birthday

Eighteen

So it appears I am 18 today.

There are a great many things I might say about this particular revelation, but I think for now there is only this:

I'm grateful to be here. There have been times when I did not believe I would ever reach this birthday, & it feels like such a blessing just to still be breathing. Most days I yearn & yearn & yearn for more, most days I'm sure there is no way I could possibly be satisfied with anything less than a bright & burning legacy, but tonight I am happy to drink too much coffee, listen to the same playlists over & over, eat dinner with my baby sister, cuddle my dog, write mediocre poems, flirt with boys whose names I will not remember this time next year, worry about college applications & whether I am moisturising enough. Perhaps it is a paradox, but tonight, on this most important birthday, I'm happy just to be here. I'm happy keep my dreams small, manageable. Not so terrifying. Not so obviously out of my league.

Tonight I am sitting with my stubborn lungs, my softened ankles, reading local literature, incense burning & dog at my feet & monsoon rain singing at the windows, listening to the playback of my own memory. I am 18 today & for once I am sitting still & completely satisfied the thought of not being remembered.

This sort of quiet contentment feels foreign in my mouth, but I'm trying to to settle into it. I think I deserve peace.

Seventeen

How utterly ridiculous it feels that I am 17 today.

16 is an age that seems chiselled into my bones, old & worn but familiar still. & now I shed its skin for something new & wholly terrifying. I have a horrible habit of forgetting birthdays, most of all my own—this day has snuck up on me, & I would not have remembered it if not for my sister parading into my room this morning to sing happy birthday, with the 7 AM enthusiasm that only a 12 year old can muster.

I confess: I am not quite sure I even want to be 17.

I had such hope that 16 would be the year that everything would become okay again. What "okay" implies, I could not tell you - perhaps my mental illness diagnoses would turn out to be wrong after all. I'd stop feeling sad for no reason whatsoever. I'd finally be satisfied with my own existence; the deep-seated yearning for something greater than this would flit away.

All that jazz.

I am a little terrified to think that seventeen will not be The Year—capitalisation absolutely necessary—& even more that it will be. You cannot, to be truthful, do anything important when you are 17. 16 is driving. 18 is drinking, tattoos, & R-rated films. What is 17?

You're the dancing queen, I suppose. (Even though I can't actually dance. But no matter; it is enough of a badge to wear proudly.)

I don't know whether I've truly worn away at 16, whether I've slipped fully into its skin & absorbed all it holds. I don't know whether I achieved all I set out to do.

But 16 was not an idle year, though it is so easy for me to convince myself otherwise. I made good art, & I shared it proud & shining even when I was quaking with fear in the background. I wrote a book & released it into the universe & watched it touch lives. I curated the first issue of a literary journal. I cried over gorgeous poems & wrote some of my own. I listened to some damn good music. I had my work published in journals I've admired for years. I did interviews. I watched Captain America many, many times. I laughed a lot & cried even more. I started sponsoring the education of a child in the Philippines. I stopped apologising so much (though, to be truthful, this will always be a work in progress). I made friends, & I let some go. I loved & I loved & I loved. How I loved.

& now there is 17.

I can only hope that this year I stumble upon the warmth I have been chasing for so long. Or if not that, then at least something truthful along the way. Something as bright as all of the art I consumed at 16, all of the things I created, all of the people I held & the songs I sang & the words I wrote & the softness I found, hidden in crannies I never expected.

So here it is. Happy birthday to me.

Welcome to 17.