Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 21, 2024

So this is what it feels like to be 21 — older, allegedly wiser, and bigger (in pounds and personality), and that much more superior to the younglings, a.k.a. people who were born after me, in this world.

Having had a history of age crises since I was 10, which are only amplified when I get the annual reminder that I have aged another year, makes it seem only natural that I have had eleven admittedly self-imposed sucky birthdays. This one, being the first one I have had at Hopkins, was, fortunately or unfortunately — depending on what your idea of fun — extremely memorable. I remember blowing way too much cash at Spring Fair on chickens on sticks instead of booze from the beer garden, gaining eight pounds, discovering my first cockroach in Baltimore in my room, and finding out that I like fried Oreos better than their non-fried counterparts. All in all, a day filled with many milestones as I reached the 21 years of age became an even older version of me.

In an attempt to dissuade elders and any screeching, clawing cats they may bring along to picket outside my room and to accuse me of being ageist, I think it would be a good idea for me to declare that I am NOT at this point in the column. So, voila! My press release addressing my phobia of aging: I have nothing against “old people” — indeed, I cannot wait for the day when I have a head full of grey hair that I can dye purple without bleaching first, can dictate even more children and adults without being questioned, and have the authority, as many children’s books and television shows have promised me, be even more justified in telling more narcissistic stories to young folks. In fact, as an exemplary Hopkins student, I have been ahead of the game and am currently making retirement plans with friends — we have already decided that we are going to buy a hut and train cats in our spare time to make profit for our rent. But really, I love old people… and to all you old folks out there: please know that I, Carissa Ratanaphanyarat, want to be one of you.

My age crises stem from me reflecting on myself, or, more specifically, what I have done and will do. Free response questions like, what have I done this past year that I can be proud of? What have I done for others without being a tool? What am I going to do this coming year? How will these plans fit in with my long-term goals? What kinds of dishes can I make with instant ramen if I get to experience the waitressing-life-as-a-struggling-screenwriter that is so famed and dramatized in Hollywood? And then there are fill-in-the blank questions like, how much of my hair has fallen out? Answer: _____. (I am drawing a blank. Haha, get it?) Or stress-inducing multiple choice questions such as: Identify what you will change about yourself for the coming year. A.) Your coca-cola addiction. B.) Your sheer and blinding awesomeness. C.) Your narcissistic jokes, or D.) All of the above except  B.). And then, of course, there are the true and false questions. True or false? Did your narcissistic stories do any good for the chosen ones/victims you decided to relay them to? (Answer: True, for the purposes of this column). True or false? You really want to be stereotypical and live with cats in my retirement hut. (Answer: True, for the purposes of the paragraph before this one.)  These are just some of the many profound questions that come up during my birthdays. Yes, I give myself annual self-evaluations on my birthday. Yes, I give myself tests outside the classroom. Yes, I am an overachiever. And yes, I am officially taking the Hopkins student stereotype to another level.

Some of these questions are not ones that you could just study for and know the answer to. Maybe I could collect data to measure how much hair I lost, but why I would do that, or rather, admit to doing that, is beyond my comprehension. I could prepare solid back-up plans, and experiment with instant ramen to see what sorts of edible dishes I could make if I am a struggling screenwriter, but who knows if I would really be where I think I will be ten years down the line? An older me a year from now, who has experienced more of the world, for example, may find problems with and revise my current retirement plans. Perhaps, in the future, I would predict that living in a hut with so much estrogen and too many grumpy cats could potentially lead to a toxic living environment and disastrous explosions.

In summary, we humans, no matter how narcissistic and invincible and prepared we may be and think we are, age. I know that I am not the only person that questions their existence or future as I get older, but do note, if you have not already by this column’s end—you are getting older and older, whether you are contemplating over that one measly grade point, debating whether trying to be an actress is the right route for you, pondering the meaning of life for your philosophy class, or suffering from an age crisis on your 21st birthday. So, spend each second wisely. I would say YOLO right now, but since I am hipster, that would totally be too yesterday.

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