I can remember dying, literally dying to turn 16. Thanks to all of those American teenage romance novels I thought I was going to be born again.
Being 16 would mean the Valentine’s Day cards would finally arrive. I’d figure out how to wear my hair loose without it flopping into my eyes. And cure it of its fizziness. Discos! God, discos!
Overnight I was going to stop being clumsy and awkward. My skin would clear up and I could throw out that awful Clearasil that wasn’t working anyway. I would stop burning and getting more freckles during the summer and have a tan.
And. And I was going to get kissed. By a real live boy! A small problem, but. It would mean having to talk to one first. And I didn’t know any. The other small, but equally large dilemma was that I went red at the drop of a hat and Jesus I couldn’t risk that happening. It would be so embarrassing.
I was so envious of the other girls with clear skin and long sleek hair who didn’t fall over and who could chat effortlessly with members of the opposite sex. I put it down to their having older brothers so were used to the male of the species.
I conveniently refused to acknowledge those who didn’t have older brothers and were still able to do it.
So my 16th year wasn’t all that. Never mind. I had my 18th to look forward to. For some reason, that was another big age for me. I would be legal. To do what exactly though? Drink? Vote? Have sex? Move out of home? Drive? Or were you allowed do some of those things at just 17?
As it turns out I can’t remember my 18th birthday. I spent it in hospital having been involved in a road accident. I probably wouldn’t have celebrated it in any great style anyway.
Roll on my 21st. Great things were ahead. I was earning a wage, had the obligatory steady boyfriend and a social life to match. And I had read at a very young age that you didn’t get new freckles when you were in your twenties. Bring it on!
I laughed when I was told things would whizz by in a blur once I hit my twenties. Of course I laughed; I knew everything. Don’t we all at that age?
I was only twenty-one. I had my whole life ahead of me. Loads of time. What was she talking about? That lady, her name is Anne, was right.
I have no idea where the last nineteen years have gone.
On Saturday 8th December, I will be forty years of age.
I spent my teenage years wanting to be someone I wasn’t. Today I would tell my 16 year old embarrassingly yet sweetly innocent self, that sweet 16 and never having been kissed is not such a big deal. I wasn’t the only one, despite what my friends wanted me to think.
So I was sporty instead of social? So I liked to read and spend time in my room alone instead of talking on the phone.
In my twenties I grappled for and desperately sought self-confidence. Spent way too much time second guessing a lot of my decisions and envying those who always seemed to land on their feet, managing to sail through life unscathed. I still hated my freckles and was obsessed with finding the perfect foundation to cover them up. Suddenly there was a lot of male attention and wouldn’t you know it, I was still awkward and had no idea how to deal with any of it.
In my thirties I realised that all of us, warts and all (or freckles in my case) are only human and even those who had led my idea of a charmed life, had fucked up somewhere along the way. They, like the rest of us, rose from the ashes, dusted themselves off and just kept going.
What happens today is wrapping for tomorrows fish and chips.
Now that I am on the cusp of being forty years of age, which let’s face it, is middle aged, I know who I am. I have found my skin. And I kind of like it. Even the freckles.
I know what I like and I like what I know. I like me. For a while there I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted.
A part of me still doesn’t. There is still a void there, waiting to be filled. I still say I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
I think I will always be looking for, always searching and striving towards……….. something.
And that’s grand because I am still growing too. But unlike my younger, naïve and hapless self of yesteryear, the now older, yes older, and definitely wiser me knows that in order to make something happen, wishing on a star just won’t cut it. There can be no sitting around talking the endless talk and waiting till someone else does it to examine the pros and cons.
There can be no living vicariously. What is the point?
We only get one life. And this is it.
Regrets are fine. We all have them. But that is all they are; regrets. They are for yesterday. Today is for the here and now. Today is for living. Our life is for living, regardless of age.
If there is something you want to do, take steps towards making it happen. 16 steps, 18 steps, 21 steps, 40 steps.
The sooner you start the fewer steps you will have to take.
As for me? Well, turning 40 is going to be my second chance at being 16. Not so sweet, definitely not so innocent but all the more wiser with it.