Sunday, July 24, 2011

Getting Bad News in the Hospital

I spent most of yesterday afternoon at an event held in a building I’m quite familiar with. When I used to do research for a former professor in there, I took 30-minute lunch breaks across the street in the Harlem Hospital cafeteria. As a teenage candy striper, the highlight of each already-rewarding shift was the complimentary meal I shared with the other pink ladies in our hospital’s state-of-the-art cafeteria. Harlem Hospital’s eatery is more of a sleepy diner than a cafeteria, the waiter isn’t one of my favorite people, and I doubt I would have liked candy striping there. But its short-order cook makes the best spinach pie I’ve had in Manhattan, and whenever I’m back on this block I have to go in for another taste fest.

That’s where I was and what I was doing when I heard that Amy Winehouse was found dead at 27. “Who was she?” the waiter asked after another customer gasped at the announcement that came over whatever radio station blared from above. “A singer,” the gasper said. “She was a white girl from England, but when she sang she sounded black.”

A few weeks before I turned 27, someone felt the need to tell me that that’s the age when rock stars kill themselves. It used to seem like such an arbitrary breakdown age, but now that I’ve made it to the other side of 27, I can see why 27-year-olds who peaked early and have a stubborn set of “pre-existing conditions” might super-snap. It’s a turning-point year when a lot of young people more intensely feel the pressure to start making some game-changing decisions and become a real adult. And not everyone is equipped enough to put up with the pressure’s punches.

The quarter-life crisis still doesn’t get the attention and respect it deserves.


  1. This was a painful posting to read, as I have a 26-year-old daughter. I was unaware that 27 is a "snapping" year, but now I feel informed. It makes sense, as the pressure does mount as people move toward the 30-year-old marker. The quarter-life crisis--something to look out for and be careful of.

  2. I am glad you have started a conversation much needed. Younger people in general are putting too much pressure on themselves. Have to have the "job, car, apartment,clothes, etc." Outdoing each other. Living a life of meaningless search for perfection. Wake up and question yourself what really makes you content. You might be surprised. The things that bring contentment and happiness are invisible to the eye. From the Little Prince. After 62+ years I should know a little. Good write-up.

  3. I'm with you; The quarter-life crisis thing totally doesn't get the attention it needs. With this "cutoff" year at 27, I think you and I can look back with some level of accomplishment(and relief!). We made it through 27...and came out stronger and wiser on the other side. We're more enlightened, that's for sure. I remember a great quote that I learned last year at the ripe old age of thirty-one: "Don't waste your time on anything (or anyone for that matter!) that isn't fulfilling, joyful, or useful." If only I had that piece of advice to guide me in my late twenties! ;o) So unlike Jimi, Janice, Jim, and now Amy, you and I have our thirties directly in front of us now. I'm convinced it's the best decade ever. Bring it on, because we are definitely more equipped than we were a few years ago.

  4. It was unsettling for me to hear the announcement that Winehouse was dead followed by a list of others who had passed away in their 27th year. I never put much stock in a particular age but this really hit home as I am 27 myself. Now I wonder if I'll make it to October to escape this tumultuous year. I am no rock star, nor do I have drug or alcohol addictions but still, it is a crazy year, one where I've found myself panicked at times that I was behind in life and time is short to catch up. It sounds ridiculous when said out loud but there is power in 27 that says the fun faze is coming to an end and adulthood is inescapable.