the salt compass madeleine hagan

Thoughts on Leaving the Teen Years Behind

I turned twenty the other day. Some of my brain still refuses to wrap around that fact, but the rest of it is content to leave the teen years behind. Here are my thoughts on having successfully completed (and by that I mean…well…survived/existed/been breathing and learning) two decades of life in this round world.

WHERE I’M AT RIGHT THIS SECOND – I don’t miss being a teenager, which is pretty weird because I was convinced I would. Ever since I turned nineteen and everyone told me, “Oh wow, you’re going to be twenty soon!!!” I’d somewhat nervously laugh and ask them not to remind me because I planned on “mourning my teenage years.”

Just to clarify, there’s been no mourning. As much as I owned each minute of my teenage years I could possibly get, I don’t wish to go back and re-live them. Today has way too many possibilities.

GLANCING BACK – There have been occasions in the last twenty-four hours that have made me feel nostalgic though.

I passed my little sister Julia (also known as J) on the stairs this morning. And when I say on the stairs I mean she was flat on her back, staring at the ceiling, in the middle of the stairway. I teasingly asked her if she was “contemplating life,” and she answered, “Well yeah. Kinda.”

She’s not a baby anymore. I remember when she was though. She was all tiny fingers and no-teeth smiles and falling over constantly because she couldn’t walk more than three steps in a row. Julia’s ten now. She’s reading Harry Potter books for the first time, running to find me when she finishes the last chapter. She almost won Settlers of Catan when I was teaching her how to play yesterday, and consistently requests more and more songs be put on her iPod.

I remember what being ten was like, and while I don’t wish I had been that age one minute more than I was, I’m glad I get to be reminded by her.

Another one from this morning (life lessons are non-stop y’all) was watching Melanie pick up car keys and walk out the door with my dad. She’s fifteen and learning to drive. Talk about life in fast-forward. She’s pushing pedals and using turn-signals (See? She’s already a better driver than me) and before I know it, she’ll have her license and maybe it will be her picking me up from the airport when I come home from school.

Yet another in just the last twenty-four hours was skyping Olivia after we got home from dinner last night. She’s away from home at a college summer intensive for the first time. She got to go set up her first dorm room, print out her first college schedule, and say goodbye to her family for a month, or at least, until the next skype session.

I remember what that felt like two years ago. It was terrifying, exciting, confusing, intimidating, freeing, and (what felt like) 100% fast forward. As a result, I tried to dig my heels into the ground for a lot of the time, trying to regain my balance without falling down, as life pulled me forward by my ever-braid-escaping hair. Olivia seems to be taking the opposite approach and has treated her week there so far like riding a bike. Time is moving forward, if you brake too much you’ll get wobbly and fall over. She’s pedaling, slow and steady, rolling with every speed bump this summer has thrown at her. It took me a bit longer to realize that was the best approach. I wobbled a lot. But that doesn’t surprise me. It took her a lot less time to learn how to ride a bike than me when we were younger, and it isn’t any different now.

So again, I catch myself smiling at her blurry and pixelated face on skype. I don’t wish to be back, but I get bits and pieces from her life now to remind me of what it was like, and I’m SO glad I can smile at the memories I’m presented with.

BACK TO PRESENT – It was absolutely ridiculous of me to look at a twenty-year-old as a high school freshman and think I would “have my life together” by the time I was their age (see my post about Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Getting Your Life Together). Maybe that’s why I had thought I would mourn my teenage years. The expectations that came with each year I got older made me want to go watch Barbie movies with J again. Not to avoid getting older, but to avoid the comparison with people and their lives that were very different from mine.

I quit trying to brake and wobble with that mindset eventually too though. Comparison does absolutely nothing, just like worry, and it’s not an idea I wanted to feed by giving it any more of my brain space. Now I am pedaling, as steady as I can, and I must say I like the road I’m on.

PEEKING AHEAD – I really reallyyyy dislike the question, Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Even asking about five years, or one year bothers me. There is so much that you could include in those answers that it would take one, five, or ten years to answer them. This is because in order to answer those questions fully, I think I need to be living them. I can’t think too far ahead, because there is just too much potential in every day. This is not to say that I can’t make goals or look forward to the times I know will come (because I definitely do) but I definitely can’t predict exactly what that looks like and where I will be by the time I complete the next decade. There are too many possibilities, and too many opportunities I can’t even begin to imagine. I can, however, give you an answer for each day that goes by on the way there.

TODAY – I am twenty and a day. I’m spying on yellow feathered birds as they eat seeds that have fallen beneath the bird feeder from my porch. I’m watching my sisters grow up before my eyes with their life-lesson laughter. I’m still a coffee-lover, a passport stamp collector, and I’ve got ink stains along the right side of my hand. I’m learning about how to deal with itchy eyes while soaking up summer sunshine, and appreciating the amount of time using tin foil can save when it’s time to wash off baking trays (I recommend bubbles). I could go on… but it would take all day.


2 thoughts on “Thoughts on Leaving the Teen Years Behind”

  1. Life is a wonderful ride. And yesterday is in the rear view. You capture that particular mix of open-road promise and melancholy beautifully. I can’t wait to read more!

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