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Twenty

“Nick,” he asked again.

“What?”

“Want any?”

“No… I just remembered that today’s my birthday.”

—The Great Gatsby

Today is Sept. 6, 2005. I am 20. Twenty—a decade filled with adventurous, somewhat meaningless sex, career choices, bars and zooming ahead with a full briefcase of enthusiasm and hope, a full, firm ass, a full plate to eat from (regardless of the food’s nutritional value), a full-on struggle for the legal tender, a life full ahead of me and filling with experiences and a narrative filling in its lacking parts. Today is my twentieth birthday and I, unlike Nick Carraway, knew it all along. Indeed, I stole the phrasing of much of this introductory paragraph from that dirty lead pencil of F. Scott Fitzgerald himself. Nick Carraway sat with a different decade ahead of him, though, as he contemplated a thinning future on his thirtieth birthday. Ah, but we’re not there yet. Not to 30, not for a while, anyway. But what can I say that Nick Carraway didn’t say… “the intimate revelations of young men or at least the terms in which they express them are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions.”

Hunter Thompson, someone about whom I’ve given my opinion on these pages before, used to type out lines from The Great Gatsby before he would write. So I guess I’m two for two on plagiarism, three for three if you count the line I took from Jackson Browne about the legal tender, as well. But enough of this. To the point already. Well, I have a few points, a few opinions to share today, and then I guess I’ll be through. First, is there any such thing as a decade in the life narrative? You know what I mean, your twenties, your thirties, your forties, your fifties. I think we, meaning my audience in this case, that’s you, all have some grasp of what those decades mean just as “we” have some loose definition of what happened in the Twenties, the Sixties, the Seventies, the Eighties and so on. It’s an idea in historical study called periodalization, if that’s even a word, and I guess it is now that I am a big shot junior and a history major and soon-to-be expert in the field of all of the past of the world. So yeah, I don’t know if this personal periodalization holds any water. I don’t think it has to. It may be a convenient way for us to rationalize the future (and a convenient concoction thought up by advertising execs to better define our consumer tastes… just a thought) or it may not be. You decide if I’m full of crap. Like, metaphorical crap.

So then, what’s adulthood? Do you have an idea? I think “adulthood” is crap. I think “acting like an adult” doesn’t mean anything. Act your age, not your shoe size… Act your age, not your body mass… Seriously. (My body mass is 22.) But what’s with people deciding that they’re grownups? Like that means something. Does it mean you can no longer plagiarize the way you express your thoughts? Maybe. But Nick Carraway could be wrong, too. I think a lot of people plagiarize their expressions anyway, like in truisms and old sayings. That’s why words were created, to express your thoughts in a way others could understand. I guess unless you make up your own words, you know, like periodalization. But nah, it goes further, I think. You can’t compare apples to oranges anyway. And you can’t put the cart before the horse, either.

Maybe you stop cutting people down to make yourself feel better when you’re an adult. Maybe you’re more respectful of those around you and perhaps your insight is, well, more insightful. Maybe you become more responsible, too, whatever that means. Yeah, maybe all that happens. But I seriously doubt it.

So one fifth of my life is behind me and my twenties stretch out before me like a period of time indefinite, vast and, above all, unbelievable. But, c’est la vie, right? And as the old song goes…

…Happy birthday to me. Yup. Haaaaaappy birthday. Toooooo. Meeeeeee!!!

Aaron Kirschenfeld is a Trinity junior. His column runs every other Wednesday.

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