Wednesday, February 20, 2008


It's 6:30pm on a Wednesday night and I'm home. Today is my best friend's 25th birthday and as tradition would have it, we should be out with more friends spilling cocktails and birthday banter at some little cafe in the city, but the reality is that most of our friends are out of the country or writing their theses, or simply too caught up in the chaos of their post-study/pre-graduation lives to meet up for the occasion. Not to mention the fact that the birthday girl, herself, has to work tonight.

So here I am, contemplating the prospect of turning twenty-five myself within the year and trying, unsuccessfully, to compose a to-do list of tasks to complete, assignments to hand in, and appointments to make over the next few weeks. I reason that if everyone else is so absorbed in sorting their affairs that we can't get together to celebrate one of us taking another step closer to the scary age line, that I might as well use my free time just as efficiently as well. The longer I sit here, however, the more off-track I seem to get. Perhaps I set myself up for failure on my way home from the city today. After meeting with the birthday girl and a good friend of hers for lunch this afternoon, I decided to stop and pick up a few things to make my productive evening flow more smoothly. I made my way through the city center to my favorite little bookstore and silently vowed to spend no more than 15 minutes inside picking up the gift I'd already decided on for the birthday girl, and perhaps a copy of The Economist, which is one of the few sinful indulgences I allow myself on my students' budget these days. Once inside, however, I reasoned that I hadn't been there in quite some time and that it couldn't hurt to peruse the new titles in stock for a few minutes. I started in the travel literature section, made my way to the poetry racks, then lingered at the classic fiction table just long enough to strike up a conversation with a distinctly nerdy-looking (yet undeniably cute) boy holding a copy of de Beauvoir's "Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter" in his hand (bastard, I'd been looking for that for months!). I made some cheesy comment about how secure he must be in his manhood to buy such a flamboyant piece of feminist literature, and he smiled sheepishly and said it was for his sister.

"Good excuse", I laughed.

"Actually" he responded cheekily "it's just a ploy to pick up chicks."

"Nice." I said, "obviously a good technique."

"I found it quite brilliant myself, but in all honesty, I'm much more into solid works. You know, Tolstoy, D.H. Lawrence."

"Drama queen" I shot back.

"I suppose."

"Yeah, easy call."

We exchanged a few more witty remarks before it suddenly dawned on me that I was technically on a tight time schedule there. I smiled politely and wished Mystery Boy a good afternoon, then headed to the cash register to pay for the birthday girl's gift and my copy of The Economist. When I got there, however, I was greeted by a huge queue that seemed to be going nowhere fast, and allowed myself a few more minutes to check out the magazine racks. Twenty minutes and fifty-seven euros later, I left the store with my initially planned purchase in hand, and copies of The New Yorker, Poets & Writers, Brilliant Corners (A Journal of Jazz and Literature) and the latest edition of Political Science Quarterly. I zipped my sweater up, pulled my gloves on, and told myself confidently that I would stop quickly at the supermarket to buy some things for breakfast the next morning, then go home and start my night of productivity.

I only made it a few steps, however, before turning the corner and (literally) running into my friends Jorge and Natasha from university. I hadn't seen them for months and figured I couldn't squander such an opportunity to catch up with them, so we stood there for awhile swapping updates and stories about what we'd been up to lately, and before I knew it, another half an hour had passed. Realizing it was much too cold to be standing outside talking, we exchanged goodbyes and promises to keep in better touch, and I continued on to the supermarket. I poked around the fruit & veg section, grabbed a box of muesli and some yogurt from the dairy aisle, then passed by a huge shelf advertising artesan prosecco on sale for just 9 euros. "Prosecco will not help you be productive, whatsoever" I reasoned. "But on the other hand", I thought, "how long has it been since you've treated yourself to a nice glass of prosecco? You love prosecco" (which I used to sip casually in the sun with a roommate of mine on the balcony of our apartment in Granada until we were both so sunburnt and tipsy that we could do little more than retreat to our rooms and indulge in long and decadent siestas). I hesitated for a few more seconds, then grabbed a bottle and headed to the check out. Now I sit here, my second glass of the infamous prosecco in hand, and am finding it harder and harder to concentrate or be, in the least bit, productive at all.

The greatest problem with being an undergrad student in the last study phase before graduation is the complete absence of pressure. I work well under pressure. At times it seems to be the only thing which motivates me enough to lift a single finger, and now suddenly, in the middle of my third year of uni, it's all but completely dissipated. I'm now suddenly left with 1,001 options, opportunities and ideas and no real vision or guidance, nor any sense of urgency to make a choice. I need to finish up a few loose-ended assignments and grab a few credits with some elective courses, find a decent internship and write my thesis, and I'm done- the world is my oyster. So why is it so bloody difficult all of the sudden? My mind is swimming with thoughts of pursuing the PoliSci track and applying for MA programs in International Relations, European Law or something of the like, yet my heart screams for consideration of other tracks which will keep me writing, writing, writing. My biggest source of doubt with the writing track comes from the fact that it is simply such a hard business to penetrate. I've written since I was a child out of enthusiasm, desperation, complete and utter release, but never with the idea that I would ever be able to turn it into a career. Yet sitting here now, contemplating the overwhelming advantages and pitfalls of turning twenty-five, I'm suddenly wondering how I could ever be truly be happy doing something else.

Twenty-five. The idea alone simply boggles the mind. Twenty-five. This is only the beginning. Twenty-five. Get it together. Twenty-five. Enjoy another glass of prosecco, dabble at your little list, and enjoy the fact that, no matter how scary it sounds, twenty-five is just a number, and one that still gives you plenty of time to figure out where you are, what you're doing, and, most importantly, where you will go from here.


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