A banner day for guilt and embarrassment
Twenty-one was an odd year for me, and not because of the high amount of legally consumed alcohol, but because of the peer pressure I felt approaching the age. Oh, woe is me succumbing to the peer pressure of college and the expectations of drinking.
No, really—WOE is me, I even wrote about it IN COLLEGE. But if hindsight is twenty-twenty, then the year itself wasn’t so bad—I walked a 5K, finished my last year as an RA, and had the best floor of residents I could have asked for. But that singular day was hell.
PICTURE IT, ROSE—San Diego, 2014. The sun was beaming on a freezing 70F day. I awoke to a sheet of butcher paper on my door signed from my staff wishing me a happy birthday. The day had finally come, so why wasn’t I as excited as everyone else?
The day, itself, went by in a flash. My parents came down to celebrate over lunch and they were gone just before nightfall—San Diego and Santa Clarita are, at most, three hours away. I was very specific with my friends and coworkers about what I wanted—dinner at BJ’s Brewhouse followed by a beach bonfire at Mission Beach. Easy, simple, straightforward.
Dinner was great: I discovered my initial distaste for light beer, realized that I knew way more people than I thought was possible at that age, and ultimately left the restaurant wondering why I was so worried in the first place.
Then the dreaded words were uttered from my friend, Sondra: “We need to make a pit stop before the beach to grab beach chairs.”
BEACH CHAIRS. The flimsiest excuse, yet away we went down a nondescript neighborhood in El Cajon looking for what could only be described as a crack den needle in a crack den haystack. Alas, we happen upon the house and the door opens to reveal…
A white frat boy who says with all the vocal fry he could muster, “U here for the beach chairs?” As we halfheartedly walk in, I already know what’s about to happen.
“SURPRISE!” they all yelled, but all my eyes could focus on was a room mostly filled with strangers, a scraggly dog that deserved a much better home, a shit-stained carpet, and a twink in the corner playing beer pong who I later found out was someone I was to be set up with (because we were both gay, so naturally we’d hit it off).
I grimaced as they drunkenly sang happy birthday at me, not for me. Most of these people didn’t even know me and it couldn’t have been more obvious that my birthday was some last second add-on to a house party of a friend of a friend who didn’t want to say no. They clapped, I flashed a toothless smile, and left after thirty minutes. Home by 10:30pm.
I felt anxious for feeling like I had to have fun at a party that was half-meant for me. I felt guilty for leaving. I felt relieved for not having to play hopscotch around the dirtiest carpet I had ever seen. The moral of the story? All of that does end up looking like the saddest pity party one could have. That night didn’t affect me. That night didn’t define my personality, nor did it leave an indelible mark on how I view the world.
It was a blip. And now we’ve moved on. In the moment, these “events” feel like the most critical things in the world; we’re hyperfixated on our actions, our words, and how we’re perceived. But I was also twenty-one; not even a seasoned twenty-one, but a freshly minted twenty-one. Looking back at it, I didn’t know right from wrong, I just let my emotions do the steering and crashed where I crashed.
And here I am, nearly a decade later, reliving this night in my head and all I can think is: “Get a grip and move the fuck on.”