It’s 7:43 p.m., about an hour since I got back to my apartment from the office. I’m sprawled out on the couch with a freshly-microwaved dinner tray and a glass of cabernet on the coffee table in front of me as I lazily scroll through potential Netflix picks for the evening. This has become the post-work ritual: Make a quick dinner, have a drink (or three), and eventually pass out as the How It’s Made narrator’s informative monotone lulls me to sleep.
My phone buzzes on the table. It’s a text from my college best friend and general partner in crime since freshman year, Evan. It reads, “Whatcha doin tonight buddy?” I assume there are some shenanigans to get into tonight, but, like, I’m tired. I begrudgingly jab my thumbs at the screen with a reply:
“Not much, just made dinner and kickin’ it. You?” I already know what the reply will be. “Well a few people just got back in town and we’re about to pregame at Tyler’s place before hitting up a couple bars around 10ish.” Of course.
Before I go further with this story, some context is required: This all took place on a Wednesday. A fucking Wednesday. Now, if I had received a text like this about six months ago, I would’ve been up, dressed, and out the door with a flask full of cheap whiskey in my back pocket before you could’ve said “casual alcoholism.” However, I just had to be an overachiever and graduate college a year early to start working in the real world at 22 — which, I admit, has started to kick ass. I mean, I never have to worry about finals again, I get to do big, important adult stuff all the time, company happy hours are a thing now, and I get paid twice a month, so shit’s pretty great.
Humblebrags aside, the rest of my friends are still gallivanting their way through the last half of senior year, frenetically relishing what little time they have in the college bubble before they’re cast out like newly-hatched sea turtles into the churning tides of what is commonly known as the Real World. But I digress.
I get a “?” follow-up text from my friend. Apparently he wants an answer now.
I’m confronted with the choice of the evening: have fun tonight and regret it at work tomorrow, or start being known as The Lame Friend?
For the record, I ended up meeting them out. I only had one whiskey ginger at the pregame, then managed to choke down two beers at the first bar before bowing out early and passing out a little after 11:00. I can have it all, right? Not so much, since I was a groggy, irritable version of myself the next day in the office until lunchtime. I was in that bleary-eyed, hazy funk that not even an excess of black coffee could fix, and I thought the following to myself at my desk:
Christ, I only had four drinks, is this what getting older is like?
This incident was far from isolated. I’ve had more nights than I care to admit where I struggled with going out or staying in, and ultimately had to power through a hangover the next day at work. And, with the actual work hangover, there comes a moral hangover of sorts where you internalize that you’re getting to the point where you probably can’t/shouldn’t drink Four Loko until 3 a.m. on weeknights anymore. Granted, there were some nights back then where I stayed in and I (typically) don’t go out on weeknights anymore as a rule, but that’s not the point.
Now that the school year is wrapping up for everyone else, I’m beginning to see how my early start in the real world puts me at a slight advantage against the rest of my peers, and I know this because it’s apparently “Unnecessary Reminiscing Facebook Status” season for all you soon-to-be grads. I don’t know how you guys find the time to type out literal novels of nostalgia out when you’re supposed to be cracked out on Adderall and Red Bulls learning a whole semester’s worth of test questions in 12 hours (to be fair, I’ve been writing this on my lunch break and it’s been taking longer than I thought).
If I see another fucking post that starts out with the phrase “And just like that,” usually with a photo collage and a few hashtags for good measure thrown in at the end, I’m going to punch a hole through my goddamn monitor. But with every new status I hate-read, the more I realize that this is just the beginning for them. They’re going to be those annoying, self-promoting #yopros who blather on about their entry-level positions to everyone in earshot, take up random hobbies like cooking, Snapchat every single happy hour, and yell “hump DAYYY” one too many times at their desk each Wednesday, and I know this because I used to be one of them. And let’s face it, I still basically am, I’ll admit it. But the one thing I have that they don’t is almost a whole year’s experience in the real world dealing with office life, deadlines, morning routines, asshole clients, office politics, and how to use a creative email signature without coming off like a jackass.
I can (somewhat) confidently call myself an adult now, I’ve started to hit my employed, postgrad stride, and I can only hope these future employees of America with whom I used to pound brewskis until the sun came up reach theirs too someday soon..