Today, I am 16 years old. This is weird for me.
For one thing, changing ages is always weird. You don’t feel any older, because the aging has been happening so slowly and steadily over the past year that you haven’t really noticed it; so then, even though you think you still feel like you did when you turned 15, or whatever age you were before, you have to get used to telling people you’re ___ years old. You’ve never had to tell people that before, so it’s a hard habit to get into. And, just when you’ve gotten used to telling people your formerly new age, you have another birthday, and have to do the whole thing all over again.
And for another thing, well… I’ve always felt like 16 was sort of the halfway point between childhood and adulthood. Like, once I was 16 I’d suddenly be mature and womanly, and hundreds of boys would realize that I was a woman now, and little kids would look at me and think about me the way I always thought about teenagers when I was a little kid. I never really put it into those words before, it was just sort of this idea I had of what being 16 would be like, and maybe it will. Probably not, because I don’t actually know that many guys and the likelihood of them all falling for me at once is minimal.
But really, it feels just like every other birthday. Sure, I have different plans this year than any other birthday I’ve had — after all, it is my Sweet 16 — but I don’t just feel mature now. I feel just like I did yesterday, only there’s this weird knot in my stomach that wasn’t there before. Not a nervous knot, not a tense or unhappy knot, just a thoughtful knot that shows up and makes my face go all screwy whenever I get extra-thoughtful.
The thing about this birthday is that, maybe I am closer to being a woman. Maybe I am more mature. But I’m still me. I’m still the same me that I was on my seventh birthday — maybe even on my first birthday. Sure, I’ve gone through some stuff, both good and bad. I’ve changed. I have scars, both inside and outside that I didn’t come into this world with. I have new friends, I’ve lost old friends, and I have friends that have been here forever and will probably be here forever, too.
But I’m still Lauren Elizabeth Smith. I still live in a world populated by princesses in twirly dresses, knights in shining armour, dragons, dungeons, rescue missions; fairies, elves, dwarves, hobbits; animals that talk, some that are nasty and some that are kind; children who can fly; people who glow, and others who don’t; bedrooms that snow, stairs that become bumpy slides, and floors that are made of lava; wizards, guides, guardian angels and Jiminy-Cricket-style consciences; mad hatters, march hares, Cheshire cats and Queens of Hearts; toys that talk and move when I’m not in the room, that listen with big open eyes whenever I need to pour out my heart into someone’s ears, and who never, ever, ever tell my secrets; trees whose roots go so deep that they know and feel everything, and who let their knowledge and feelings slowly seep into me as I lean my head against their trunks, and who are always there to calm me when I feel like my heart’s about to burst; rivers that laugh and want to do nothing but play, even though they know full well that I am NOT going to stick my feet in their water; castles that look like playgrounds, but are really strongholds of a kingdom that’s been put under an evil spell that I can break by just pretending; clouds that are made of cotton candy; mysteries that must be solved; battles for death or glory; monsters that must be defeated; mountains that must be climbed; enemies who must be conquered.
I have friends, real ones, who love me unconditionally; I have a family who loves me unconditionally even more; I have a God who loves me unconditionally the most of all. I’m catching up on schoolwork; I’m thinking about college; I’m working on getting a driver’s license and maybe even a car. I have a social life, which mostly consists of people who I perform with; little kids really do look up to me, but more like an older human being who still remembers and understands exactly what it was like to be their age and less like some magical deity that they’ll automatically grow up to become. I’m thinking about what jobs I’d like to have; I’m planning for and working towards my future career; I’m writing, drawing, singing, composing. Every day I’m learning more about myself. This seems fairly adult-like to me.
Sp yeah, maybe I am closer to being a woman. Maybe I already am one. But no matter how old I get, I don’t think I’ll ever stop being a child. That part of me will always be there, buried under the years, surfacing when people who I trust and love are around, and when I’m by myself, wondering which of my many stories will I write down today. I may be 16, but I’m still a kid. And I think that’s going to make this next year all the more fun.
Happy birthday to me!