Coming of Age: On Turning Eighteen

“Just as a flower does not choose its color, we are not responsible for who we come to be. Only once you realize this do you become free. And to become adult is to become free.” – Stoker (2013)

About a week ago I turned eighteen. I woke up ambushed by my mother and a singing balloon, and then I had to rush off to school. Before I did, my mother, as she does every year, made me pray to God and prostrate in front of my father, in return for which I received his blessings, as well as $20 and a banana. It was all done very hurriedly, and the fact that I don’t really believe in God anyway made me feel slightly guilty (although you don’t exactly have to believe in God to be a Hindu), but my mother had tears in her eyes, and as I went to school, everything felt sort of sad and bittersweet. I definitely didn’t feel anymore adultish, but there was the dread of an upcoming biology test hanging over me. At school most people seemed to have forgotten it was my birthday, which was depressing, but at the same time I couldn’t bring myself to care because I was too busy worrying about the bio test. When I got back home I had a mini existential crisis and cried a bit – maybe the four hours of sleep I’d gotten had something to do with it – and thought, “well, this is the worst birthday ever.” Of course the worst birthday ever was probably the moment you were first born – what a shock that must have been! All that blood and crying and screaming and everyone fussing over you. And I hate hospitals.

But during this mini existential crisis, I had the feeling again that my life was slipping away out of my hands like water and I was powerless to hold the moment still while I figured things out. There’s no pause button for life. It seems like only yesterday I was writing in my diary, “I’m turning eight tomorrow, but I wish I was still seven because seven is my favorite number.” The day before my birthday my parents had been badgering me again about going to medical school, becoming a doctor, etc, etc, and I had the same thought that I would never be free of them (which was what reminded me of the quote above), that I would always, always be stuck in what Sartre calls in Being and Nothingness “mauvaise foi” – bad faith, a sort of self-deception where you adopt false values and tell yourself you’re less free than you really are, forcing yourself into a life you don’t want to live. I did a hypnosis thing the other day and had a vision that I was at a great threshold and on the other side was a path lined with trees and flowers leading up to a little house on a hill filled with sunlight and books. I don’t know what I want to do in life, but there’s such great pressure to have it all figured out before going to college. I mean, I know I want to write, but I don’t think I’m good enough at it to make money from it or be remembered after I die. Of course, with discipline and practice, writing, like all art, can be learned and improved, but I won’t ever be as good as I want to be, and that terrifies me. When they tell me “you have to be a doctor” or “stop being so impractical,” sometimes I think I should just grit my teeth and resign myself to that fate. After all, anyone can grow to like anything with enough time & an open mind. And I have always wanted to help people. Doctors are for the most part financially secure and independent in their careers, and doesn’t everyone want that? And how many people living all over the world are living lives of necessity, doing the things they do out of sheer need to survive. In contrast, to live a life one wants to live seems like a selfish luxury, especially if this life involves doing something that is of no apparent contribution to society. When I had that vision of the threshold I thought of the fig tree in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, all the rotting figs dropping to my feet because of my horrible indecision, and yet, all I want is a little truth and purpose.

Increasingly I have had the impression that adult life is flat, stale, dull, that one day all the color will leech out of my life so gradually I won’t even notice it happening and I will fade into a grey, senseless middle age – the 9 to 5, constantly worried over trivialities, cynical and jaded, stuck in a loveless marriage with horrible, bratty children who are horrible and bratty because I’m too miserable to love them properly – until eventually I will fall headlong into the grave on my stupid face. Of course, this is all very bleak and overdramatic, and being middle-aged is probably not as bad as I imagine it to be. Besides, if this is my “ennui” stage, it means I’ve escaped the period of ignorant bliss and am now on my way to meaningful bliss.

Looking back over my younger years, I think I had this idea in my head of what high school was supposed to be like from all those books/movies/TV shows that I feel almost cheated out of the American Teen Dream™ – I’ve never been drunk or to one of those parties or fallen in love or even had a first kiss – but now I see it was partially my fault for buying into all of that. I think I will always be more idealistic than I should be, and that’s okay.

At the end of the day, I am glad to have parents who love and care for me as much as mine do. I have been privileged in many ways. In others, I have sometimes been unfortunate, but that’s life. Over these past eighteen years I’ve learned a lot and changed a lot, and I have so much growing left to do. I don’t know if anyone really does settle fully into their own skin. Although I’m sad to be leaving behind Neverland and Narnia, I’m excited for what’s to come – after all, the horizon is bright, the future lies ahead, and the threshold is mine to cross.

