At a 'Community' Birthday Party, 3 Lessons in Growing Up

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College is the place where you figure out where you want to be—and where you find out that adulthood just means you trade one set of questions for another. This week, the Community crew had that collective revelation when they took Troy out for his first legal drink on his not-quite-because-he's-a-Jehovah's-Witness birthday. At the dive bar where they landed, Annie found out that she's not quite as excited about the idea of achievement as she once thought; Abed learned the hard way that people usually want more than a vigorous discussion of Farscape; and Troy learned that there's nothing wrong with ordering a Seven and Seven, and nothing wrong with leaving it on the bar. The lessons of the week:

1. There's nothing wrong with a little spontaneity. "I don't improvise my life like Caroline Decker," Annie declared when Britta presented her with a fake ID, "Who probably has really bad credit, and a half-finished mermaid tattoo." But by the end of the night, Annie was fully inhabiting her new identity, and craving the Phish-following, parole-officer punching lifestyle she'd designed as her cover.

2. The weird mix of people and things you learn in college help you find an identity that's different from the one your parents gave you, whether that means learning that not everybody turns ten twice and you're actually 21, or figuring out that plastic menus aren't actually the acme of sophistication. Troy's been vulnerable to Jeff and Britta's suggestions throughout his first year and a half of college, but as he learns, driving Jeff's car full of his drunken classmates home at the end of the night, "You're just as dumb as me." The members of the study group are all at Greendale because they have missing pieces, whether they're lacking a bachelor's degree or the self-confidence to order a Seven and Seven even when your friends say it's uncool.

3. Everyone deserves a chance to really turn around their lives. "I had some bad years. With a chaser," Shirley explains, tense and ashamed, when she confronts the fact that her friends have learned of her past as a drunk. Her past may be darker than that of her classmates. But she's not alone in trying to forge a new identity—just in trying to find one that doesn't include a stint as a cautionary poster.

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Alyssa Rosenberg is a culture writer with The Washington Post.

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