So, this past weekend, I turned 22. Taylor Swift released a new single about just that thing. Coincidence? (Yes.)
And the thing is, I like it very much. It’s silly and fun and easy to scream along with while drunk, like Kimya Dawson without the addiction problems or depth. I mean, lyrics like:
We’re happy free confused and lonely in the best way
It’s miserable and magical, oh, yeah
Are painfully dumb, but they’re also really descriptive of the tail end of growing into an adult human being, which as a process is also pretty dumb. I mean, last week, I went out with coworkers and drank fancy bourbon in a cool bar when–not 10 minutes earlier–I had totally failed to parallel park in a non-embarrassing way, which is something that I should really Know How to Do by now. It turns out that no one checks to make sure that you mastered your basic skills before moving on to the big league. There is no Iowa Standard Test of Adulthood.
Of course, T. Swift’s song–like all her songs–takes place in a place where one is perpetually insulated from consequences. It is a 14-year-old’s dream of being 22.
Certainly, my liver is as strong as it ever will be. I have more money now than I have ever seen in my life. I have no children and no pets, and if I wanted to move to Helsinki I probably could. Even with work and school, I have substantial amounts of free time to devote to eating bagels with people that I like, which I do.
At the same time, I’ve been having weekly migraines for the past month that are truly alarming. I’m putting on weight in a way that I never would have at 16. The same week that I turned 22, my mother was diagnosed with a metastatic case of The Cancer*, and I am having to learn how to politely accept people’s “sorry about the unfairness of being” soup as they drop it off at my house, which is–I am pretty sure–not the sort of skill that Taylor Swift imagines being a part of the 22-year-old’s repertoire. (Though wouldn’t it be a fun pop song if she did?**)
But as that is happening, I am also getting drunk at trance shows on weeknights, and being delighted at surprise parties thrown by my wonderful friends, and taping up posters with electrical tape because I refuse to buy frames like an adult. The weirdness is not Taylor Swift’s song, but the fact that that kind of 22 can exist right alongside the soup kind. Neither is truer to the experience, but they are very different.
I do feel 22. And also 16, and 30, and 5, all wrapped together in a cognitively dissonant bundle of emotions.
* More accurately, it was found that her previously-thought-to-be-removed Stage 3 cancer had become metastatic, but that’s harder to phrase.