On Growing Up

A personal essay I wrote on being twenty-one.

You know how the older you get, or at least when you fall into your 20’s, the more you are supposed to be “blooming” or I don’t know, feeling more “womanly” or just in general having more “appeal”? I think that I am perhaps in reverse because all I want to do is wear pants and big sweatshirts and hide my peculiar mouth now full of metal, and sit in well air-conditioned libraries and coffee shops, not really talking to anyone while also eating all the carbs which has, not to my surprise, gone straight to my already bodacious booty. And like, life wears you out sometimes and I think I’m there. I’m there in that phase where this year is wearing down on my skin and my bones and the way I feel about myself. I don’t want to blame it on the fact that I lost the person I loved with not 2/3 or ¾ but all of my heart at the very hour of this new year. But in a way, yeah, it has a lot to do with that. Sometimes when I think of him, I forget how to stand. I forget how to breathe. And I fall asleep with his name still stitched on my palms and on the smooth of my spine and everywhere else he kissed me like we were made of forever. I’m still waiting for him to call. 8 months later and I still want him to call. 

I don’t feel myself blooming at all, both inside and out. I used to have a lot of confidence in myself back in high school. I used to embrace my youth with open arms and remember that one half of me is the strength of my mother and I could do all things if I prayed hard enough. That’s another thing I’ve lost: my faith, unfortunately. Back in high school, you hung out with people that shared the same values as you. And then those people sort of move away after graduation and you’re stuck in another place starting all over. You grow up and you try to keep an open mind. So you take a sip of beer, or you chug down a shot of Absolut that burns your throat on the way down. You let people touch you. You slip your tongue in the mouth of a boy who’s middle name you don’t even know, or a boy who won’t even hold your hand first. And you walk into a room clouded with gray smoke and someone tries to offer you a hit; you pass and walk away, but for the first time there was a small delay in your ‘no’ and for the first time, you felt a hesitancy in something you were always so against because maybe that’s something you wanted to be now, too, even though deep down that’s not who you are. 

And that, I think, is what I’m trying to figure out. How do you really preserve the parts of yourself that made you happy as a child, the parts that weren’t tainted by heartbreak or broken friendships or the pressures of making a future out of your talents? How do you grow up and still love yourself when you miss people that won’t love you anymore, when you walk into a world that put body image on a pedestal and said, “This. This is beautiful. This is what you want to be.” Yesterday, I was at a deli and an employee approached this little girl, no older than 5 or 6 years old, and asked if she wanted any of their free ice cream on a cone. And the girl responded, with the sweetest voice, “No, I don’t want to be chubby.”  

Some days the world makes me really sad. Some days, people just exhaust me with the way they talk, the way they try and try and try instead of just being themselves. I’m exhausted with myself, from keeping so much in me and hiding who I am because I’m afraid to be something that not many people would find agreeable. I’m so tired trying to adjust depending on who I’m with. Sometimes I sit there quietly because I’m tired of trying and just want to be. Maybe that’s why I fall off the Earth every now and then, don’t respond to messages or phone calls for a week, maybe two, let my phone die and don’t recharge it because I realized that I should be the most important person in my life, not the guy that promised he would stay, or a group of friends that don’t really love me for who I am. Sometimes I want to be alone, turn off everything, take care of myself, and be away from all of the noise so I can listen to my own heartbeat again, remember that I’m still alive, remember that I can pray to God if I want, that I can love God if I want, and I can believe in anything I want. The older I get, the more my solitude has become a gift that I open when I’m lost and forget what I’m made of. People can change you for the better or for worst, and you have to figure out which one that is before you look in the mirror and don’t recognize what you see. I’m tired of being sad, now. I’m tired of caring too much and too little and finding what’s supposed to be enough. I just want to feel rays of light beaming through my chest again and love myself more than any guy, or any person, could ever possibly love me. 

“On Growing Up,” 2013.