May 23, 2015 Leave your thoughts
Hello! In case you haven’t seen my various social media posts (if you have, you’re probably sick of them by now), I just want to let you know that I feel very colorful today, I am now seventeen years old, and I am pretty darn happy to be alive.
…WARNING: CHEESY POST AHEAD.
No, I don’t mean macaroni and cheese or some sort of fondue. I mean reflection-y cheese. So if you are a sentimentality vegan, please continue scrolling for actual food. Thank you, sincerely me. 🙂
May 23rd, 2015. Today is the day I turn seventeen years old, pushing myself one step closer to becoming an adult in just a year’s time. Though my mother insisted, “You’re already an adult in our eyes!” at dinner the other evening, I still feel very much like a child, yet very much like an old lady in many ways. But, then again, I’ve always felt kind of old, if that makes sense, so this feeling isn’t really anything new. I have a profound memory of being five or six years old and socializing with the grown-ups at some party my parents had taken me to when one of the adults said, “You’re like a forty year-old lady!” Welcome to my life.
I guess what I mean to say is that I feel that the age of my soul and my body do not correlate, and the two have not yet met each other somewhere.
Maybe this is the hippy side of me coming out, but I believe that our individual energies–not quite the soul, but something similar–have different ages than our physical bodies, for energy is passed from being to being as collective life continues. Some energy is older than others; some energy has been through more experiences than others; some energy has just recently arrived on this planet and has not yet explored the nuances of our corner of the universe. We do not choose the energy we are given, nor are we controlled by it; rather, the energy finds us, and we live in a symbiotic relationship with it, as we feed off of its prior experiences while we lend it the details and lessons of our personal events.
People have frequently told me that I have an “old soul,” which I can definitely see. I enjoy the small things in life: drinking tea out of my favorite mug, seeing the first dandelions pop out of the ground, feeling the lovely warmth of the sun after spending a day cooped up inside. I don’t really understand the word “party:” my idea of fun is curling up with a book or having a small dinner with a few friends. I think long and hard about things, and constantly: I absorb the movements of others like a sponge, piecing the people around me together so I can best understand where they’re coming from and where they might go.
And, most of all, I enjoy reflecting, synthesizing my experiences and figuring out what exactly they mean to me. This is the reason I love birthdays (other than the fact that they celebrate two of my favorite things–myself and cake): they serve as permanent markers with which we can track our changes as human beings as the vault of our experiences grows. That, my friends, is why I’m here today.
When I was twelve years old–the summer between sixth and seventh grade–I ordered myself a subscription to Seventeen magazine, mostly just to look at the horoscope section because I was really into astrology back then (and still am today). Even though some of the fashions were completely ridiculous and I had no idea why so many forms of eye makeup existed, I always looked forward to reading the magazine every month, holding onto some crazy expectation that THIS was going to be my life when I was sixteen, seventeen years old.
I cancelled my subscription when I was fifteen, partly because pairing plaid with floral print and calling it fashion is absurd, and partly because I knew this was going to be a completely inaccurate representation of my life as a teenager.
When I was a tween, I thought that as a sixteen or seventeen year old, I would have a boyfriend (who was somehow radically different than the exact same dweebs I went to middle school with), be very involved with social gatherings, and spend my days bopping around town in my car listening to cool music. It all seems so silly now. While I do bop around town in my car listening to cool music (at least in my opinion), the only relationship I have been involved with is that between me and my cats, and I mostly spend my weekends socializing with food and homework assignments. Oh well. I’m honestly not that disappointed, nor surprised.
Though I cannot dish up advice about how to score a hot guy in ten days or how to paint your nails perfectly for prom, I’m pretty sure I’m up for sharing, in my old soul fashion, some of the more valuable things I’ve learned in my seventeen years of existence. If you’re interested in seeing what I’ve discovered (or just want to laugh at how badly I fail at being a stereotypical teenager), please, I encourage you to read on. 🙂
- Spend time by yourself…
Don’t get me wrong, I sincerely love people and like spending time around them, but as a bit of an introvert, I greatly value time spent alone. It’s wise not to talk to me on Friday afternoons, because often, I will be so fed up with people in general that I have to take myself to yoga to empty out some of the clutter too much social interaction generates. I think it’s incorrect to assume that people are purely “dumb” or “annoying,” but I do believe that you can be your own greatest companion. Honestly, some of my favorite memories are those I’ve passed in solitude, be it skipping school (don’t worry, I was just missing two free periods) to go flying on the swing set at the playground or taking myself out for a drive and a dopio decaf espresso. When you’re alone, you learn how to be comfortable with yourself, and you also discover pieces of your soul that you’ve never uncovered before, which I think is pretty magical. It can actually be really fun, too: maybe this is just me, but I think I crack myself up more than any other person can.
