22/21

Photo by Tracy Fuentes

By Ahri Vi

I never could get into RENT. It’s not bad, and it definitely was groundbreaking for its time. It just wasn’t a musical that I wanted to hear during the time I started getting more into musical theater. No, teenage me was obsessed with Wicked, The Phantom of the Opera, In the Heights, and Hamilton. Later on, I found out that Lin-Manuel Miranda was inspired by Jonathan Larson, the creator of RENT, and oftentimes would gush over it the way I gushed over Miranda’s works. Honestly, I didn’t get the hype.

That was until tick, tick…BOOM! came out on Netflix.

It’s a biopic of Larson’s early years as a composer as he created his first show tick, tick…BOOM! That’s honestly all I know about it as I haven’t actually had the time to sit down and watch it. The last half of 2021 was spent obsessively making sure I graduated in December, so I missed a lot of pop culture moments that were made during that time. However, as I spend way too much time on TikTok, I couldn’t escape Andrew Garfield’s rendition of the existential masterpiece of “30/90.” He belts out the feelings of incompetence and dread over turning 30 and is joined by Joshua Henry and Vanessa Hudgens later on in the song. I never understood the collective existential crises people have about turning 30, as I’m still in my early 20’s and have never truly been scared of getting older. However, I definitely relate to the feeling of dread as the years go on and still feeling like a failure.

I never actually stopped and processed the fact that I was actually graduating college this year. Instead, I put my body on autopilot and hoped for the best. In a blink of an eye, I was walking across a stage to shake the hand of a lady I’ve never met before as she said, “Congratulations! You did it!” Then I was running across a parking lot, avoiding the two cars that almost hit me as I chased my cap after the wind knocked it over. I remember hugging my family once we found each other through the red sea of graduates and their own families. We were all shivering, trying desperately to take pictures, but soon gave up as the wind decided to hit us right when my dad pressed his thumb on the button, all of our hair covering our faces. Then, I found myself eating In-N-Out next to my grandma back home. Throughout all of that, I was hit with one question; what’s next for you?

What’s next? I didn’t think that far ahead! Honestly, I had assumed I would never graduate due to this damn pandemic that people are seemingly forgetting is occurring. It’s not like I could get a job easily; for one, I’ve long since needed to learn how to drive, and I didn’t really have working experience. My grandparents had drilled into me that as long as I went to school, I didn’t need to get a job. I reminded them that it would only ensure me a longer job-hunting process post-graduation. They assured me that I was stressing too much and that we would deal with that once we got there. Well, we’re here, and I’m still stressing a lot!

To make matters worse, now I’m considering going into grad school! I had been adamant that I never planned on going to get a Master’s! I was ready to go to war with my very strict, Mexican grandfather about this, despite him offering to pay for it all. “Papi, that’s exactly why I don’t want to go!” It wasn’t until I was stuck home during my two semesters at Zoom University that I started entertaining the idea. I was more than smart enough, and apparently, Master’s theses were more or less either praising or dragging an author/genre/movement. It wasn’t until my Shakespeare professor told me that I would do well in grad school that I actually admitted that I really really wanted that. And it was the first time I believed it when someone said that I could do it.

But could I actually do it? Or would I be too stressed out and drop out?

This leads me back to “30/90.” I’m so glad Spotify Wrapped stopped collecting data in October and wouldn’t start again until January because that song would have been on the top of my list in a considerably short amount of time. It honestly shocked me how much of an anchor this song became during the last month of this semester. The lyricism is raw and oftentimes hit hard for me, with lyrics such as: “Years are getting shorter / The lines on your face are getting longer”; “Can’t you be optimistic? / You’re no longer the ingenue”; “I just wish it all were a dream / It feels much more like doomsday”; and the one that struck a particular nerve, “Why can’t I stay a child forever?” The lyrics paired with Andrew Garfield’s surprisingly smooth singing reflected the looming dread I had about the fading remnants of my childhood. I wasn’t sure if it was the lack of obligations or the innocence and wonder that I missed the most, but my college graduation was the final nail in the coffin. I was no longer a child, but I don’t feel like an adult. I’m in this weird limbo and I’m not exactly sure where to go in order to escape it.

Ultimately, one single song did not cause my worries to disappear. I’m still reeling from my graduation over a week later, and I’m still not sure what my next move is. However, if I’ve learned anything within the last four years, things work out in the end, even if they take longer than you wished they would. There is no time limit, mistakes will inevitably be made, and there will be many more moments where I feel like I have no control of my life. However, if I could manage to graduate during a pandemic, I can handle anything. And hey, now that I have more time on my hand, maybe I’ll finally give Larson a second chance.

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