I wrote this on a plane an hour ago,
and am sitting in the terminal publishing it, wildly unedited,
because I know if I don’t do it now, I’ll get distracted and will never do it.
Also, Trump is one of our presidential candidates.
So, clearly, you just never GD know what’ll happen.
Dear 17-Year-Old-Me That Was Afraid To Grow Up,
Dope. We’re talking! How crazy is that? Do I tell you to drop everything and go figure out leave-in conditioner ASAP? Nah. This won’t be that kind of letter.
(But, like, after you read this.)
I’m almost 27 now. Kind of revolting, right? What you don’t know — what you’ll find out faster than you expected — is that growing up is actually super dope.
Allow me to explain.
At 17, I know that you’ve been thinking: Maybe I am peaking. Maybe this is a good as it gets. I’m young, energetic, smart, ambitious, loved, supported, and I’m almost positive I’m hitting the maximum age of my soul. Which must then mean it is all downhill from here. Right?
Stop using Neutrogena and get on that Aveeno tip immediately!
Without giving you too many spoilers: A series of things happens.
These things — some bad, some wonderful, most incredibly empowering — make you feel like you need to encase your squishy, hopeful, gullible soul in a hard case. (Eventually, you imagine a ruby, like that giant forbidden gem from Aladdin.) You make a lot of scary moves towards emotional and financial independence, and that hardens the gem. You briefly allow fuccbois into your life, and that hardens the gem. You leap from a v v desired and totally sensible career into a messy, gorgeous, soul-brightening one, and that jump hardens the gem, too.
You date someone who calls you “exotic,” and needs you walk him through feminism.
You travel alone a ton, hardening the gem more and more every silent, observing hour; every minute of solo car-aoke gone so awry that once you finally do speak to a human, you have to explain how you lost your voice.
You write so much.
A thin coat, each time.
And you develop this hardening mechanism because you are terrified that someone is going to take This Thing from you; something you can tell so many adults — so many of your own friends — lost a long time ago. You’ve heard it called youth and YOLO and enthusiasm and joie de vivre when people shake their head at you and try to figure out why you’re, they say lovingly, so annoying, but you can only describe it as a light.
A neon pink light.
And the fact that this light is gone from so many adults’ eyes scares the absolute dog s*#t out of you.
Some people get it taken from them. Some people sacrifice it willingly. Most people never noticed it slipped away. But to you, it’s the best, most precious thing you own, and you resolve to protect it as long as you can.
So you keep that neon pink light in this gem, this multi-faceted Aladdin-ruby-thing where, at it’s best, it gleams and reflects and refracts a thousand fold for others to see and feel but never, never, never touch.
Never put out.
I’m almost 27 now, and I’m suddenly aware of my 27-year-old body, and the fact that there’s so much more it can do than the excuses I could make for Why It Can’t. I feel longer and leaner and taller, but more importantly, I’m starting to feel more like I own every inch. Like I’m beginning to earn all of its real estate now.
And at 27, here’s the funnest part: It’s starting to feel like that gemmy light wants out. But it doesn’t want to burst. It needs to creep. It feels like it’s melting and slowly gooping out towards my fingers and toes. It seems to have Leveled Up in a way that takes all of the protective hardness with it. Like it absorbed, fermented, marinated — and now it can’t ever be put out.
This new hardness is liquid. Stretchy. Possibly radioactive. It’s the feeling of earning your life’s few milestones so far; of climbing and knowing you’ve already come a long way. It’s looking back at chunks of your life that you know you lived out fully, feeling a bone-deep satisfaction that you got Whatever That Was out of your system so you can make room for new adventures. It’s knowing that you took the time to nurture and feed and protect that light, and now, you’re pretty sure, it’s protected for life. That thing is insured.
It’s like scrapbooking.
It’s like painting a mural.
It’s like writing a book.
The thing — I’m gesturing all around your head and face now — gets better and better, more whole, the more you add to it.
So, right, yeah. Growing up can actually be dope.
Okay. Damn. Good thing you like reading, wid all deez words.
Continue to chill out, always look around, and don’t ever stop being annoying.
(It literally turns into your career, but that’s a subject for a different letter.)