- …but don’t forget about other people, too!
Now, too much time alone isn’t a good thing for anyone, even the most introverted of introverts. We are humans, we are social creatures: therefore, we must socialize! Though it may seem difficult at times, I strongly believe that everyone can be a friend, and there is a friend out there for everyone. Just as nothing can be as satisfying as telling yourself a joke that you find absolutely hysterical, nothing can be as satisfying as sharing that joke with three of your best friends who all understand why exactly that joke is so comical. Even if it requires more effort on your part, try your darndest to have conversations and do activities with the people you love. You don’t know how long a person will be in your life for, so relish each moment you can share with a friend, a parent, a lover, or even just an acquaintance.
- Recognize that there is good in every single person…
I can’t tell you how many times I have texted or picked up the phone and called a friend to complain about how agitating so-and-so was, or what rude, insensitive comment so-and-so said to me or someone else I know. I may seem polished on the surface, but once you get me talking, I can swear like a sailor, and in a moment of anger I have no problem calling someone a fucking shithead asshole (though rarely to that person’s face). Still, I try to make a habit of recognizing that just as everyone has flaws, everyone has assets that are worthy of mention, even if every quality about a particular person irritates me to the core. You have no idea what’s really going on behind the walls of another person’s skull, so treat others with kindness and take just a second to remember that there is beauty (both physical and beyond) in every being. If we at least try to see the world through the lens of love as opposed to hatred, I think a lot could be done to improve our lives.
- …though don’t let yourself be a carpet.
There are times when someone has really hurt you when you have the absolute, indisputable right to be completely and utterly furious and upset. I believe that forgiveness is a wonderful thing that should be exercised regularly, but I also believe that instantly alleviating someone of the wrongs he or she has done upon you is an insult to your value as a person. Give onto others, but don’t give so much that you have nothing left for yourself to hang onto. There are times when you feel manipulated, used, and abused, and you don’t deserve to have those weighty emotions glossed over, so do yourself a favor and don’t let people walk all over you. You are not a place for people to rid themselves of their dirt: you are a person with valuable feelings and opinions!
- Don’t dwell. That’s for stalkers.
Being angry, annoyed, or agitated (or other adjectives starting with a that have negative connotations) for an extended period of time is just an outright bad idea. Both physically and mentally, you just feel nasty, like you ate a really greasy taco and it’s just sitting around in your belly, unable to be digested. It’s all about striking a balance between forgiving others and taking care of yourself and your emotions, and only you can tell where the midpoint lies. Get furious, get angsty, throw things, ignore people, curse, eat ice cream, but also take a deep breath and calm down, pick up the pieces, listen to apologies (or craft your own), and move on with your life. You are not obligated to forgive anyone, but after a while, you will feel so much better if you do.
- Recognize that relationships are fluid.
As much as we like to say that a particular person will be our best friend forever, or that you will always love one special guy or gal, almost all relationships inevitably crumble or simply fade out. It’s not a bad thing, or something we should even necessarily try to prevent: it’s just a part of life. People change, gradually or all at once, and two pieces that once fit together perfectly may no longer even share a common side or nook. It doesn’t have to be dramatic or made a fuss over; rather, it proves much simpler to address any problems at hand (say, if a fight broke out) or just part with a casual goodbye if the shift cannot quite be explained. It can be painful to lose someone, but sometimes it’s for the best, and what you once loved can always come back to you if it aligns with the paths of both of your futures. In life, we must just…let go…at least sometimes.
- Ugh, give yourself a break already!
I’ve talked extensively about this before, but I will continue to toot my horn until I can finally get the idea planted in my very own head as well as in the minds of everyone else. In our society, we always strive to be “perfect,” a word that has very rigid definitions that makes it pretty much impossible to ever attain. We’re taught from a young age that mistakes always happen, but they should be frowned upon, that they are things that should be pushed aside, shoved in a corner, and hidden to make room for accomplishments you will use as their replacements. Let me be frank: that’s bullshit. Instead of seeing your faults as negatives (and beating yourself up inside about them), understand that you are human and will never defeat that fact: therefore, you will always make mistakes. But messing up isn’t a bad thing at all; rather, it’s an opportunity to learn–one of the greatest gifts we have in this life–and grow in a much deeper, more satisfying way.
