24 Years Condensed Into A Day


12:00 a.m. I awaken, naked and screaming, in a hospital. “This better not be a recurring theme,” I think.

12:01 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. “Yes, there you are father, I see you. Hi! Hello! Wait, where did you go? Oh cruel fate, will I never see my father again? Hey, you’re back again! Thanks heavens, how delightful! Damn it, now you’re gone again. Seriously, wtf. I can only assume that since you are not in my field of sight, you have literally ceased to exist. But now you’ve returned! This is amazing!”

1:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. I develop an insatiable appetite for food and milk, forcing my body to attain a corpulently rotund shape. Realistic projections pencil me in as weighing 675 pounds by age 10.

2:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. “No, I don’t want to go to bed! NOOOO! And I don’t want my bottle, either. No! NO I DON’T WANNA TAKE BATH NOOOOOOOO –“

3:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. I am the proud owner of a red Power Wheels Corvette, my family gets a pool, I successfully find Waldo upwards of a hundred times, and I amass an impressive collection of cool sticks that I’ve found in my backyard. These are truly my Golden Hours, a halcyon benchmark that continues to stand the test of time. Only downside: at the advice of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I convince my father to let me try anchovies on my pizza. This ill-fated experiment results in overdramatic grimacing and general belly-aching.

5:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. I watch Nickelodeon, taking brief respites to learn how to read and write, effectively communicate my thoughts, grow tremendously, develop various skills and passions, and suffer a traumatic experience when my parents let see The Shining. But mostly, I just watch Nickelodeon.

9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. I visit Florida’s Disney World with my family, the Mecca pilgrimage of middle-class American children, allowing me to proceed toward young adulthood without incurring the wrath of Walt Disney, the vengeful God of American youth.

10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Steven Milhauser wins the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel, Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer, and I am pissed ­– are the judges not familiar with the prolific mastery of one R.L. Stein? Shame on them.

11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Very little information has been retained regarding this period, thanks to a combination of repression and a general tendency towards the uneventful. Vague memories of braces, puberty, and a lack of popularity are all that remain. A journal exists from this era, but most researchers fear the potential emotional repercussions of opening this feared document.

1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. Lacking in the way of real friends, I throw myself wholeheartedly into the accepting embrace of the internet. I frequent message boards, ask “A/S/L?” in crowded chat rooms, and become thoroughly enraptured with Napster, a too-good-to-be true file-sharing program. Not to mention internet porn. In fact, let’s not mention it — let’s just omit “the middle school era” (11:00 am – 2:00 pm) like Nixon erasing segments of the Watergate tapes.

2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. I start high school, and promptly smoke marijuana for the first time. Mysteriously, my grades from this period are uncharacteristically low, while the time I devote to sitcom reruns and video games skyrockets to an all-time high. Communication with female peers transitions from the “Occasional and Innocuous” stage to the “Awkward and Exceedingly Rare” stage.

3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Still no sign of girls. Parents become increasingly concerned over my lack of game, which they confuse with possible homosexuality. “It’s okay if he is,” my mother can be overhead explaining behind a closed bedroom door. “Whatever makes him happy… I’d just like to know.”

5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Assorted Highlights:

I create a MySpace profile. “I will certainly never regret this,” I declare excitedly.

My mom makes me join the French club because “you’ll never get into college without any extracurricular activities!” My ability to create credible lies to explain to my friends why I’m always busy on Friday afternoons is stretched perilously thin.

I attend Driver’s Ed., where a perennially confused classmate wonders aloud, “Now which one is the gas and which one is the brake again?” before starting the car and taking us all on a nerve-wracking trip around town.

6:00 p.m. I graduate high school. The difficulty of this achievement is inversely related to the amount of attention and kindness bestowed upon me by my parents and other disproportionately proud relatives.

6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. My freshman year of college. I spend the first month waking up, opening my eyes, doing a double-take, and wondering, “Where the hell am I?” Although excited to be freed from the Darwinian determinism of high school socializing, I am disappointed to discover that starting over in a new location has not resulted in my suddenly becoming a Fonz-like character radiating coolness and sex appeal. Instead, I’m just another quasi-homesick, neophyte drinker who hasn’t figured out how to correctly fold his laundry so that all of his shirts don’t have very noticeable wrinkles.

7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. I’m unwillingly forced to actually choose a major instead of just taking the easiest classes of each department. After extensive trials of Rock-Paper-Scissors and Eenie-Meanie-Minie-Moe, I choose English and journalism. Great timing on my part, as the publishing and newspaper industries are absolutely booming. Oh wait, the year is 2007, not 1947? Never mind then, I’m completely screwed.

8:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. My junior and senior years of colleges, as well as that one extra semester I took because I’m terrified to face reality. Daily responsibilities include: guiding my created franchise (The Murderballs) to the Super Bowl in Madden 2010, thinking of creative ways to justify to my parents why I’ve never had an internship, setting my alarm for 11:00 am (“just in case”), eating pizza for at least one meal each day, doing my own laundry, and writing term papers under self-imposed time constraints.

“Real world, here I come!” I shout while spinning in the university courtyard and tossing my hat in the air. I spend the next ten minutes searching for my hat — because it’s a nice hat, and I am $80,000 in debt.

10:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Upon graduating, I realize that I have no job prospects, no girlfriend, and nowhere to live but with my mother. “Am I having a mid-life crisis?” I wonder. “Is this all an elaborate prank, like in The Truman Show?” Panicking, I flee to the temporary shelter of grad school like a frightened animal cowering under a tree on a stormy night.

11:00 p.m. to 11:59 p.m. I meet a wonderful, special girl, realize that grad school isn’t so bad after all, and, despite everything I whine and complain about, I have to admit that I’m a happy, healthy, lucky person. Maybe life after 25 doesn’t suck after all.

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image – J. Setiawan