The Quarter-Life Crisis of Birthdays


I turn twenty-three next week. 

It’s not really a bad thing. One more year closer to cheaper car insurance, which is already cheap because of my impeccable driving record. *places gold sticker on self*

I don’t know, this Birthday is weird for me. Is “Birthday” capitalized? Birthday/birthday, whatever. Tomato/tomato. A N Y W A Y S

I started making a mental list of things that happened in the last year and it really sunk into my broken mind that a lot of shit happened. Probably the most life-changing year of my short life. I always wondered what year this would be, remembering back to conversation I’ve had with others who said “Wow twenty-one was a really memorable year” or “I’ll never forget my twenty-fourth year.” Really, I’ve heard a lot of variations with this, but, truth be told, I never experienced one of those memorable years until twenty-two. Now that it’s coming to the end, I’m feeling the weight of everything kind of settle into my bones and change me. For the better? Who knows, time will tell. But let me put into electronic letters this list I began composing the past couple days.

I visited New Orleans, the Dominican Republic, and Toronto, Ontario for the very first time.

New Orleans taught me culture, and that I’m deathly allergic to tequila. My first night there I got wrecked to hell, but also almost literally died from taking a shot of tequila at one of the many gay bars in the Quarter. As soon as it hit my lips, my tongue started to swell and I went immediately to the bathroom. The girls bathroom. I threw up next to the toilet… I didn’t even make it in. And I promptly passed out sitting on top of it until my ex came in to save me forty-five minutes later. I’m sure you’re wondering why it took him so long to come in, when really it was probably for the best he waited for so long. Kindly, he walked me back to the W Hotel French Quarter, but not without making me cry hysterically as we walked back.

“Stop crying, you’re going to get arrested.” He quietly whispered to me as he literally supported my heavily intoxicated body through the steaming streets of NOLA’s deep and dark French Quarter. Obviously, this didn’t really help wasted-me because the thought of being arrested SOBER was enough to make me cry, let alone in that state. Then he got me to our room and let me sleep soundly, as I requested, with my head on the toilet seat. He was a trooper about the whole situation, even sleeping next to me with a blanket and pillow on the tile flooring. As one of the topless homeless women that polka-dot the French Quarter would say… “Support the alcoholics!”

The Dominican Republic taught me to close my mouth while showering in a country without proper water filtering systems. As the brochure told us to do, and the tour guide that took us from the airport to the resort, DO NOT DRINK THE WATER. What do I unintentionally do? Drink the fucking water. My ex’s best friend and I were privileged with the welcome gift from the good ol’ DR of coming quite acquainted with the toilet. I swear I remember what that bathroom looks like more than the beach or pool’s swim-up bar. Believe me, I drank the shit out of some fruity mixed drinks down there and visited the buffet more times than I’d like to admit. But. The water got the best of me.

Toronto showed me equality and understanding. I saw more dick in the street than I ever expected. It made Pittsburgh’s Pride celebration look like a little old ladies luncheon at the closest community center. Don’t get me wrong! I love Pittsburgh’s Pride, it’s my type of party. Well, my type of party once a year. I couldn’t do that every weekend. But damn, do Canadians know how to party and throw parties. I will admit, though, I was in this leather bar which turns into a quaint little brunch place during the day for drinks and such with a nice roof patio, which is where me, my ex, and his friends all sat. At this “brunch” spot, I 300% almost walked into this thing I had no idea that existed or was even a thing. It’s called a “Sex Maze” and I absolutely refuse to go into detail of what that exactly means. But, there was a line for the bar and it seemed to wrap into said maze, so I lead the way and got into line for the bar. My ex was kind enough to inform me that was the line for the maze and directed my completely embarrassed, dazed, and confused self to the correct spot for a cold brew. Side note. Canadians are the kindest individuals I’ve ever met, I think. Don’t even get me started on Trudeau…. Woof.

I cheated on my ex with my mentally abusive ex.

I’m going to keep this short. Remember that mentally abusive ex I talked about in earlier blog posts? I cheated on a great guy with him. We do some fucked up things for first loves. I made some absolutely terrible mistakes that I still regret to this day. But the first step to fixing anything is admitting what is wrong and accepting it. Then move forward with your life. Grow from it, and gain a better understanding of what you would like to stand for, morally, as your own person. It was a major setback at a possibly great life. But hey, humans tend to fuck up the truly great things. My guilt drowned me and I broke it off with him.

Feelings are a funny thing. A fucked-up kind of funny.

I rekindled feelings for an old flame that died out when he left for the military. It was feelings that I thought were buried, but they never really gone. And I finally buried those things. Yay small victories! Celebrate those victories. Honestly. It makes the world of a difference, even if they feel like a big deal to you or not, celebrate your victories and let it change you for the better.

