Lessons From 18

It's my eighteenth birthday and I spend it in a white marble kitchen with an island and everything, drinking warm Truly's with friends from high school. The air is warm and I'm happy. We sit in the backyard and listen to crickets for a while and I uber home alone in the dark with a birthday cake on my lap. I watch little bursts of Fourth of July fireworks erupt in the distance from the window of the backseat. I open the screen door and my mom's sleeping on the couch next to my little brother. My dad's still at work. I don't feel any different than I did the year before, but I have an overwhelming feeling that something big is coming soon.

I just turned eighteen and I'm stupid and I get big, silly, cartoon eyes when boys call me pretty. Before I know it, I begin my first year at a large university, end my long distance relationship, and start to notice college boys. I love their goofy smiles, their stubbly faces, the way their lives are unfinished like the half-read books they leave on their apartment floors.

I just turned eighteen and I've never met disappointment. I feel like the world is mine. I assume that everyone has a big heart. I believe that in six-or-so months I won't go back and cringe at most things I've written and tear up every notebook I've ever owned. I'm convinced that I hold significance in the world, that the universe somehow finds time in its schedule to care about me, that everything somehow happens for a reason and the things we experience are not senseless and random. I don't worry about taxes or getting kidnapped. I'm just beginning to think about my parents getting old.

I'm eighteen, I'm still stupid, and I feel like my life is some sort of screwed up Jenga game because the minute things start to come together, they fall apart all over again. I wake up early to put on makeup. I think that being better-looking will make me more loveable and I don't realize how sad that is. I go to the emergency room three times because of a pain in my chest I can't describe. I sit in lectures full of people and realize I'm much less important than I had previously thought. I sleep in some mornings to avoid the feeling. I'm eighteen and I'm hurting and I can't put a number on it.

I'm eighteen and a quarter and I use ID's that aren't mine most weekends. My breath still leaves my body for a moment every time. The bouncers grab my wrists like blood pressure cuffs, draw little black X's on my hands in warm Sharpie. I learn that college boys keep condoms within reach of the nightstand and have hearts that were broken long before I ever had the chance to come around. I find one with blonde hair, a Sox hat, and a red wristband standing over by the bar. I ask him if he can buy me a drink. I blow smoke into the air the way they do in the movies.

I'm eighteen and a quarter and I don't realize I'm too smart for him. I don't realize how many more of him I will meet. We walk back to his place because he tells me I'm funny. I'm eighteen and a quarter and I let boys get away with things when they're nice to me. We walk in the quiet and make shapes in the air with our frozen breath. He digs around for his keys in his pockets for a minute while I stare up at the icicles hanging from the gutter of his front porch. I wonder how they must glitter when the sun is shining and it's not three in the morning. I think about how I like the daytime version of myself much better than this.

I'm still eighteen and in a moment of complete impulse, I empty my entire bank account and fly to Canada with friends. We climb to the top of Mount Royale. I watch the sun fall down over a brand new snow-capped city, daydream about the lives of tiny people in office buildings and hot tubs and taxi cabs. At night, we go to this bar with metal cages and skateboarding pits and lots of European house music. I try to fall asleep on a pile of winter coats on the floor of a dorm room. I realize in my sleeplessness that there is more to the life I've known thus far: that boys and booze and fraternities and lecture halls only comprise of a small pocket of what I will eventually call the grand picture of my lifetime. We go for fresh tomatoes, brie, and mimosas in Atwater the next morning. I'm still eighteen and my parents hate me for wasting my life's savings on a trip to Canada. I win back my sanity in Montreal.

I'm eighteen and a half and there isn't really a defining moment where I realize I've been treating myself like shit, but clarity surely comes in waves. They're big waves. The Atlantic Ocean in November big. They are hard to accept but I learn how with time and patience. I trade mixed drinks for Corona Lights, quit smoking crappy weed. I stop beating myself up when my hair won't grow the way I want it to. I write a book. It's not anything special and I sort of hate it a few months later, but I still do it. I bring down my lofted bed because I keep falling from it. I work as a music writer. I do yoga in the living room, even when guests are over. I win back my own permission to exist. I promise myself that above anything else, kindness remains of utmost importance

I'm eighteen and three quarters and I spend the last bits of the semester napping in the sunshine, reading great books in wet grass, filling my belly with ice cream, and riding bikes around campus with friends. I'm eighteen and three quarters and I still don't know much, but at least I come out of this year alive. My days slowly develop into better versions of the ones before. My grades suck moderately and I delay the reality of coming home for the summer, but the pains in my chest slowly leave me. I learn to unclench my fists and relax my jaw when I sit still. For the first time in my life, I think I am happy with myself.

I'm almost nineteen now and I don't worry the way I used to. I laugh out loud when I realize everything I own fits in the back of my dad's car. We've always been road trip people, my family and I. There's something quite peaceful about sitting on your ass for a few hours, watching the windmills fade into little white dots, sipping a gas station Arizona and being unavailable for a small moment in time. I fall asleep in the passenger seat.

I'm just about nineteen and I find time so funny. I find it funny how we've all been told since the second grade to manage it wisely. I find it funny how we organize and transcribe the time we are given onto paper: how we create photo albums and planners and birthday parties as if time and what it has in store for us can be grasped and molded at our convenience. I'm almost nineteen and this year I've learned that time isn't for us to control. I've learned that life is simply unpredictable and just sucks sometimes, yet I hope it never ceases to be this way. Here's to another year of being young, and just a little bit less stupid. Cheers.

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