By Lauren Rittenbach
My first 24 hours as 21 are similar to my experience as an adult thus far. Work with me for a moment — at ages 17, 18, 19 and 20 I had sugarplum fairy images in my dreams of all the blissful and intoxicated experiences I would have in bars and at baseball games when I turned 21. I finally get to this defining moment in my life and am about to buy my first beer at an amateur hockey game, only to find that drinks are $8 a pop. Though I begrudgingly buy that beer (because I’m 21 and I can, damn it), the reality is that I will be a lot more sober than I hoped to be in nights out to come.
Let’s relate this experience to the rest of life: Life before adulthood is filled with expectations of myself about 10 pounds lighter, more confident and carefree than I actually am. Just like I was faced with that painful tab of $8 for a 20 ounce beer (seriously?), I was met at the eve of full adulthood with greater responsibilities to acquire and heavier decisions to make. All of a sudden, like many of my peers, I’m bogged down with GPAs, internships, papers, family obligations, managing money and feeling the heat of post-graduation life. Where did my expectations of glamorous independence miss the boat with reality? More importantly though — when does the distance between expectation and reality become toxic to us?
In the case of $8 beer, I’m about $3 poorer than what I’d consider reasonable to pay for a drink (no real harm there). In life as a whole, however, that sometimes painfully gaping lapse between high expectations and reality can bite us when we overlook what we already have. My favorite example of my desire to break out of the norm, from my current state (rooting from my expectation of a more whimsical adulthood) came one unforeseen night in February. I’d had one of those days that puts you in a bad mood, so my friends ordered pizza to boot my sour outlook. Before the pizza boy could drive away I dashed down the front porch steps and banged down that pizza boy’s door and asked him for his number. We had yet to even exchange names, and I was already confessing to this complete stranger how I seemed to be the butt of life’s joke. Things went swimmingly with pizza boy, at least on my half of the relationship, until this kid dropped off the radar without even mentioning that he was through with me. My friends and I had wine and conversation to shake my feeling of confusion.
Long story short, I suppose I had to come full circle to see the bigger picture: My friends are there for me at all times. I had already had people in my life who loved and cared for me. My grasp for something different in life brought me right back to my reality, which is that I have great friends. Had I come to terms sooner with how wonderfully I really have it, I would have saved myself from, honestly, a situation in which I felt a little burned. This is not to say that we shouldn’t take risks, indulge our passions and explore, but we mustn’t do that at the expense of shortsightedness — or rather, overlooking what already makes our lives beautiful. We mustn’t let expectations belittle what it is that we already have, which at times is $8 beer, bright futures or friendship. Cheers!