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A Series Of Thoughts On Turning 20 And Still Not Quite Feeling Like An Adult

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girl leaning against a mirror next to a streetLili Kovac

I don’t dislike my birthday because of the fear of aging. I’ve never been afraid of growing older. It’s going to happen and it happens to everyone so why spend life fighting the inevitable? It’s exhausting and it only pushes time along. Time is sadistic but that’s what it does. It recognizes when you’re content in a moment and it takes it away, leaving only the memories. But like I said, that’s not why I dislike my birthday.

I dislike my birthday because I’m always afraid of who I might become.

At seventeen I read The Catcher in the Rye and found myself questioning whether or not I too would become one of them. The phonies of the world. I was feeling exceptionally lonely that year. All my friends seemed to forget my birthday and my mother sent me to get my own cake because I had just gotten my license which was a big help to her. I dramatically made my pen name Roberta Caulfield in a failed attempt at adolescent insubordination.

I desperately feared my eighteenth birthday, so much so that after an interesting turn of events, I found myself half soberly crying on an elementary school in the middle of the night. But that’s another story in itself. A story I refuse to tell.

On my nineteenth birthday I was frozen. I was just frozen and I refused to allow myself to enjoy anything. I was visiting home as an “adult”. For the first time, I had to come home for my birthday. I did nothing. My mother excitedly baked me a homemade cake and took the family to the movies but I wasn’t happy. I just wasn’t.

And now, I find myself here, writing this, whilst Edward Scissorhands is playing in the back. On the cusp of twenty. I like this movie, it makes me feel. Not feel in general, like I’m psychopath incapable of human emotions, but I always feel a certain way when I watch this movie. I don’t know what that feeling is, but I like it. It’s a nice feeling. This has been my favorite movie (tied with Godfather) since childhood. I like it because it’s always been there with me. Moments in time pass, but not this movie. It’s always here. I watched this movie for the first time in the fifth grade. It was at a sleepover with my friend Cilantro (She has a normal name, this is a code name. We don’t talk as much and I hate myself for it because it’s partly [mainly] my fault). I always cry at the end. I’m a cryer. I can’t help it.

I’m sorry, I digress. This usually happens when writing about my birthday. My mind goes in tangents. Perhaps speaking in tangents is the only way I know how to communicate.

Twenty. I’m going to be twenty. No longer will I be a teen. Now I’m really what they refer to as an “adult”.

To be honest… I’m still a kid. And I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of childhood. And I’m okay with that.

I have my own life, and I’ve made my own friends away from home. Friends who are also adults and were in no way apart of my childhood or who I was pre-adulthood. I don’t have extremely fond memories with these people.

Honestly, whenever I’m with these new adulthood friends, I feel like such a faker. Like a little girl who snuck into who mothers closet to try on dresses and heels that are way too big, then haphazardly painted herself in makeup. I’m tripping around in these oversized clothes trying to hold it together, playing pretend, flirting with the taboos of underage drinking in bars, and making out with people I hardly know. But at any moment, someone is going to figure me out. Someone is going to realize that I’m not really an adult, I’m just a kid playing pretend. And that I have no clue what I’m doing.

But oddly enough, I find comfort that part of me. The part of me that will perpetually remain rooted in immaturity. The same part of myself from the fifth grade that cried at the end of Edward Scissorhands.

You see, while I was there, on my eighteenth birthday, sobbing on the playground of my old elementary school, trying to fight the inevitability of change, I learned something. Being an adult just means you’re an even bigger kid (And I can’t take complete credit for that, because I was accompanied by two other friends that night who helped me realize this, and if either one of them are reading this, just know that I still love you both dearly).

I think that if I remind myself that fact, then I’m okay with aging. I’m okay with growing older because I may rest assured that I will still be the person that I am now. I won’t become one of “them”, I won’t turn into a phony. The same phonies that my dear friend Holden hated.

But that was eighteen and this is twenty.

So here is what happened at twenty.

I was re-reading The Catcher in the Rye, Holden was describing his brother Allie’s baseball glove. How etched in the glove were quotes that he loved. As I was reading the other night, I couldn’t help but sob at the fact that Holden Caulfield isn’t real. I know it sounds dumb but I found myself so enthralled in this story and it’s authenticity that I forgot that he was a fictional character. That the events that transpire in this tale are a work of fiction. That even Allie and his baseball glove weren’t real. Here is this book that I cling to so desperately for comfort and answers and guidance, and I just then realized it wasn’t real and I just felt so misunderstood and alone that I started to cry.

After this pathetic display, I had a thought. Holden is real because I’m real. Holden came from some type of reality and if I am feeling how he is feeling then a piece of Holden is a piece of me. And anybody in the world who can relate to Holden and feels for Holden feels for me. So there is a collective of us who can relate. A collective of us who are holding on to this piece of our youth, of our innocence, much like Holden. I know I’m not alone on this.

I always search desperately for some type of epiphany that comes with aging, so this is what I think I learned. I’m a kid.

I’m a kid who still sleeps with a stuffed animal. I’m a kid who can’t help but cringe during sex scenes. I’m a kid who still plays pretend with her little brother. I’m a kid who loves the game hide and seek. I’m a kid who still leaves cookies for Santa just out of habit.

I’m a kid, and I don’t see why adulthood should capitulate that part of me. I like who I am, it’s fun holding onto the spirit of a kid. Who says things are too childish anyway? That’s no fun. Are we going to pretend like playgrounds aren’t fun? Are we going to pretend like building forts out of sheets isn’t amazing? Are we going to pretend like legos aren’t entertaining? Let’s all be kids more. We’re adults for the majority of our lives so let’s not make it this miserable and arduous experience.

So this is twenty. I’m sure my parents will be proud to hear that their twenty year old, adult daughter, is just a giant woman-child thing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to shamelessly bawl my eyes out, the ending of Edward Scissorhands is playing right now.

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