUR EIGHTEENTH BIRTHDAY!”
“what is there to do? if I wanted to eat good food, I could eat good food every day and every day would be my birthday. so there’s nothing really special there.”
“you could, huh, drink legally?”
“I enjoy a good wine or so. I’ve never really found the point in drinking just to get drunk…”
and the conversation goes off tangent from there. but the point is indeed glaring: what does a birthday and growing a year older really mean in the grand scheme of things?
it is at this point where I realise that age is really nothing but a number. and I am disappointed that it took me this long to see the light of things.
when I was twelve, I couldn’t wait to turn thirteen and escape the dread of primary (elementary) school. [a mindset which I would come to regret seven years down the road]
when I was thirteen, I couldn’t wait to turn fifteen to escape being the smallest of the secondary-education-food-chain; I couldn’t wait to stop being the runt of the litter of secondary school kids.
when I was fifteen, I couldn’t wait to turn sixteen because Americanisation has given us movies in which teenagers are shown to have ‘sweet sixteen’ birthday parties which are really fun and they become entirely different people— more independent and ultimately more cool. I wanted to become cooler.
when I turned sixteen, I felt close to nothing. I wasn’t awarded any special privileges with turning sixteen (with the exception of being able to watch NC16 movies, but it was so close to the ‘O’ Level exams at the time); I really wanted to turn eighteen so I could drink legally without any hassle and stay out late without being booked and do other things that the ‘cool’ kids seemed to do. oh, and I certainly didn’t feel any cooler— I felt exactly the same. boring and annoyed and wanting the exams to end as soon as possible.
but the moment I turned eighteen, I felt a glaring sense of nothing and that’s it? nothing special. turning eighteen meant that I could now purchase alcoholic drinks without having fear of being checked for my age. (I bought a pint of beer and was actually surprised that they didn’t check me at all— I was looking forward to being checked!) I daresay that turning eighteen actually made drinking quite boring for me— perhaps the thrill of doing what the ‘cool’ kids were doing wore off on me. and I still felt a sense of “I just want my damn ‘A’ Levels to end already” throughout the day. déjà vu. it made me think about how age has probably nothing to do with a person’s maturity/control with regards to making decisions for themselves and how an age limit is probably the easiest way out for the bureaucracy to exercise control, really. pfft.
and now I’m nineteen. do I feel nineteen? I don’t know— I don’t know what nineteen is supposed to feel like. (however, I must stress that if being nineteen constitutes extreme stress over looming deadlines and mild depression over not being able to meet your life goals and fear of being a disappointment to your family then yes I am so damn nineteen that it hurts.)
what I do know is that right now, all I want to do is meet my goals for the next five years and work in my desired industry and get that visiting scholars’ program to Yale and I kinda have all these really cool plans that demand to be fulfilled. I want to get my final exams over with (hah, again!) and have a nice vacation to somewhere with nice sandy beaches over the december break. I know that being nineteen doesn’t really matter in all these things and that my only concern in wanting to accomplish everything at the youngest I can be is more of me wanting to achieve everything as soon as I can because I want it now. this is not specific to being nineteen.
where do I go from here; from nineteen? as the days go by I feel as if age continues to be nothing but a number and I find myself wanting no different from what I wanted a month earlier. I expected to become an entirely different person the moment the clock struck twelve on the nineteenth of october but I am entirely the same, just formally recognised as having become a year older.
I foresee the same thing happening to me subsequently in 2015 and 2016; feeling rather ambivalent about my date of birth and what it means. unlike most of my peers who would most definitely organise some pretty neat shindigs for their twenty-first birthday, I might not even get the chance seeing how I want to spend an academic year in Yale (or CMU or UM but really, Yale!) after all, the idea of a twenty-first birthday is more of a social construct than anything. really.
I am quite jealous of my peers for being able to find joy in the little things (such as, I don’t know, turning nineteen?) and wish that I am able to do the same. alas, such is the problem of the ambitious— I’ll probably only find joy once I manage to cross off the big tasks in my mental checklists, especially the ones regarding my five year plan. and since it requires five years to accomplish, I’m left with the present and left to make the best of things.
but for now, it’s back to the readings and the assignments and submissions (oh dear God, the submissions! *rolls eyes*)
happy fuckin’ birthday to me.