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.
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