As of today, I am eighteen.
I’ve changed considerably during this time period – for the better, I hope, though it’s hard to tell when looking at one’s self. I’ve measured the change in my looks through the Zoo picture-booths, odd as it may sound – take a look.
You can see my loss of braces, and my gaining of contacts – which I wear half the time, allergies permit.
It’s weird, watching yourself grow up. Remember those days when you were smaller, and you looked in the mirror and thought “What will I look like in a year? In ten years? Will I like how I look? Will I be ugly?” I had one of those ‘lightbulb’ moments about a year and a half ago, when my mother and I were shopping at the Avenues.
We had stopped by the bathroom and I was re-applying my lip gloss, fixing my hair – girl stuff, you know, and I looked to the left. There was a little girl, probably about five or six, and she was staring at me with an expression of profound awe on her adorable little-girl face. I knew what that look was, but I was used to feeling it myself rather than being the subject of it. It’s the “Will I ever be as cool as the older girl?” expression – and I realized that I’m being watched. All the time. Everywhere I go. We all are; and I wondered what kind of image was I portraying, the older I got? Am I being a good example to all these little girls who look on me as ‘the cool older girl’ I always looked up to?
Gail Carson Levine once wrote something that has stuck with me through the years. She said “There is a bridge spanning childhood and adulthood; we can never go back.” I thought this sounded awfully grim, and was determined that it would never happen to me. Sure, my looks would change and so would my mentality; but the instant I read that sentence I began to store some childhood magic in my pocket so I could take it out and look at it, no matter how old I got.
I think I’ve done it. Sure, I’ll never be able to fully hold the wonder, blind faith, innocence, and magic of when I was tiny again. Some parts of childhood you let go of just by living and knowing. And then there are some things you never give up.
Things that were never meant to be given up.
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11
I did a lot of things when I was little that I don’t do anymore. I don’t end every sentence with “And Tigger, too! Oo-hoo-hoo-hoo!” I don’t squeal “Stop-a kickin’ ME!” every time somebody bumps me under the table. I don’t gallop around the house on all fours, getting rug burns for the sake of pretending I was a wild horse. I don’t need to hear Dr. Suess’s Sleep Book to go to sleep every night.
Never, when I was small and getting up early to toddle downstairs with a fistful of crayons and an enormous stack of paper, did I see myself where I am now, commissioning art, character designing, illustrating.
Never did I think I would become a geek who could name the Star Wars systems, who gave Vulcan live long and prosper signs to random people, who remembers the names of various Korean singers and calls dad ‘Oppa,’ who knew the ins and outs of fairy tales. Never did I think, when creating highly imaginative stories about super heroes, horse-taming girls, and my blond, cobra-killing heroine Amanda that I would one day be totally devoted to writing.
I’ve done a lot of growing up, but I still have a lot to learn. This past year has been a year of learning for me. I’ve learned so many spiritual things – God has been showing me I need to root my main monster of Self Centeredness (I need continual nudging). I’ve learned so much about the writing craft that some days it feels I could float it on an ocean and not sink (very handy for the times my book gets shipwrecked).
I’ve learned to be a little lighter, I’ve learned I love to make other people laugh, I’ve learned that I can’t actually fly, which is why I lean out the car window and pretend I can. Or I write about it.
I’ve learned that it isn’t scary to walk up and say ‘hi’ to random strangers.
I’ve helped some friends through tough times, and it’s made me stronger. I’ve grown closer to my family, and my little sister especially (we have too many private jokes to count, I’m sure, as evidenced by the odd notes on the eraser board between our rooms).
I’ve cried a little and laughed a lot.
It has been a splendiferous year, in spite of its tough times. I feel as if I’ve grown a lot as a person; as if more and more I’m becoming ‘who I am’ without wandering about the forest of life trying to find my way. I don’t know what this next year will hold, but I’m excited about it. I feel caught somewhere between London and Neverland; and I hope I get to stay there, though I might feel the pains of ‘growing up.’ I’ve never been in the habit of writing to myself, though I’ve done it once or twice before. However, as this is a fairly large birthday – the marker of my first step into something like adulthood – I think it best I should give myself a few reminders.
This year, you are going to remember –
Life, while it isn’t about you, is yours to make beautiful.
Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers, do crazy things, and live outside the box.
Remember to keep your priorities straight, since you obviously can’t do the same for your head.
Don’t let anything crowd God’s space in your heart.
If you want something, you’ve got to work for it.
Try new things.
Don’t be afraid to be yourself; as long as you’re pleasing God, it doesn’t matter what others think.
Make 17 proud, and make 18 a year to remember.