Monday, October 27, 2008


I don't think I will ever forget the day after my 21st birthday. Wretched could be the best word to describe it. Granted I didn't get in trouble with the law the night of my 21st or even do something as crazy as hooking up with a random. (I define "hooking up" as making out...yes, I need to go back the the 1940s, I suppose). But, that day from the moment I woke up after my 21st birthday to the moment I went to sleep is a day I used to want to erase. When the memory would surface, I would grimace and attempt to suppress it like one of those traumatic childhood memories that therapists say the brain won't allow one to remember.

I wish I knew the statistics here, but it has to be a certainty that 98% of Americans don't feel good the day after their 21st. When I say "don't feel good", I obviously mean "painfully hungover". This isn't really fair if you think about it. The French are probably at a casual sit down dinner with friends on their 21rst birthday ordering their favorite bottle of wine...a taste for which they've acquired after years of drinking it legally. The next day, they probably awake feeling invigorated and youthful. In America we attempt to take 21 shots of liquor. The next day, we are suicidal and contemplate joining AA. Isn't it true that Americans are supposed to be the worlds' most progressive leaders in ideologies, foreign relations, politics, etc...? Amazing that we've made it there with most of our brain cells dying on the night of our 21st birthday. Though I'm sure the founding fathers didn't start out this way. Maybe though? Has anyone unearthed the shot book John Adams made for George Washington?? Kidding...Kidding...

The day after my 21st birthday can be defined as one of my "rock bottom" moments for the MAIN reason that I didn't remember the night before and I had to be told what the hell happened....this is a summary of the realizations and the actions taken thereafter:
1. Blacking out. It happened at 10:00 p.m.
2. The last thing I can recall is taking out the "emergency only" credit card from my parents and buying the entire bar a round of shots.
3. I thought it was a genius idea to rent a city bus for this night out, which was a lot of fun for the hour I remembered, but of course, I invited randoms on the bus.
4. The randoms got sick on the bus.
5. I had to pay for the bus company to clean up for the randoms that got sick on the bus. (Scratch parents did.)
6. While driving to the bus company to reconcile the fee I was going to owe, I threw up what seemed to be straight liquor on myself causing me to turn around to go home to change clothes. Sick, I know, but this is what happened.

I will never forget the hot tears running down my face driving back home to change my clothes. I was so disgusted with myself. How did something that was supposed to be fun turn into something that was such a mess? The thought of calling my parents and explaining the situation made me want to get sick again. The guilt was heavy. They were excited to rent the bus for my friends and I to ride around town safely and I can't even remember it. I pulled over my car over to the side of the road and just cried, with my head on the steering wheel. I was alone, it might have been the loneliest I've ever felt. Ironic when the night before I was riding around town with a bus full of people. I remember just taking a couple of deep breaths and driving slowly home, cleaning up and then calling my parents. Luckily, they were and still are more understanding than any other humans that I know. They took care of the situation and even found it hysterical. This is how I know God knew what he was doing when he made them my parents. I am so good at punishing myself that if I had parents that weren't accepting of my mistakes, well, frankly, you might find me in a padded room.

I'm sure that everyone has both hilarious and horrible stories from the nights of their 21st birthdays, but I bring mine up now because I am finding that a lot about being in your 20's is about learning your limits. Your limit for partying, your limit for working, your limit for exercising, your limit for NOT exercising, your limit for relationships, your limit for friendships, your limit for money, your limit for shopping, your limit for indulging and so many more. I guess limit really is just another way of saying boundary. These last couple of years I've began to learn how far is too far and how much is too much in a plethora of ways and sometimes over and over again. I think I've stretched myself to the maximum boundary of almost everything possible. Everyone always hears the "setting your boundaries" advice. I believed knew what my boundaries were. The truth is I didn't, I didn't until I went over my limit and realized the path of my life was changing in a direction that I didn't want. The stress and discomfort emerges at this point because to live continuously beyond one limit or another turns you into a person you don't recognize. It can be ignored for a while and trust me I tried every way to ignore it, but it always tends to surface. The truth always does. This is the best part though, because with the brutal honesty brings a freedom; this makes change less hard because there is a peace that it's the right thing.

Now that I'm offically mid-twenties, 25, 3 months and 3 days to be exact, I am starting to see that my thoughts and opinions are formed by my experiences and THAT becomes who I am. It's not who my parents and friends are any longer. Through every situation we are slowing shaping into the people we are going to be. So, if you think about it, there are no mistakes...none, zero. There are only experiences that make us the people that we are. So, now, I don't want to erase that day after my 21st birthday, actually I'm grateful for it. Yes, that's correct, I'm grateful for the day I threw up on myself while driving....pfffftttttt.
Attempt to live gratefully for every good and bad moment, for every boundary crossed, each has it's perfect purpose in the big picture of life...

I will part with my favorite quote...good stuff for those of us "trying" to grow up...ha.

"Watch your thoughts. They become words. Watch your words. They become deeds. Watch your deeds. They become habits. Watch your habits. They become character. Character is everything." -R.W. Emerson


Jennifer said...

Alexis, was this post a way to convince yourself to take your own advice?....because you should. That was a great post ,but it's obvious how hard on yourself you can be.

Alexis Neal said...

Yes, Jen, I'm trying to learn to take my own advice. Always easier said than done!