21

Every year that I have been on this Earth has come with a plethora of challenges. My twenty-first year brought me a treasure trove full of them: roommate hardships, friendship ups and downs, the adventure that was “finding a job,” lifting my GPA up from the ashes that was Winter Quarter 2015, dancing my way through frat parties, the tearful study abroad application and acceptance process…surprisingly my life’s biggest hurdles did not come to mind much while making that list. Depression and anorexia will not be my downfall, and I know that now, however much they did cause tears and Bad Thoughts this past year.

I have always liked that my birthday fell right before school started because I could measure my growth as I did my education, and that tells me so much more than tracking January to December ever could. The New Year is special, obviously, but it’s no Ashley’s New Year.

The years keep speeding by me, faster and faster. They said this would happen, but I did not believe them. When you hate your life, it is utterly endless. “Time flies when you are having fun” is probably the biggest understatement of the eon. I feel like just a few months ago I was eighteen, in high school, in love, and falling into a sickness that sometimes I cannot stop thinking about.

I have mentioned before how much I value my birthdays because it is a victory in this battle against my depression. I pushed through thirteen and sixteen, but I didn’t think I would see eighteen. Somehow I think my inner determination and heart fought for me to reach these “landmark” years. Nineteen was a leapfrog year—and I feel like I barely remember it. Freshman year was such  whirlwind. Twenty was sort of special because I beat teen pregnancy, but that was literally the least surprising thing in the world, let’s be real. But it was exciting. It marked a decade since I had started and ended the friendship that launched me into my downward spiral. Ten years. Half of my life. And it marked a real upward turn in my recovery.

And now here I am, about to turn twenty-one. It’s not that huge for my friends and my peers, since they have been drinking since high school. I, however, have not. I have waited a long time for this day because it is like real adulthood. I can go to bars and buy drinks with my real ID, of course, but it also comes with a weird sort of responsibility. I have always been Mama Bear: taking care of my friends, making sure they don’t get themselves into too much trouble, driving them to Taco Bell for a much-craved Crunchwrap Supreme, yelling “Be safe!” whenever they do anything. Now I am hoping to have less of that responsibility so I can have a little more fun—see what all this fuss is about shots and jungle juice. I mean, I’ll still me Mama Bear, and I probably always will be. I have that instinct and everyone always called me “the worrier.” It’s what I do. But it’s my time to get a drunk alter ego, right?

That’s what everyone asks me: so are you going to drink when you turn twenty-one? The answer is yes, but it comes with conditions. Yes, I may drink with my friends, participate in Wine Wednesday, etc, go to a few bars with Natasha (until the rest of the kids are old enough). But no, I will not get shit-faced every weekend, black out like it’s normal, and so on. That is not me. It never has been. Alcoholism runs in my family, and I am not about to risk that. My record of dancing on tables should tell you that I am fine without a little buzz. But I do look forward to seeing what it’s all like on the other side of my people-watching activities at parties. And hopefully people will stop asking me to cover their sober sis shifts at our events.

Moral of the story: this is an important birthday to me. Every birthday is, but this one holds a higher tier, for obvious reasons.

I would like to think ten year-old me is extremely proud of twenty-going-on-twenty-one me. For conquering all the challenges life has thrown at me. I hope she is happy about everything I have accomplished and about how far I have come. My friends, my adventures, my job, my music choices, my book, the contents of my closet (though not banking her liking this one due to the extensive sweatpants collection), that even though I hate driving and am afraid of it still, I have sort of overcome that fear, and that I am studying abroad in London, England, where I have always dreamed about going. She will be proud of me for not drinking and therefore receiving the $1,000 from my parents as a “reward” (Dublin, I am coming for you, too!). I hope she’s proud because I certainly am.

Life stats for this past year:

    • Train trips taken: 8
    • Mountain’s climbed: 2
    • Papers written: 12
    • TV shows finished: 8
    • Late night Thrifty’s runs with Tori: too many
    • Books read: 23
    • Group chats created: 5
    • Pairs of shoes bought: 5
    • Graduations missed: 2
    • Times Luke decided he didn’t know me: 4
    • Stories started: 5
    • Times I dragged my friends to baseball games: at least 6
    • Blog posts written, but then deleted after I screamed at my computer: probably 7
    • Back to the Future viewings: 3
    • Average daily times the Hamilton soundtrack looped: 3
    • Memories made: pricelessly countless

Cheers!! xx

Ashhh

PS Shout out to Abby & Lexi. You guys are pretty cool, I guess.

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