More Stuff We Did When We Were 23

In honor of Intern Madeline's 23rd birthday, we reminisce about our 23rd years of life.
Publish date:
June 3, 2011

Rachel McPadden, Relationships Blogger:

1996. I loved turning 23 and being 23. I liked the number 23 & in the pictures of myself I drew as a child, I was always 23 (kookoo). I thought it was the coolest age.

That said, I don't remember much. I was in the first year of my first real "I love you" relationship. He may have been live-in at that point (with roommates). I would go to bars & see bands 4-5 nights a week. I worked a hipster clothing store, got to travel to Vegas & NYC for markets. I was in a satirical experimental music project called Basses Loaded. Four table-top "prepared" basses. My strings were clipped with plastic barrettes and I played it with a thrift store egg beater. My friend Andy and I were wrapping up our zine, Saucy (a sardonic Sassy. Yeah, life is hilarious).

I surrounded myself with musicians, booze & drugs. This truly describes a 10-15 year block of my life, but 23 was in there and it wasn't shameful and sad yet.

Amy Benfer,DIY editor:

Twenty-three should have been a triumphant year for me. At 16, I got pregnant with my daughter, Sydney, and to everyone's surprise, including my own, I decided to keep her. At 18, I went off to Wesleyan (which, as you can imagine is a much, much longer story). At 23, I had finally graduated from college, met a boy, fell in love, and moved from Connecticut to San Francisco.

Instead, I remember it as one of the most difficult years of my life. Up until then, I think I took it for granted that if I did well in school and kept things in order, things would more or less work out. Other people were already shocked at what I had done thus far. (People my age who didn't know me well were always saying, "I could never do that!" usually followed by some story about how they couldn't take care of a cat or a fish, or something, to which I never quite knew how to respond because I would have never thought I could do the things I had done either, up until the moment I did them, and then they never seemed as hard as one would think. Also my daughter and I couldn't really take care of pets either, as evidenced by the time when we lost a friends' hamster, who had been named Jerry Brown, back in 1992, when he still represented some sort of hope to American leftists like us, and after the time his aura smiled and never frowned in that song by Jello Biafra).

By23, a good seven years into the teenage parenthood experiment, one would think the hard part would be over. But that year, things changed. My college writing hardly counted as clips and I could not afford to take an unpaid internship. Like many people my age, I ended up at the temp agency, and from there ended up in call center at a bank where I was paid 10 dollars an hour to be yelled at by angry corporate accountants whose wire transfers had ended up in India, or someplace else they weren't supposed to be.

No one cared what I was good at; no one even really cared that I had gone to college. For the first time I looked like what I had always been: a broke, young, single mother working a thankless job for a company that didn't care much for any of us.

My friends from school, too, were broke -- we were all, after all, in our early twenties -- but mostly still had time for starting novels and poetry series and bands. Although they must have understood the reasons that I really needed to take any full-time job that would pay me, some of them seemed to treat me as if I was no longer who they thought I was, as if I had somehow lost my intelligence by not putting it to use on a regular basis.

I am hardly the first or last person, single mother or otherwise, who has had to work an unrewarding job, for little pay, where one is treated badly. And for me, eventually, things turned around and everything I had done before 23 started to matter again.

I got an internship at magazine that only required me to take off three hours each week from my day job. I took on freelance assignments and wrote at night (I'd go to sleep at nine; set my alarm for three, and write until seven). After two years, I left the bank and went to another, better paid job at the phone company (that at least required copyediting skills). And about eight months after that, at 25, all my freelance assignments paid off and I ended up getting a full-time staff position at a real magazine, one that I loved.

But I do remember twenty-three as an awfully difficult year, the year that I learned that who you have been as a student might not be who you become as an adult, that certain things you have always taken for granted might not work out after all.

Laia Garcia, Fashion editor:

This definitely doesn't beat Liz's 23rd year but here goes.

My 23rd year started out totally awesome. I had been living in New York for almost a year and was hanging out with a real party crowd which of course included a DJ. He was dj-ing this (weekly?monthly?whatever) party at some space in the West Village and so we all gathered there to celebrate my birthday.

The highlight of said party was the "hot body" contest where people got naked for the chance to win 100 bucks or something. By midnight I was WASTED and this girl Lisa kept trying to get me to JOIN the hot body contest. She grabbed my hand and started walking toward the stage and I started to panic. I didn't want to do it (on account of my prude-ness) but for some reason I couldn't just let go of her hand and walk away?

Then I saw my friend Mel and I reached out my hand to her in a very dramatic fashion and yelled "PLEASE SAVE ME I DON'T WANT TO DO THIS!" She held on to me and didn't let me go even when Lisa insisted that I had told her I wanted to do it, which was a total lie!

That was probably the highlight of my year. Well, that was also the first year I lived by myself so I guess that's somewhat memorable. Who am I kidding? Those are both totally lame things which goes to show what a crappy year my 23rd was. I hope Madeline's turns out better.

Check out the first installment here.