As I celebrate my birthday, this is my attempt to ruin it by over-thinking and ruminating on what it means to turn twenty-one. I ramble on and discuss pressures, politics, and basically my worldview of alcohol that will no doubt leave you wondering how I expect to make it at all in this nation we call America.
Everybody is asking me if I am going to go out drinking and wondering what I am going to be doing to celebrate being 21 years old now. A part of me rejects this attitude, but a part of me embraces it too.
Up until this year, my birthday in college just came and went and I didn’t really celebrate it. It was largely a result of me being uninterested in really connecting with people on my college campus.
It didn’t take long for me to get to campus and focus in on, well, improving me.
I never expected that I would come into a film school planning to make films and find myself entering senior year thinking my best bet for earning an income will be journalism or some kind of work as a progressive leader.
I picked a fine year to finally connect with the students I see every day, students who share my apartment and students in organizations and classes at Columbia. Also, it’s even better because I have a special someone---a girlfriend---who chose to surprise me with a special gift and treat on my birthday.
I started to write a very Bill Maher-sounding “How F**ked Are We?” kind of a birthday piece. I am truly an idealist-cynic, one who channels the cynicism for humorous effect and idealism for compelling and inspirational effects.
But, I couldn’t do it no matter how good it sounded. I chose not to rant on about the economy or the fact that 24-hour financial news networks like CNBC claim they had no idea America was going to plunge into a financial crisis.
I chose not to illuminate the fact that I think alcohol is one of those things that conveniently allows you to ignore your responsibility to take on the justification for war, torture, and lawlessness being perpetrated by leaders in America.
I chose not to go off about how I think technology is pacifying or dumbing down the youth of America (Facebook, MySpace, iPods, Twitter, YouTube, etc).
In the scheme of things, the set of problems I have to deal with are nothing compared to other Americans who have had to cut back from three to two meals, who may have just gone on welfare in the past months, who have no idea how they are going to support their family since they lost that job weeks ago, who wonder when their boy or girl or husband or wife will come home from Iraq and provide some extra income and help with the kids, etc.
That doesn't make those problems "okay." The "Third World" and the slums of countries should not just accept that life sucks. Not at all.
The foibles of American society which irk me are small when compared to the fact that really I do not face persecution, I will not be bombed tomorrow, I will get to eat, I have a skill set and education that can help me produce an income, I do not have to worry about whether my friends or family like or love me, and I am confident in what I do and proud to be setting a path where I engage in activist filmmaking, practice citizen journalism on the side, and leave my future open for new experiences that could advance my activism and progressive leadership in American society.
I find myself entirely insecure when met with the huge amount of peer pressure that comes from roommates and college friends who expect me to be shitfaced and totally wasted by midnight tonight. The girlfriend wants me to call her and belligerently shout something through the cell phone.
I do not understand what she could possibly gain from this and I do not think I could possibly do this without melodramatically embellishing my intoxication over the phone.
I didn’t do the fake I.D. thing. I didn’t really even engage in underage drinking. Alcohol costs money, money I always used in better ways on better things.