“I want to be sixteen.”
I can see myself at 12, 13, 14, squeezing my eyes and waiting to turn into a princess overnight. A girl the world might love a little bit more.
Other kids threw pennies into fountains. I thought there was something magical in birthdays. I thought I would wake up at 16 and my whole life would be better overnight.
No more awkward preteen with chalk-covered legs and untamed curly hair. I thought I’d wake up in a few years and be beautiful.
I guess I didn’t learn my lesson, because at 16 I wished to turn 18.
“Yes,” I thought. “I’ll have it all together by 18.”
18 came and went. I wasn’t best dressed and my hair never stayed straight in the summer heat. My skin revolted against my decision to bake in the sun until I was a shade of deep brown and I conquered a mess of acne from all that torture.
I still didn’t have it together.
It took me 21 years to figure out that some things change but some things stay the same.
Like the feel of an old trampoline under my feet on a humid summer night in my best friend’s backyard. Or the roads leading to the house in the middle of nowhere. Or the ache in my ankle when it twists the wrong way.
21 years to decipher that small fact: you are who you are and all that is imperfect and all that you remember and all that you love will not disappear in the seconds it takes to cross another birthday finish line.
I don’t know if any of us ever change or if we all just evolve into a more real version of our true self, the one we’ve been haggling with since we were 12. The one who wanted to be 16.
I can see myself now at 30, lying on my back, head-to-head with my best friends on that trampoline. Waiting for the stars in the sky to turn into a sign from above that we have made it. We have become the best version of ourselves.
I know it probably won’t happen, that life doesn’t work like that. I know we’ll split across two cities in two states separated by a three-hour time difference and I pray for the only thing I can: that the time zones won’t kill us.
And maybe that we’ll sleep as little as we do now and love as hard as we always have and that being knocked down one too many times will only make standing up easier.
I wonder if the world will try to win us over with structure and stability. If at 35, I’ll be praying to wake up at 16 again. That little girl with the wavy mess of hair and the skinny legs and the dry hands from all that chalk.
If you could go back to one birthday—just one—which would you choose?