Age 21

The so-called “freshman fifteen” struck me when I transferred to the big university as a junior. By the time I graduated in 2002, I was like 153 pounds on a frame that’s only five-two in sneakers. Even though I had somewhat healthier habits as a senior, I still gained more weight that second year. At least I was a bit more physically active and no longer eating 6-8 scoops of ice-cream a day.

I’ve had problems with weight for years, and have gained, lost, gained, and lost about 20 pounds a couple of times. But this time was the worst. While I was thank God never anywhere close to obese, I was more than just a bit overweight. While I’m big-boned and able to disguise extra weight a bit better, since it centers in less-than-obvious places, I could no longer hide my ballooning weight at that time. Even my face, neck, and arms were getting puffy by the end.

The dining hall I used, the one closest to Central, reorganized early in my junior year. Previously they’d had four corners with different ice-cream stations, but now they put all the ice-creams together in one spot. It was like all that ice-cream of so many delicious flavors was calling to me. And I had other desserts as well, and not-so-healthy main courses. I had 3-4 scoops, with tons of toppings, in a big cup after both lunch and dinner, and would haul myself up one of those three gigantic-ass hills with the ice-cream.

I began staying weekends more often towards the end of junior year (since it made it easier with Pesach), and barely left my room when I was there for weekends. I’d go to the dining hall for meals, maybe walk into town to the record stores, and go back to my room to write on my dear ’93 Mac, use aohell, listen to music, watch VH1, and eat. Little wonder I became such a fat-ass.

Since I never learnt how to drive at the normal age, I didn’t have an ID to use for bars when I turned 21. Not that it really mattered, since I never wanted to go to bars and clubs anyway. But it did suck when I got much more involved in Hillel the next year, and was unable to join in a few parties and events requiring ID. When I finally got a State ID near the end of my senior year, it somehow put down my year of birth as 1978 and made me a year older, though I was legal anyway by that point.

At the tail-end of my 21st year, we lost George Harrison. I still remember that day in detail almost 11 years later. All four former Beatles were still living when I was born, and for as long as I could remember, there’d been three of them. Now there were only two, and my favorite living Beatle was gone. But as sad as it was, it wasn’t a shock, because everyone knew George had been dying.

Bright light: I finally finished my Russian novel on 26 August 2001, a bit over 8.5 years after starting. A decade later, I spent almost a year editing, revising, rewriting, and polishing it, and I’ve still got a little bit more to do. It’s hard to believe I crafted something so sweeping and complex between ages 13-21, the type of epic novel most people don’t write till they’re well into adulthood.

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