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24 Things I Learned Now That I am 24 Years Old


Today is October 2nd, 2013. 24 years ago today an Emerald was born. My light-skinned brother declared upon seeing me, “OMG. She’s Black!” My parents held each other fondly as they peered through the glass of the hospital nursery, pointing fondly at their beautiful daughter. A nurse interrupted saying, “That’s not your baby,” she points to moi, “That’s your baby.”

“Oh,” my parents would say as they retold this story about how no one expected me to look like I do. What a warm, fond memory of my birth. /side eye

Emerald, I, was supposed to be an identical twin. My mom miscarried early in her pregnancy, my sister looked like “a shrimp,” she would say. I joked that the world (or our one bedroom apartment) was not big enough for two of me so I kicked her out of the womb. My mom laughed. Ah, family time!

Emerald, I, was supposed to be born on October 3rd—my mom’s birthday. My mom could not stand to be pregnant another day so . . . “I did the hustle and jumping jacks to induce the pregnancy!” She said laughing. My mom is so motherly like that. My birthday is today, my mom’s is tomorrow. Had I been born exactly the way I was supposed to, I, my twin sister and my mom would share the exact same birthday. I would also be Queen of Gummie Bears and Pumpkins.

1) So the first thing I learned, considering the circumstances of my birth, was that things don’t always turn out the way you expected.

2) “Your brother wanted a sibling so bad, just to have someone to play with. He started having nightmares because he was alone so your father and I decided it was time to have another baby. It turned out I was already pregnant with you.” The second thing I learned was that it’s OK when things don’t turn out according to plan.

3) When I was four I went down a twister slide that curved at the bottom. I flew instead of landing and broke my arm. I learned I wasn’t invincible.

4) When I was four my mom was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. I learned my parents weren’t invincible.

5) My brother and I lived with my grandma who only spoke spanish for an entire summer. I learned that I would never speak the mother tongue.

6) When my boobs started to form at age 10, I’d get teased for stuffing my bra. I learned that a woman’s body will always be a spectator’s sport.

7) At age 11, I entered middle school and learned that puberty brings out the absolute worst in humans when my friend got called “slut” so many times she started to believe it was true.

8) When I was 15 I resigned to the fact that I was too different, too weird, too much of an outsider and would never fit in. I finally started to make friends.

9) When I was 16 I learned that it didn’t matter how many days I was absent as long as I handed the assignments in I’d get good grades so I learned to only go to school half the time because high school was half pointless anyway.

10) I entered a creative writing contest with Random House, senior year, and won Best in Borough (NYC is made of five boroughs). It was the first time I felt my aspirations were attainable.

11) My freshman year of college was racially segregated as the group of Black kids shunned me because I didn’t cling to them just because they were Black, while the White kids assumed all the Black kids hated them. I learned, for the first time, that race was a real social barrier.

12) If your roommate is crazy being nice to her won’t make her less crazy.

13) If your roommate is crazy being mean to her won’t make her less crazy.

14) If your roommate is crazy don’t be complacent with that roommate just because you have the same classes or will inevitably run into her because the entire student body is 1500.

15) If you decide to try marijuana for the first time be sure that you don’t have a weird reaction that causes you to speak with an Indian accent and write weird poetry before you do it in a group setting.

16) People do it in the library a lot, bring hand sanitizer.

17) I transferred from Sarah Lawrence to NYU because I was confusing my boredom with depression and angst. They are not the same thing.

18) No matter how much money you pay or debt you incur, there is never going to be an ideal situation. That’s why it’s called “ideal,” it’s a fantasy.

19) The economy blows. The government is dumb. Academia as an institution and business is inherently flawed. Education is a privilege. These are the circumstances our generation has been born into. I learned to deal with it.

20) When I studied abroad in London, junior year, I got sick and was underweight people loved to compliment how thin I was looking. I learned people are vain and have fucked ideas about bodies.

21) I graduated with a 3.9875 GPA. I learned grades are utterly meaningless but it feels good to humble brag about them.

22) When I turned 21 I realized that drinking wasn’t as exciting as who you drink with.

23) After moving out of my parents house permanently for the first time, at 23, I learned how much I valued having my parents, these particular ones, over any other parents.

24) Today I learned that with Starbucks Rewards, you get a free drink (or snack) on your birthday.

Emerald is an editor at CollegeCandy, lover of coffee, and pretend francophile. After studying writing and popular culture at NYU she decided to be a grownup and get a job. Tweet at ya' girl @EmeraldGritty.