What lies ahead

In a couple hours, I'll have turned 21. And I can't say that it didn't sneak up on me: it's been the last thing on my mind lately.

To tell you the truth, I'll probably be sober tomorrow, too. (Minus an exception for a possible couple glasses of Framboise or Guinness.) I'd given it up -- not for Lent, but for the hell of it, on a whim, to see if I could do something so absurd. With the amount of consumption that goes on around me, I just wanted to see if I could do it and what I'd do if I got rid of that vice.

To tell you the truth, I gave up a lot of things at the end of January because I wanted to go above and beyond what other people do for Lent. People do it just to go through the motions for Lent. The past handful of years have bent my faith and honestly, I'm not sure what I believe, and nor do I regularly practice anymore. I decided -- on a whim -- to get rid of not just alcohol, but most vices I'd indulged in lately: energy drinks, espresso drinks, smoking (anything), and alcohol. You know, to see what I'd do if I got rid of those vices I'd used as a crutch.

I even disabled my Facebook account for three weeks to see what would happen if I got rid of that obsession. (Which, honestly, affected other people more than it affected me -- "Why am I not your friend anymore?" "You are, I just got rid of my Facebook.")

Why the whole straight-lacedness all of a sudden? (I wanted to say "Why so serious?", I really did.)

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People like to say that 19 and 20 years old don't mean anything -- you don't get any new rights or privileges, you're just kind of held back until 21. They couldn't be more wrong. 18 may give you a taste of adulthood, but in my mind 19 and 20 are there to remind you that you're still not ready for the real world. That couldn't have been more true over the last year of my life.

At this time last year, I was somewhere in the middle of a lazy free fall that culminated in me failing out of school. Which was the biggest wake up call I'd ever received in my life. The worst part is that I knew it was coming and didn't do anything about it until it was too late. After the semester ended, I knew what was going on and I knew I needed to get my shit together. I personally met with Brian Brooks, Dean of the Journalism School, and appealed before they had even sent out the dismissal letters.

(On the flip side, I was on the Journalism honor roll for last semester. I rolled my eyes at the ironic and impersonal correspondence they sent me for it.)

And since then, I like to think that I've been trying harder than ever. My roommates can probably attest to the fact that throughout the week I'm often gone at school or work, or locked up in my room, or I'm out on campus or downtown, hanging out or getting something done. I keep myself busy because that's how I keep myself sane and that's how I pass the time -- I fucked up once and I guess I don't really like wasting a minute now. (I'm not sure, I think I've got something against being home because loitering around downtown seems more "productive" or "interesting" to me than loitering around my house. It's one of those tendencies I have, I guess.)

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So back to the question of why so straight-laced?

I'm a huge baseball fan and I'm nostalgic about it. Nostalgic as in: I'm a lover of the old-school, tried and true traditions. Like superstitions. You know, you see those ball players that make sure they don't step on the first or third base line when they go to and from the dugout. You see the batters warming up with the same routine, same number of paces around the batter's box between pitches -- only part of this is for "rhythm" and the rest is "routine" or superstition. And of course, there's Tony La Russa who batted the pitcher in the eight spot most of last season (and is apparently going to do it next season, too).

Look, the lesson of baseball superstition is basically this: when things are going great, don't you even think of changing a damn thing.

The past couple months have been kind to me, and it may or may not be related to my hard work and it may or may not be related to me quitting my vices, but right now, I'm happy. Happier than caffeine, alcohol, or anything like that could have made me.

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Throughout the years, I've gotten interesting results from being mistaken for someone much older. And that's not a bad thing, I guess I just grew up and matured fast.

Over the past month, it's gotten really interesting with a bunch of new opportunities sitting ahead of me. Not only did I launch the Maneater project (after two years of failures) and finally get into J-4802, but I had prospects of full-time employment from a couple places, mainly because they weren't aware that I don't graduate this year. But it's good to know that I'm being noticed and that I have skills that are in demand. One of those prospects is, in my book, a very solid fallback in case all shit hits the fan; in case I have another year like last year. Another prospect... Well, I'm just hoping a few things fall in my favor and we'll see.

The thing about catching breaks is that you've got to actually open your hands, reach out, and catch. I guess (to make another baseball analogy) I'm here in the outfield, with my glove ready.

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I'll probably grab myself a glass of Framboise tonight and tomorrow, but I've been amusing myself with a thought: The closer I got to being 21, the less I seemed to care. About the number itself, about the privileges it provides me.

Like I said, it's been the last thing on my mind. (And good reason, with midterms, class registrations, work projects, internship applications...)

When I was 19 and 20 years old, I really was so apathetic toward everything and I guess that's why things fell apart around me so quickly. There were lessons there, in all of those failures and false starts. And I've tried my best to learn them and keep them close.

In early February, I joked about "finding myself" by quitting all these vices. I wasn't even completely serious about this reformation at that point yet (I didn't "officially" decide to quit those things until the middle of the month, retroactive to the last time I'd done any of it, which was January). And here comes the superstitious part of me, believing I'm actually finding a more specific direction in my life (career-wise and in general) than the previous conviction I had of let's just saunter out into the world and figure it out as we go.

Even if some of these breaks don't go my way, for once I'm actually happy and somewhat confident in the path I'm taking.

The road ahead of me is getting clearer, less treacherous seeming. Let's see where this goes.