Accepting your losses is a whole different story, however. I met this guy months ago, only two, really. Maybe coming up on three now. But I fell for him because I was living a battered and broken life and he showed me the light again. I’ll get into the details of why I was so battered and broken, but for now this is about this guy that taught me one thing and one thing only. Accept your losses, because they were there and are no longer there for a reason. It’s funny, the ones that I tend to learn more from are the ones that don’t stay around; The ones that are here for the shortest times, but make all the difference in your world. As much as they are unforgettable, their absence is that much harder to ignore. He was the romantic type; the type I fall head-over-heels for. He was an incredible cook, had the kindest soul and heart, and pulled me away from cutting vegetables to slow dance with me in his kitchen. He reached for my hand while we ate pizza with his roommate and boyfriend at a pretty rad restaurant. We watched a good bit of the movies on the Criterion Collection list, which is a feat in itself for me. It felt perfect, you know? Then life happens, of course, and things change. People change.

What really happened was that he almost got a job five hours away from Pittsburgh, and this felt like the world was ending because I was going to lose the one thing that showed me the light in the darkest string of four months I’ve ever been through prior to meeting him. Terrified of losing him, after going into this new endeavor with each other without barriers and walls to protect the softest parts of me and my soul, I said I would move with him. That is where it went to absolute shit. He pulled back, and I felt the cold of his absence. I physically watched the dark come back with a wicked vengeance and steal all the light I thought I gained. And after a few talks and late-night heart to hearts, I was back at square one. Actually, I was way behind square one. I was back before even drawing the first side of square one. You know what, though? Even though I get angry with him at the most random times (i.e. in the shower, or doing dishes), it showed me that what I need most is to create my own light. He taught me, without even knowing it, that what I need is to be self-sufficient. I don’t know about you, but I believe wholeheartedly in God and I also believe that he swiftly and kindly grabbed my head, opened my eyes, and showed me the love that I deserve and that I could have one day, but not yet. First, I needed to accept the loss and grow stronger from it.

I got fired from a job for a really stupid reason.

Yeah. It was a job I was proud of, and in an industry I absolutely loved. But it happened, and the problem is that I saw it coming. Hell, another manager even admitted she was gunning for me and I had no other option but to set it up perfectly for her. I don’t want to get into detail or ever bad mouth an employer of mine, because I don’t believe in that no matter how shitty they treat me, but I found it to be especially heartless. I can’t account for the plan that is prearranged for me, however, and I had to take the blow and accept it. I had no choice but to rise from it, because letting it take me out was not in the cards.

Birthday’s are undesirable once one of your parents pass away. 

Five months ago, and I’m realizing now that it’s unintentionally to the exact day, my dad passed away (seen in the picture above).

Sitting in my bedroom before writing this, with all my feelings bottled up as I listen to some pensive-ass music and look to my small friend circle for distraction, I realized how weird and uncomfortable it feels to have one of the people that made you suddenly not be there anymore on the day they probably watched you come into this crisis world. They didn’t know what was going to happen, where you’d travel to, who you’d meet, how many people would break your heart, how many jobs you’d have, if you’d graduate high school and go off to college, if you’d go into trade work, become a famous person, or whatever their beautiful minds came up with. But they saw you into this world and suddenly, all of this possibility lit up their world in one tiny human being that two people created.

However, now he’s gone. And I have to accept the loss, and live. It feels a little unfair at times, most times actually. Some mornings are worse than others, where all I wish is that he could be sitting at my desk in my room and ready to talk to me through my hardships. Nights are usually always hard, that’s just a fact of my life.

Dad and I, we never really talked too much detail about our lives. Toward the unexpected end, we started becoming closer. Right up till the end, it was the closest and strongest we’ve ever been with each other. He supported me, I supported him. It was ideal. And I think it was a total blessing that I will always have those memories of strength to carry with me through job promotions, writing, partners, marriage, or whatever else my crisis world has laid out for me. More than anything, I wish Dad could be here with me, but I know that he’d be proud of the goal I have set for myself, that I think about every single time where the nights are especially dark, mornings are especially lonely, heartaches especially strong, and crises especially relentless. He would be proud, and that is enough.

Hey Dad, you were enough. 

Twenty-two is my unforgettable year.

Which is okay. I accept it, all of the mini and major life crises, and the major losses and small victories. That’s life, isn’t it? One continuous surprise, whether good or bad, until the ultimate surprise ending comes.

What are you going to do with your surprises? Hate them or accept them?

I’ll let you on a little secret I’m slowly learning here… Your life will ultimately and significantly be better if you begin accepting those surprise crises. I promise you. The good thing about it all? I’m here with you every step of the way, as you are with me as I write this blog.

No matter how many friends you do or don’t have, everyone deserves a friend who will walk with you through it all.

Song: Medicine by Daughter.

One thought on “The Quarter-Life Crisis of Birthdays

  1. Beautifully said Vaughn. I know your father would be so proud. I miss him also. He was a superb employ, wonderful human being and a good friend. I think of you often and I’m so glad I read this blog. Take good care and know how much I cared for your father. Until next time, Sincerely and with Love, Beth


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