- Learning is outright awesome.
I am a nerd, and there is no question about it. When I was younger, I would go through “phases” as my parents would call them, where I would spend a few months at a time infatuated with a particular topic, ranging from bridges to viruses to the presidents of the United States. (I can still name all of the presidents in order, skipping no one and accounting for the fact that Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms.) Discovering new information is like giving yourself a free gift, and who doesn’t like free stuff?! The best thing about learning is that it can be done in pretty much any way you please. If you’re a word person, you can read all of the books you like; if you’re a kinesthetic person, you can take a dance class; if you’re a spiritual person, you can partake in meditation; if you’re a verbal person, you can pick up a plethora of languages simply by doing an internet search. There’s no excuse not to learn, because really, everyone has the capacity to learn and learn more.
- Don’t be a chicken. Be a LION!
Back story: I have had the same French teacher for the past three years, and will have her again for a fourth year independent study. Ever since my freshman year, Mme Berliet passionately chirps, “Vous êtes des lions ou des poulets?!” whenever no one volunteers to present a PowerPoint or answer a question. While we all have different levels of confidence, each one of us has the power to decide whether he or she wants to be a cowardly chicken or a fierce lion, and it only takes a bit of courage to pick one over the other. Obviously don’t do anything stupid–jumping off of buildings (without bungee cords or parachutes) and eating nails are always terrible ideas, and doing them makes you senseless, not brave–but don’t let yourself be afraid of this world. Take the opportunity to see new places, to try new foods, to discover what having a pixie cut is like. Don’t just make ripples; make a splash!
- Travel. Oh my gosh, travel and ENJOY it.
I am a lucky girl, and from a young age, my parents have been big on taking me to different states and countries. At times I’ve loved it; at times I’ve grumbled and wished that I had stayed home and derped around on YouTube all day instead. The older I’ve gotten though, the more and more I realize that seeing the world opens your eyes to a much wider life. By “travel,” I don’t mean picking a popular spot and just hitting up all of the tourist attractions for Instagram opportunities; I mean wandering around an unfamiliar place with an open mind and breathing in the smells, seeing the houses where people live, poking your head into the shops and galleries owned by locals. My favorite memories of travelling are actually quite simple ones: talking to a vendor on a hillside in Èze, driving under a rainbow with my parents in Hawaii, eating beignets on a bench in New Orleans. The place doesn’t even have to be far away: if you don’t have the money for a plane ticket, hop in your car and take a road trip to a different part of your state or even just a nearby town you haven’t visited in the while. Something unknown and waiting to be discovered is always within your reach.
- Don’t forget that home is a pretty sweet place, too.
If I spend more than two or three days exclusively at home, I basically go bat-shit crazy. I’m a doer, and even if I have books to read and Crash Course World History videos to watch, I need to get out of my house and go somewhere else, even if that somewhere else is the grocery store or, gasp, school. Still, as much as being at home sometimes bothers me, my house is perhaps my favorite place in the whole world. Doing mundane things–brushing your teeth, lying in bed before you fall asleep, getting the mail from the mailbox–are all so ingrained in our lives that we forget about how wonderful having a routine at home can be. At the same time, I know that “home” is a difficult place for a lot of people, but in my opinion, a “home” doesn’t have to be where you take a shower or tie your shoelaces in the morning; instead, “home” is wherever you feel most comfortable, most like yourself. “Home” could be the library, a yoga studio, or even a particular chair at your school or university, but wherever “home” is, always remember to come back to it, even if it isn’t the most exciting place on earth.
- You are never, ever “stuck” anywhere…
Human beings and their day-to-day dramas kind of remind me of the game of Twister, which was never really my favorite as a child. (No, I am not getting sexual here. Sexual is not my forte. Grape-eating is my forte.) You have no control over where you land, and often times, you’ll find yourself in a really uncomfortable position that both exhausts you and makes you look quite silly. While you may be “stuck” in a particular spot for a long time, you can control how you feel about your position. Really. Like WHOA. It may be easy to grumble and complain about how sore you are and how much you want to change things around, but it’s much more beneficial to figure out how you can keep yourself calm and relatively pleasant until the moment passes. Humans are pretty strong: if we put our minds to it, I believe we have the power to make ourselves feel at least somewhat comfortable in any situation.
- …but if you feel really mired, don’t be ashamed to call out for help.
