By Marika McCarthy
In another life, I could have been an art history major.
But art is too concrete. Though the laws of the universe last forever, I feel like they’re somehow fleeting. Physics is based in flashes of silver, tricks of the light in a spring stream. Water trickles out of cupped hands, falling through cracks between fingers, and holds up ships, holds a body together.
Even so, sometimes I feel like Winged Victory of Samothrace: headless and heartless, aimless and armless. But she has lasted through the ages, and I feel so ephemeral in comparison.
My birthday is in one week, and somehow turning 20 seems so concrete. I know that it shouldn’t. Another mere year of my existence doesn’t compare to the planet or the water – recycled for millennia – that feeds it.
I didn’t have anxiety over a slough of other meaningless birthdays, only a repetitive feeling of waking up expecting to feel different and feeling exactly the same.
The only time I’ve ever felt distinctly older was my sixth birthday. That was the day I got my ears pierced.
Still, I’m feeling more and more like a child each and every day. Once upon a time I was so excited to leave one decade, but I’m petrified at the thought of leaving a second.
Twenty should feel different, and I’m sure that it won’t.
On scratch paper and in the margins of my notebooks – even written with a finger in the salt spilled on an IHOP table – I’ve made promises to myself. Promises to leave certain behaviors behind in my teens, promises to do better as an adult. I should learn how to study. I should delete my Tumblr. I should know how to walk in a pair of heels by now.
Happy B-day, happy D-day.
There is no inevitability about 20. It is a foreign concept that I am still struggling to translate. It seems so far away, even if only a week away.
Does a statue count the years since her own beginning? Winged Victory surely doesn’t count her milestones in multiples of 10 years. It just wouldn’t make sense.
She has much bigger milestones: her birth, her rediscovery, moving to Paris. Perhaps she counts her time, not in years, but in the visitors who come to see her.
But that must not be it, for she can’t see all the visitors at the Louvre.
She’s lost her head.
I feel like I’m losing mine.
I will have the chance to actually be able to call myself a 20-something, and pretend to be able to relate to Thought Catalog articles after a couple hours of being a year older.
At the same time, nobody writes songs about girls who are 20.
It’s anti-climactic and petrifying at the same time.
And Wednesday will be just another day, because what is time but a something constructed by humans?
At least, that is what I’m saying now. Maybe I’ll tell you something different if you ask me about it in a week.