A very cliché expression, but I have to be honest: age 18 was somehow the worst and best year of my life. It was my downfall and rise.
But I’ve done far too much writing these past few months, so I don’t think I have to capacity for a five thousand word reflective piece. I’ve reflected and made my peace with the past year. So much has happened, I barely remember when the year began.
I think I’m a lot more concerned with the whole business of getting older. I don’t want to grow old anymore. I want to pause this whole ageing thing. I’ve reached the top of the curve, this is the peak. Can I please remain under 19?
There’s a really incredible Lorde quote about teenagers – how they know this secret that children didn’t know and adults had forgotten. (I’ve somewhat modified this quote, I realise). I feel like I’ve been let into that secret, a little later than I would have liked, but I got a taste of it. It’s been floating in the air like dandelions and now it’s home in my hands; I don’t want to let it go.
This whole discourse reminds me of a book I finished recently: The Picture of Dorian Gray by
King Oscar Wilde. Dorian, my sweet gay moonchild, sold his soul (kinda) to retain his body of 18. To tell you a secret, I’m quite hoping I could somehow do the same. I know it corroded Dorian from the inside, but I feel like I wouldn’t mind. In time, I would stab a painting and balance would be restored.
But I think part of the discovery of this secret is one of the main things I got this year. It unloaded this weight that I unknowingly bore all my life. I entered the last four months of 18 feeling light. I came with a cost, of sorts, but no paintings were harmed in the making of this person. But I was no longer Atlas, I was the sky itself.
In hindsight, 17 felt so heavy. I’m glad she’s long gone.
Structurally, it would be logical to look forward to age 19 here. But I don’t think that I will; I think it unwise. Expectation brings a weight I no longer want to carry. I will not lose control – of myself and my world – but I will also learn to let things flow. It’s a scale with a tipping point I feel like I’ve intuitively figured out – for now.
But also strangely, 18 was the year I discovered something else: regret. I don’t think I ever truly felt regret before this in my life. I regretted so many things this past year. I regret going on that one date, I regret going to that one party. I regret not speaking out more in history club, I regret no pushing myself to be more friendly.
I initially assumed regret to bring back such weight – and initially it did – but I don’t really feel it now. It’s confirming my belief that I’ve found the right rhythm to letting things go.
The experience of regret also made me realise that I never felt regret before because I never made choices outside a pre-existing scaffold. I had moulds and models of behaviour present in my head installed by my parents and school, and I always acted in accordance with them. I realised I didn’t have to.
And so sure, my abandonment of these moulds and models led to regret. But, like I said, I’ve let them go.
In all this I realised that regret is such a luxury because it comes from choice. Choice – that unpredictable child of independence and freedom. These four have become my newest companions during age 18, and it is through them, I’ve discovered this secret of teenagers.
19 will be my last year of being a teenager. I hope to be the mistress of all four in this coming year.