26

birthday

Ten years ago, I was 16.

I recognize that this blogpost might come across as silly to some.  26 isn’t a great age.  I’ve barely lived a quarter of my life (hopefully), I have a long road ahead of me, and unlimited opportunity.

But Friday was my birthday, and that generally gives way to reflection about the life I’ve led thus far.

I’m 26.  I’m nearer to 30 than I am to 20.

I’m 26.  I don’t have any fiction published and have two academic articles published.  (And one pending).

I’m 26 and I don’t have my degree, due to circumstances outside my control.

I’m 26 and I spent three years working to pay off my debt, striving to stay academically active, to keep my brain sharp in the interim.

I’m 26 and have watched my friends graduate without me, move onto grad school, get married, have babies.

I’m 26 and I’ve been to Oxford three times, each time more magical than the last.

I’m 26 and I wanted to kill myself 5 years ago–and in gray moments, still contemplate the notion.

I’m 26 and a survivor, stubborn enough to keep fighting, to keep pushing forward.

I’m 26 and there’s so much I want to do, so much I want to discover, so much I want to learn, so many places I want to travel to, so much life to live that I often stress that I won’t have time for it all.  I won’t have time to study all these languages, to read all these books, to write all these stories, to create all this music.  Silly, I know.  But it remains in my head regardless.

I sometimes think about what would happen if I met myself ten years ago.  16-year-old Kat.  I was a junior in high school at that point, fresh from my first trip to Europe.  I actually took a trip down memory lane and checked out my Facebook timeline from 2007.  Aside from my slightly embarrassing 16-year-old dramatics and incessant song lyrics (we get it, Kat, Death Cab for Cutie is the only band that understands you), there’s a lot that strikes me.

In a lot of ways, I was a completely different person at 16.  I had different politics.  I had different reading tastes.  I even had different religious beliefs.  I sometimes think that my 16-year-old self wouldn’t recognize me if I appeared to her.  Or she would express deep disappointment that my face has not aged since I was 16.

She would be horrified that I’m voting for Hillary.  She would be bewildered that I registered Democrat last year.  She would wrinkle her nose and say, “You’re attending an Episcopalian church?! But it’s so liberal.”  She would like most of my ideas on feminism yet still be slightly concerned that I’m 26 and single.  Shouldn’t I have found true love by now?

Nevertheless, I’m fond of my 16-year-old self.  I owe her a lot.  It was through her terrible fanfics and stories that I learned to find my voice as a writer.  It was through her dramatic posting of song lyrics that I developed my music tastes.  It was through her oversharing on Facebook I learned not to overshare on Facebook.  It was through her bad fashion decisions (I still have a pair of velvet gaucho pants I can never, ever throw away–they still fit me and they MIGHT come back in style! Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt!) that I created my own sense of style.  Her fierce loyalty to her friends, her silly humor, her passionate (albeit misguided) opinions on politics and religion–all of these things shaped the person I am today.

I imagine ten years from now, I’ll look back on my 26-year-old self and laugh about how naive I was, roll my eyes at my so-called “aged reflections”.  But I can’t help but be nostalgic.  In a lot of ways, I still am that 16-year-old girl.  I still wonder if the boy likes me and turn red when he smiles.  I still sit on my bed and strum out my feelings–though now I do it on my own guitar, instead of my mom’s.  I still read C.S. Lewis and think about God.  I still have passionate political opinions–on the other end of the spectrum.  I still listen to Kate Voegele.  I still write fanfiction and stories, terrible songs and awful sonnets.  I still dream of falling in love and finding my place in the world.  I still love nothing more than sitting with friends, drinking a Guinness, (though ten years ago it was an iced coffee at It’s A Grind) and arguing about robots and animal rights and predestination and feminism.

I hope in the next ten years I’ve accomplished more.  I hope I absorb every experience, I remain perceptive, I keep my passion.  I hope I write songs when I’m sad, even if no one hears them.  I hope I publish my novel.  I hope I fall in love.  I hope my family heals.  I hope God shows me things in every moment that impacts me and I hope I keep drinking and arguing and loving with my friends.

Here’s to the next ten.

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