Two year old article published for my university’s faith-based magazine Radix. Not the best writing, but some food for thought..
I’ve come to despise milestone celebrations. Not all of them, just the ones which affect me numerically. Turning Thirteen and Sixteen have been the only two which spawned excitement. Eighteen and Twenty, on the other hand, created nothing but grief and consistent nihilistic self doubt.
(I promise I’m actually a jovial person and only express such depressing thoughts to get things published. You don’t know Kafka for a brilliant exegesis on what gave him comfort and happiness in life, do you?)
The soundless depressions of Eighteen are related to the teenage need to fit in as well as my faith. The depressions of Twenty, on the other hand, have had more to do with allowing Oil of Olay and Garnier commercials propagating the preponderance of youth to take over my nightly thoughts. Oh, and my severe lack of direction in life. Yeah, that too. That’s rather depressing. However, since I’m currently Twenty, I’m unable to give you the retrospective clarity I can give on my other ages. So, I’m just going to focus on the day I turned Eighteen. What a day that was.
June 10th, 2005. Prom night. I was set. For under 220$ I was able to look like 300$. Yes, that’s how good I looked. I was ready to dance the night away; solo, as always.
This was prom weekend. A legendary event at my high school. This would either be the best social event of your public education career or the worst. Who knew that I would end up falling somewhere in between the two. The prom itself was magnificent, minus the cries of my best friend’s recent ex. Dry grad (an alcohol-free carnival held for grads from 12 am until 6 am) was also a blast. Inebriated on Bawlz (an excellent energy drink), my friends and I enjoyed ourselves until the wee hours of Saturday. By 12 am on June 11th I had turned Eighteen in a limo, so I thought I’d enjoy the remnants of my immaturity before I was fully acknowledged as a legal adult. Good times, good times. So far grad weekend, and my birthday, were turning out amazingly. I felt mature, I felt happy, I felt confident, and I felt ready for more. On the evening of June 11th, I was invited to a grad party. It was supposed to be one of those epic high school parties, you know? The kind at which crazy stuff happens, hilarious pictures are taken, and are later used to blackmail you when you enter a public career. Yeah, one of those. It was epic, but for entirely different reasons.
While I was a rather social person, I was never the sort to go to parties. A good time to me was watching movies with my best friends on a Friday night. It wasn’t the actual watching of a film which was the fun part, but rather being in the company of humans I loved. Alcohol had not been a factor with my friends and I. I don’t choose not to drink only because my faith, Islam, forbids it. For me, it’s a stand against what I believe is a socially destructive drug. But that’s a whole story in and of itself. Back to what I was saying: my friends weren’t huge on the drinking, they’d drink champagne at weddings or a few sips of wine at dinner at that point, and so I had not been exposed actual drinking. I always felt comfortable with my friends, knowing that we had this major social practice in common (for the most part). The party, however, was another thing. It was my first attendance at a party where alcohol would be present. I knew it was going to be there, but I didn’t think of it as being the focus of the night. Again, I was looking forward to just some crazy fun. I don’t know what I mean by that or even what I was exactly looking for – I just know that “crazy fun” was what I was looking for. Things, however, turned out differently. After being there for about an hour, I noticed that the focus of the night was celebration vis a vis inebriation! There was a lot of alcohol, and people slowly getting drunk. I found myself confused and increasingly uncomfortable. I even remember getting into a discussion with a good friend over the merits of alcohol … or the severe lack thereof. I remember the stench of alcohol and the reek of decreasing sobriety. I remember being offered again and again various alcohols. People didn’t seem to believe that I didn’t drink.
“But, you’re so wild …how and why do you stay sober? Wait, are you even sober or just drunk and kidding around?”
After a few hours, I ran around the house to find my best friend and asked her to drive me home. An epiphany had struck, and I struggled to quickly recover from its blow. I couldn’t. The salty waters (a clever way of saying tears) gushed out within seconds of entering her van.
I realized something that night; something which I know is not with me alone. No matter how much I was a part of “the group” or this society, I never could actually be a part of it. It wasn’t my faith which was an impediment, but the way this culture conditioned its followers. By saying “no thanks, I don’t drink” about 67 times that night, a wall had been created between myself and my peers. I had become marked. I was that designated driver (without even a learner’s) for life. I sat in that car, and cried. Every teen wants to fit in, and I was no different. When I finally felt as though I did fit in, I was quickly reminded that I never could. But it’s not really as though not fitting in is a bad thing; I’ve gotten over it for the most part and have learned to overcome the constructed barriers.
It just sucks when you realize that on your birthday.