I remember that bright sunny day. November 17, 1995. I woke up to the sound of my blaring alarm – time for school
It was different, however, as that day – I turned 16.
After getting some balloons from friends at school – eating a great slice of greasy pizza for lunch in the lunchroom surrounded by my normal group of lovelies that helped me celebrate in between Algebra and Keyboarding – I made my way home. I was 16. It kept resounding in my head. I had been waiting. I remembered watching the Olympics when I was 12 and thinking “next time I watch this, I’ll be 16”. I felt on top of the world – older. I felt the gateway to adulthood closer than ever and I smiled the entire day. This in itself was quite unusual – I hardly ever smiled then.
I usually was scared to go to school. I would wake up at 4 AM to get myself to look “decent or pretty” by slapping on the foundation and my badly placed clumpy mascara. I was afraid to face the bullies – whom never decided to accidentally catch the flu or puke during 2nd period so I could have a day of peace. They were always there.
It was a happy day. I remember it clearly. A friend of mine drove me up to my mother’s office where I finally made a dream come true that I had been waiting for – I grabbed the keys to her car. I drove the car home. I drove it around the block. I rolled down the window and blasted obscene rap songs (I’m sorry if you’re reading this, mom, yes I was cursing behind the wheel of the minivan – and proudly).
Today I am 34. It amazes me how clearly the memories resound from younger times. I look back now on this – and to be honest, when I was younger, I wanted so bad to grow up – to be on my own, to forget the bullies and the bad hair and to gain responsibility. Moving to college and getting job seemed so great at that point in time.
I wish now, after many years of problems with depression, anxiety, body image, after 2 college degrees, a divorce, 3 children, and many medical bills from recent illnesses – that I had enjoyed that time a bit more. I do remember you. I speak there to my 16 year old self. I remember you – that scared little girl wanting so bad to be a woman so the world would simply go away and I could make my way into my own place without worrying about the judgements of others. I used to smack myself in the face repeatedly over acne – thinking it would go away if I just closed my eyes for ten seconds. I would open them – disappointed.
Now an adult, I wish I could go back and tell myself what was coming. I wish I had taken my mindset that day and instilled it into every single day of my life. I learn new lessons everyday. When I was 16 I had body image issues but I did not have the panic disorder and the depression. I had not yet overcome an addiction nor did I think I would ever fall into that trap.
I wish I could go back to that day, turning 16, and tell myself – “girl, you think you’re strong now? Wait until you see the strength you have later…”
I built up personal strength over the years – it did not just happen in seconds, or in a day. This is years of therapy and support from others that I’ve been able to fight these battles and come out winning. I have come so far. I have been through so many things in the 18 years that have passed.
Sidebar: Those born on my 16th birthday are now adults.
I always tell myself daily that I take the biggest of imperfections and turn them into empowering lessons in human spirit. I even did it back then – when I was at the youngest of minds, when I had yet to discover what the world had in store for me. The paths I have walked down through adulthood have presented me with elements that, at the age of 16, I could never have dreamed of braving.
I will never forget that happy day. It was sweet. I didn’t have a party, or have a huge grand entrance and a car waiting for me outside of the red carpet. I smiled. I enjoyed it. I ate cake and a few slices of pizza and soggy french fries. It was one of the most awesome days of my life – and it’s hard for me to dig deep and find any at all that were truly as great as that.
And as I sit here and write this I realize I have the power inside of me to take my bravery and courage and instill it in each of my daily activities – to make these days just as great as they were then.
Things change. People change. Life changes.
But I still remember you – because you are still me. Your soul has never once left you, it has only grown.
And for my 35th birthday and every birthday on – I’ll look back as I blow out the candles, shove cake into the faces of my 3 babies and watch them laugh, and perhaps go grab a massage or a good steak dinner – and know that with the same hope and faith I had then that kept me going – I clearly still have it now. I have even more than I give myself credit for or care to notice in immense moments of depression when I cry…and…cry…and cry…
I can never forget that I am a hopeful and faithful person. I always remember you – you have always been me despite age in numbers.
Don’t ever give up.