The guy behind the speaker laughed when I ordered my lunch. “Very funny,” he said. “Now tell me what you really want.” After I told him again that I wanted the kids meal, there was a tense pause. He declared that because of my age, I couldn’t have the toy. I agreed to this condition, but felt a startling sense of discrimination inside. Whether or not I got the cheap plastic toy did not matter to me – it would end up buried in the car anyways, but why couldn’t I order a kids meal without being laughed at?
So I’m not a kid anymore, but I do not see anything wrong with ordering a little less food for a lot less money. It’s the perfect amount of mass produced circus-animal meat! How could the crackly voice behind the box determine that the meal was not for someone else in the car, or someone waiting at home? It was not, but I don’t think that is the point. The point is that I am quickly approaching this grey area of adulthood, where for once and for all I must stop ordering kid’s meals, and I don’t like it.
There will be a massive gap between the approximate ages of 25 and 60, when our loan debt will consume our lives, and we cannot even get a soup and salad special for under five dollars. As I get closer to that fine line, I find myself second-guessing my desire to cross it.
My friends and I had a wistful realization over margaritas last week that the privilege and procrastination of being a student will soon end. Loans have to be paid back, insurance payments will be due, rent will eat a massive chunk of our meager salaries and 40+ hour weeks will leave little time for laziness.
I complain about working 20 hours a week now; in about a year, I will probably be working 50, with no time for spontaneous road trips or random nights of intoxication. In the past few weeks it has dawned on me that as I keep expecting the craziness of my life to slow down, it goes faster. I find myself asking at the end of the month where the days have gone.
I miss childhood summer vacations, when after two months I grew so bored I wished school would start early. I miss lunch boxes and riding my bike all day, catching crawdads and stealing my older sister’s makeup. I miss not being tied to a million small obligations, the type of small favors that tumble regretfully out of my mouth.
I remember being 12 and wishing I would grow old faster, so I could talk to boys and hang out at the mall. When I see young girls now, primped and oozing awkwardness, I want to tell them to slow down. As I come home from working all day and have to go straight to my night class, I regretfully think about the days of little responsibility. I wish time was more like a cell phone plan, with the option to buy extra minutes if you run out early.
Unfortunately, you can’t buy time, so we are left juggling a tricky balance of responsibility and fun, hoping to have a few extra minutes at the end of each day to sit and appreciate the small moments that made it meaningful.
If you’re as young as you feel, then sometimes I feel like I’m 40. But on the rare occasion when the mood is right, I feel like I’m 10 years old and immortal. So if I want a kids meal, I should be able to get one without the guy behind the speaker cracking jokes. I’m not a kid anymore- but that doesn’t mean I can’t wish I was.
They don’t call it a “happy” meal for nothing!