For twenty-two years, I have thought, ‘No, you idiot. I feel exactly like I felt yesterday, except now there’s cake.’ Today if someone asks me that, though, I am going to say yes. Absolutely. Incredibly. So much. In nearly every identifiable way. Thinking about where I was a year ago and where I am today, I can hardly believe it’s only been a year.
Last year at this time, I had barely started writing my thesis. My IRB application hadn’t even been submitted yet. I didn’t know what I was doing after graduation yet. I had just had an interview at a company that seemed to have manifested straight out of my dreams, and was about to have a Skype interview to be a research assistant at Harvard, of all places. I was about to start my last semester of classes at Princeton. I was in the thick of an era of aggressive sexual exploration with no thoughts towards relationships and feelings. My birthday party was in the place that felt most like home: the Large Library of the Princeton Quadrangle Club. I had no desire whatsoever to leave Princeton. The real world seemed lonely and terrifying.
I’ve now been working at that company that seemed to manifest straight out of my dreams for 7 months, and I still love it. I wrote a 212 page thesis and got my junior paper published in an undergraduate sociological journal. I sat helpless while my mother underwent a stem cell transplant to save her life from an aggressive blood cancer, and got to share a celebratory glass of champagne with her, my father, my older sister, and my grandmother in the parking lot of Edwards Hall on the day that I graduated from Princeton (in 4 years despite having walked out of the Fitz-Randolph gates junior year). Douglass Massey tipped his hat to me at graduation. I met Issa Rae, Angela Davis, and Donald Glover. I signed my first lease without needing a cosigner and moved to Washington DC despite having been here for a grand total of 5 days in my teenage/adult life. I’ve cultivated a great group of friends here. I’ve been to 16 concerts in 7 months, whereas I’d previously been to three in my whole life. I finally feel comfortable with makeup and nail polish. I feel that my closet is reflective of my personality. I’ve remembered what it’s like to have a crush. I rediscovered hip-hop. I learned how to stand up for what I don’t want as vehemently as I stand up for what I want. I finally made the move to WordPress and my own blog domain, which makes me feel like a “real blogger.” I relearned whom I can and cannot live without. I opened a savings account. I have my own health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, and have made two payments into my 401k. I closed the year by conducting an interview with a hopeful 2017 Tiger. People identified me by my laughter, my hair, and my fashion. The moments of despair were wholly overshadowed by moments of pure bliss.
In 34 minutes, I will be twenty-three. And dammit, I feel grown. I feel that my life is everything I could have hoped it would be at twenty-three, which is an incredible thing to be able to say. I feel like everything has paid off, and at the same time I’m incredibly aware that everything is just beginning. This is real life, and it never ceases to amaze me. If I’m this content how, I can’t wait to see where this year brings me. I must continue to measure it in love.