16 years ago I’m jammed in a Penn State frat house with my buddies Pete, Jack and a few hundred other rambunctious Nittany Lions.
There’s cans of Natty Light and shots of Jagermeister and a cover band thrashing through a version of Blink 182’s “What’s My Age Again?” in the living room.
We’re young and thin and wild and drunk and clueless and unconcerned with mortality and consequences.
Suddenly, 16 years later, Pete, Jack and I are crammed, shoulder-to-shoulder Puerto Rican nightclub. La Factoria is a decaying factory that was converted into a labyrinth of bars, cocktail rooms and dance floors. The three of us, each a little softer around the waist, stand in a tight circle like we had done 16 years earlier. Our shirts are collared and tucked. Pete is bald. Jack is sporting streaks of gray. And I take the same medication as my 63 year old father.
The speakers thump Hispanic dance music. No lyrics. No chorus. Just a relentless thump thump thump that instigates an earthquake in my prostate. We shout about how loud and how crowded it is, how it’s hard to breathe and how young these “kids” look.
We look out of place. We look like we should be on a golf course. Or waiting in line for cornbread at the Golden Corral.
We acknowledge that La Factoria’s emergency doors are not properly marked and there’s exposed wiring snaking across the ceiling. Above the thump, someone shouts, “What if there’s a fire?” We shake our heads. We stretch our legs. Someone yawns. Someone checks their watch. We calculate the hours of sleep we could get if somehow, in this very nook of time, by clicking our loafer heels we would be magically delivered and tucked into the embrace of our clean hotel bed sheets.
Over the course of the weekend Pete and I held a semi-serious conversation about making good decisions. A conversation that began when we had the intelligence to forego shots of some back alley Puerto Rican liquor distilled in a spackle bucket.
Pete and I have a long history of bad decisions and spackle bucket liquor that when we finally made a collectively good decision, we were so excited, so proud that we called our wives the next morning and told them all about it.
And yes, in the star-spangled eyes of the United States of America–we’re both adults.
I know (and certainly feel) that I’m not 20 years old anymore (just writing “Jagermeister” gives me chills) but it’s hard for me to believe I’m 36.
It just sounds so mature and sophisticated and yet I find myself thinking, “Ok, so I’m 36, like when do I officially become an adult?”
I don’t know.
Maybe you become an adult when you truly understand that your choices have consequences.
Or maybe when you accept that your choices are your responsibility.
Or maybe when you attest that every choice you make is fixed with some weight of importance.
Or maybe when you finally have the maturity to realize that your choices are a reflection of who you are.
Or maybe, just maybe, even though our bellies swell, our eyesight diminishes and our bladders cop an attitude– no one actually ever grows up.