As I filled out my returning staff application for the Free Press staff 2014-15 this afternoon, one question’s answer made my childhood’s impending doom feel incredibly close and disgustingly real. The question read, “Grade NEXT year.” Below it, three options: 10, 11, 12. As I clicked the circle next to ’12’, a wave of nostalgia washed over me and I saw my entire 17 years of life flash before my eyes. One more year before I’m a legal adult.
Every year of my life, I’ve felt old. It’s funny how you can feel so mature and grownup and then look back and realize how young and stupid you were.
One of the first times I felt I knew where my life was headed was in preschool. I was three or four. We had a plan, Madeline and I. We wanted animal crackers, and we just couldn’t wait for snack time. My heart was about to jump out of my throat as we asked the teacher to “go to the bathroom.” The thought of lying made my stomach churn with a guilty fervor. As Madeline and I greedily scooped animal crackers from the unattended bowl in the classroom, I knew there was no turning back. I was a criminal mastermind–I might as well accept it. Suddenly, a hand grabbed my shoulder. It was our teacher. I was going to spend the rest of my life in jail and amount to nothing. She wanted to see what was in our hands, and, left with no other option, I showed her the stolen crackers. But, Madeline revealed two empty palms. I was astounded. When we got back to the playground, I wiped the tears from my eyes and asked Madeline how she did it. She laughed and said, “I hid them in my panties. Want one?” I said, “No thank you.”
As I left preschool behind and began first grade, I decided I was no longer a criminal. I was a student–so, basically, an adult. On the first day of first grade, I was wearing a white blouse tucked into a plaid skirt. Knee high socks complemented my clunky leather shoes. The outfit was inspired by a Hilary Duff movie I had seen recently and seemed perfect for the first day of first grade. My giant pink butterfly backpack felt so grownup against my shoulders. My mom wouldn’t stop taking pictures, so I knew I was making an important transition. At my very first recess, I saw a girl in a plaid jumper. Her name was Lacey. She looked so nervous standing there, and I couldn’t see why. First graders weren’t supposed to be nervous–feelings were for babies. I ran up to her. “Do you want to see me jump off this slide?” I asked. She quietly nodded that she did. I laughed, “Well I’m not gonna do it.”
Lacey and I are still friends, and she still brings up the first time we met. She thought we were friends that day because I was the only one who talked to her. I just assumed talking to strangers was something practically adults did, like going to school and carrying a backpack.
As I got older, I realized how childish I’d been in years past. First grade was ages ago. I was much wiser now. In sixth grade, I’d already found the lucky boy I was going to marry. Some said he was chubby and had a unibrow, but I felt like I was mature enough to know true beauty comes from within. We would spend all of lunch doing the Saturday Night Live 2008 presidential campaign sketches back and forth. We agreed the Sarah Palin rap was the best, and we both knew it by heart. We had a magical bond, but that was the year I learned all good things come to an end. After lunch one day, someone told him that I liked him, and it was awkward the rest of the year. The next year, he transferred to a school in a different town, and I faced junior high school with little certainty about the future. If my love life could fall apart that easily, was anything sacred? What else didn’t I understand? I used to feel like I maybe was getting close to knowing everything there was to know, but now, I wasn’t so sure.
In junior high, I didn’t feel grownup anymore. My friends and I dropped to the bottom of the heap in the 7-12 secondary section of my little private school. I realized how long a school career actually was. I was barely past the halfway point, and I could hardly remember the beginning. I fully understood my childish naivety when I and one other junior high girl wanted to play basketball. My school had a no cut policy, so instead of telling us we couldn’t play, they kindly let us sit the high school’s varsity bench as awkward, insecure seventh graders. A few upperclassmen made it their mission to show my fellow seventh grader and me we weren’t welcome even on the sidelines because were younger than them. It’s funny because they went like 1-19 for the season, so I don’t know if us playing would have made much of a difference. I didn’t appreciate other people thinking they were practically adults because of their year in school, so I made up my mind not to use my age as an excuse to be a butthead.
After a tumultuous junior high experience, I made the decision to leave the school I’d attended with pretty much the same people since first grade and go to public high school. As I walked to the double doors on my first day of freshman year, I was 97 percent sure it would be the day I died. I knew about 5 of the 1500 kids who went there. To prepare, I spent the preceding week memorizing the school’s map and my classes’ room numbers. That day went by in a blur–a terrifying, horrifying blur. During English, I sat next to some chick I played soccer with in third grade, and hers was the most familiar face of the day. Then, during P.E., I got hit in the face with a football, and my newest friend loudly exclaimed, “Kyra! Are you crying?” I quickly learned about PDA and was horrified when I heard someone mutter a cuss word in the hallway. While embarrassing, the new experiences made me feel older. I was now rated PG-13 for extreme savoir faire. Even though I’d vowed to not abuse the perceived power that comes with age, I couldn’t help but feel like high school made me a big deal.
It’s amazing how much someone can change. As a second semester junior, I look back and realize how foolish I was, and then I realize I’m looking back at not only years past, but also literally yesterday. I now have some things I never thought I would, including a blog, a weird diet and a tattoo. I’m interested to see how I change as the last year of my fleeting childhood plays out. I’m sure next year I will scroll through my blog archives and laugh about how stupid they sound. I already do.