We can’t go through this life alone. It’s actually a really bad idea and I would not recommend it at all, even to the strongest soul. While we shouldn’t be helpless–many of the tools we need to solve our problems are right in our own belts–we shouldn’t be ashamed to admit that we sometimes need a hand to hold, a push to get us going, or a shoulder to cry on when we just feel like poop. All people deal with the same crap, so why be shameful of it? Being comforted, counseled, or even just listened to by another person can do more healing than all of the cheap chocolate truffles and Advil one could possibly buy. Feeling weak should not correlate with hiding yourself from the world; rather, vulnerability should coincide with seeking support to make up for the strength that isn’t quite there yet.
- EVERYBODY STOP CRYING!!! (Eventually…)
Disclaimer: I am a complete and utter crybaby. I cried in the third grade when I only met the “goal” level instead of the “exceeds expectation” level on my state-mandated writing assessment. I cried in the sixth grade when my science teacher gave me detention for not getting a test signed. I cried in the ninth grade when I couldn’t answer some dumb question about triangles on an honors geometry quiz. I cry in my car, I cry at my desks, I cry in my room. I cry watching movies, I cry talking to friends, I cry for no reason at all sometimes. And while it’s all fine and normal to get upset or emotional, it’s silly to always get dramatic over everything, or have your tears last an eternity. I will probably always cry, but I’m slowly learning how to not sweat the little stuff and save the waterworks for when it really counts. Take a deep breath and remember that even if it takes more effort than you’d like, life is so much better when your face isn’t half-covered in saline solution and half-covered in snot.
- Drama and gossip are for Pop Tarts. You are not a Pop Tart.
My best friend Natalie and I came up with this concept when one of us was complaining about how the boy she liked was far more interested in a girl we thought was too unstable and dramatic to be considered an ideal candidate for a partner. While that probably had more to do the reality of teenage boyhood than anything else, we devised an ingenious term for someone like “this other chick” who loves to gossip and is overly dramatic: a Pop Tart. Though they are initially sweet and fun, Pop Tarts are deceiving, for they crumble and leave you feeling kinda icky and tired after a short while. The idea here is that though gossip and drama give you little jolts of energy, neither really does you any favors in the long run, and all you’re going to wind up with is a sugar crash. It’s not worth spending your time around Pop Tarts; at the same time, don’t let yourself be a fragile Pop Tart who falls apart the second something even slightly stirring comes about, either. Ignore the petty chatter of life and focus on what will really sustain you.
- Make time for meaningful activities.
By meaningful, I am not suggesting that you become a Buddhist monk and move to Bhutan to find enlightenment, nor am I recommending a particular young adult novel that will change your life. By meaningful, I mean (no pun intended) that you should make time for what matters to you. It’s unique to every person, so don’t let anyone diss the fact that drawing pictures of exotic birds or playing hopscotch are what really fills your heart with joy. Don’t be selfish and take all of your time for yourself, but give yourself ample time to savor what makes you happy. Everyone deserves to lead a life filled with sweetness, and more than anyone else, you have the potential to sprinkle your days with glitter and illuminate them with sunshine. Yes, there are unpleasant things that must be done for the sake of society (because, let’s face it, we’re all kinda forced to comply with it), but I believe that the opportunity is always there to do something you love. So sing your Bulgarian folk songs, munch away on your favorite dill pickles, flaunt your hotness with that crazy purple boa you own: this is your life, and you get to decide what means the most to you.
- Say thank you, silently and aloud.
Manners are my jam, or at least I try my darned hardest to make them a priority. I’m a big fan of holding doors and shaking hands, but most of all, I’m a huge proponent of saying thank you. Yes, it’s small and it can feel insignificant, but expressing gratitude fills both your life and the lives of others with the most delicious positive energy. It’s nice to say “thank you” to someone’s face when he or she prepares you a home-cooked meal or saves your butt on a group assignment, but it’s equally as nice to say “thank you” to the rain for having a perfect pitter-patter, to your favorite pair of slippers for keeping your tootsies toasty, to the universe or God or spirits or whatever you believe in for putting you on this earth and giving you a chance to lead a beautiful life. For this year, and next year, and every year to come, I hope to express more gratitude towards everything, because honestly, I receive such an incredible gift every day I’m alive.
Phew! Did you make it all the way through? If so, I’m proud of you: you just read 4,000+ words, which is perhaps the most I’ve ever written in one (okay, two) sitting(s).
Before I go, I just want to say thank you (huge shocker) to whomever read this post, because I put a lot of time and effort into it and if you took the time to absorb it, you are pretty much one of the coolest people ever.
So…until we meet again. Shine on, my friends, and always remember to be happy, and that Abby loves you, no matter who you are or where you are. 🙂