“Anne’s horizons had closed in since the night she had sat there after coming home from Queen’s; but if the path set before her feet was to be narrow she knew that flowers of quiet happiness would bloom along it. The joy of sincere work and worthy aspiration and congenial friendship were to be hers; nothing could rob her of her birthright of fancy or her ideal world of dreams. And there was always the bend in the road!

‘God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world,’ whispered Anne softly.” – L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

spread your love like a fever

diary excerpts pt. i
from oct ’14 – may ’15 diary
& a collage-y sort of thing made on photoshop

Dec 29, ’14 – “I wish I could step out of my body, out of my own self and climb right into another life. Everyone else around me seems to be speeding past, whizzing at 100 mph, like I’m stuck on the side of the road desperately waving for a ride but nobody pays any attention to me, everyone absorbed in the marvels of their own wit and the pleasures & opportunities life has so graciously gifted them and here I am, looking like a desolate fool, a sad clown with a red rubber nose, and somewhere, God is laughing. I can’t get past this feeling – it’s the only thing that’s been following me through my entire life. And maybe there’s this inkling in the back of my mind that if I did get past this – this roadblock – I’d be unstoppable.”

Jan 18, 2015 – “It’s so lovely in life to see how things fit together like hand in glove, precise and delicate and beautiful, enclosing perfectly within one another, fish hooks into open eyes. The more important things in language are the things unsaid, existing between the lines, in the spaces between the words. The thing I circumvent, can only draw a little red line around. The thing I feel for in the darkness, sensing its presence, its hollow weight. And by going around it, by feeling for it in the dark without turning the lights on, I am allowing it space to be itself. To express for itself what I lack the precision of language to describe. To let it unfurl at its own time, a flowing blossoming into wonderful pure joy and beauty and sweet fragrance.”

Dec 4, 2014 – “Days of the Week: blue monday, grey tuesday, wednesday has been cancelled, chartreuse thursday, vermillion friday, tangerine saturday, yellow mellow sunday.”

May 23, 2015 (on ants) “…oh, it’s horrible, horrible for such creatures to exist on this earth, not to be phased out during the grand process of natural selection – if I were the supreme overlord of the universe, I certainly wouldn’t select them…”

reading these back make me cringe slightly but i wanted to put them here to sort of document my growth in a way. so if you’ve ever wanted to glean some insight into the inner workings of a teenage girl’s mind, there you are. there’s no need to thank me for fulfilling your daily quota of teen angst 😉 i hope you’re having a lovely day! ❤

Wasting My Young Years?

Lately I’ve been thinking about how time seems to move so quickly, and each year seems more fleeting than the one before it. I was thinking about all my childhood expectations of being a teenager, or even my expectations of being sixteen from two or three years ago and it all seems so far away and so far from the reality that’s taking place right now. I guess I just thought everything would be a lot more exciting? I don’t know, maybe I thought being a teenager would be like Dazed and Confused (minus the ’70s aesthetic) or all those slightly ridiculous Harry Potter fanfics I used to read when I was 11/12. And there’s another part of me too, a part that hoped growing up would be more like Anne of Green Gables or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or something like that, filled with beautiful experiences and dazzling observations on life.

Mostly being a teenager seems to involve a lot of headache and stress. Everyone around me suddenly seems to be doing so many productive things and doing so well in them and going to competitions and finding positions of leadership and helping the community and whatever else colleges are looking for, and then there’s me, sitting here in my cloud of constant impending doom and general anxiety about the future. I wish I had the time to do the things I like, to read all the books I’ve been meaning to, to write and write and write, to imagine freely, to observe the world, to think critically about it. And I wish I could appreciate more all the things I’m learning, because I do find it interesting, it’s just that the pressure to learn something quickly for a test without really knowing it thoroughly and remembering it outweighs the joys of learning, if there are any to be found in the current education system. I don’t know how other kids find the time to do everything and be successful and socialize with their friends; it’s like I missed out on the miraculously-pulling-spare-time-out-of-your-ass gene at birth.

Anyway, for you older people out there, what was growing up/being a teenager like for you?