By Anna Murphy
New York, NY, USA
Last night I had band practice at a guy’s rehearsal space in Williamsburg. Williamsburg to me has always been the Music Hall or Brooklyn Bowl, or on rare occasion Union Pool. In this case, it was on the outskirts – the Grand stop on the L train to be exact – and it was nighttime. This area is very industrial and isolated, so much so that in my orange silk shirt I was apparently a (very slowly) walking target for two ruffians. They began to heckle me from a block away and then proceeded to run at me. Luckily there was a corner store that I ran into where I called my boyfriend, hyperventilating as they passed. I promptly got back on the train and went home crying. Although this was not “near death,” it had been one of the scariest and most helpless situations I have experienced to date.
So while that was a rather long segue, my point is that I am no longer fearless as I once was. I wrestled with myself for a while about my decision to bail. Music is my passion, and shouldn’t people face their fears head on to overcome adversities (whatever those may be) in order to get to their goals? Should I have just walked on into the night after they passed me? I landed on the fact that my safety felt compromised and that I probably made the right decision in the end. And that I was going to buy some mace ASAP.
But a few years ago, even a year ago, would I have been this cautious? A lot of my friends are still turning 26, 25 even, and say they’re “old.” As obvious as it may be, never have I felt more strongly that you don’t know how young you are until you’re not that young anymore. It’s hard to describe, but I think finally at 27 I am starting to feel not so immortal.
I feel old. Of course since I’m writing this, my words will live on forever and someday I will look back on this and think much differently and hopefully laugh. Because really, it’s all relative.
But for right now, I am old. If I compare myself to my mother who had me at 24, if I compare myself to people my age who have been married for years and produced multiple offspring, if I compare myself to twenty-something movie stars who have 10 movies/million dollars under their belts – then yes, I am old.
My sister called me yesterday. She’s a college freshman and worried because she doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life – is she making the right decisions about her college, degree, hobbies, friends? I want to shake her and hug her and say you’re SO young, your responsibility is to have FUN. But again, at 18 I thought I was old. I mean everyone was telling me I was an adult, right?
A recent article in The AWL made me take note of the age 27 – which while not monumental in its number alone (16 you can drive, 21 you can drink, 50 you’re over the hill), so much importance is held in the actual years lived. Because at age 27, you have probably messed up and learned some lessons, have cried over heartbreak, have watched your baby siblings grow up, have hopefully gotten a job or kind of know what you would like to do, have made lifelong and lasting friendships, and maybe even have met someone you see you in your future. But at age 27, you are still able to make decisions that will shape your future and change your mind. You can go back to school if you want, you can move across the country, you can still wear Chuck Taylors and Keds (when do we have to stop PS?), you can listen to Taylor Swift or Pat Benatar without getting flack for either, you can watch reality TV at the same time as the RNC/DNC (trying to remain PC here)…you can really do anything. I feel like at 25 I was still a baby. Even in the past year, I have learned more about myself and grown in ways I never thought possible.
But I’m still trying to hone in on where happiness comes from. And more and more, I’m thinking that comes from a combination of things. There’s no secret recipe. I think a belief in something bigger than ourselves is important, whether that’s God or a general spirituality. I think that family is essential, and if you don’t have family, then people who have a vested and unwavering interest in the well-being of your personhood. I think aloneness, quietness and self-introspection are key…although too much of that will make anyone crazy. I think that politics is baloney. But maybe next year I won’t. I think music can bring us all together, someday. I think I’m both an idealist and a realist. I think I talk to much, speak in run-ons and am just trying to understand my own thoughts and communicate the chaos.
I’m trying to squeeze out of life every bit of excitement, which overwhelms me sometimes. There’s so much unexplored. SO much beauty, so much suffering, so many people I want to meet, so many I want to help, so much art I want to make and see, so many songs I want to hear, so many places I want to visit, so many talents I want to learn and hobbies I want to take on. So many books I want to read, films I want to see. Today I realized I hadn’t seen a James Dean movie. Who am I truly to have not seen a James Dean movie? This of all things (along with my game of tag with the hoodlums) got me thinking.
And while I know I can’t do it all, I am still only 27 and I can try. I can try to live my life to the fullest, love my neighbor as myself, laugh at my misfortunes, make mistakes, watch old movies and stay out of bad parts of town.