I Am Sixteen Going On Seventeen…

I am dreaming of balmy, sunny beaches, humid weather and a strong suntan. As a native of California, this blustery, -16 New York weather does not resonate with me. I find myself now, confined to my bed with a horrible cold, watching the poor, miserable people make their way through the snow. I am thankful that though my temperature is running high and my patience is waning,  I am not out there. Upstairs, the remains of the weekend guests are clearing, and the world (at least, my corner of it), is returning to normalcy. But then again, normalcy is relative.

With the release of the novel quickly approaching, I find myself in almost complete calm, which is odd considering that whenever someone mentions the release to me, I feel as though I am going to jump out of my skin. The question I posed at the beginning of this journey remains. Who will I be once I am now longer in the process of becoming a published author? What will happen to me once that notion of fiction becomes a solid fact? I can only hope that I breathe in life with as much enthusiasm with the other novels I plan to write (yes, there will be plenty more being born from the tip of my pen), as well as with life in general. Will I continue living with the same state of happiness and all around merriment, or will the fate of Shattered Illusions bring my life to a screeching halt? I certainly hope it is the former, for I would hate to see my life fall to shambles so quickly over something so small.

A couple of weeks ago,  Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love, as well as a self proclaimed yogi and guru, posed a question on her Facebook page that has been following me around since. I am not one to pay attention to these things usually. Since it stuck around for so long, I decided to write it out of me. Perhaps with the answer to such a question, I may come to terms with who I expect myself to be come May.

“What advice would you give yourself at age 21?”

An odd question to ask myself, since 21 is fresh on my skin. It would be incredibly unproductive to attempt to place myself in the shoes of my future self, and answer the question from there either. I don’t know where I’m going to be tomorrow, how on earth can I assume that I know where I will be in twenty years from now? I know where I would like to be (teaching Comparative Lit., and hopefully, successfully coming off my fourth or fifth novel release. But such things cannot be predicted, nor can they be assumed). There is a difference however, between the knowledge of  where I’d like to be, and the wisdom to comprehend the fact that my life may take a very different course than I ‘expect.’ So, I dial the question back by a couple of years. 

What advice would I give myself at age 17?

Oh, that’s easy. At 17, I was lost and confused, which I realize is something that most teenagers are, and perhaps, I can therefore label myself normal. I wanted to fit in so badly. I wanted nothing more than to feel like I belonged somewhere, particularly somewhere where the popular people were ‘in.’ At 21, I have matured into a somewhat wiser adult (though that’s debatable). I probably wouldn’t have listened if a 21 year old would have told me that it wasn’t worth the fight at 17…In fact, I am almost positive that several adults, younger and older, imparted words of wisdom on me of how life was bigger than high school and that my anger and anxiety over popularity were not worth the fuss. Obviously, I didn’t listen. But, I came to self proclaimed understanding and fulfillment in that area very quickly after I graduated. So, in a way, everything happened exactly as it needed to. 

I’m sure that if I had a chance to go back and repeat high school (heaven forbid), I would have done things differently. I would have smiled more and fought less. Perhaps I wouldn’t have tried as hard to get attention from people who were obviously not worth my time and energy. I would have laughed more and cried less. But, there is no going back. The events that I encountered as a teenager were those that shaped me until now, and had it not been for my struggle, I wouldn’t have found my true self. I would have never managed to tap into my true potential. The path would have been different. I am not sure I would enjoy a different path as much as I am enjoying this one.

That being said, I do think it is wise to ask myself the same question with my current age. I have been twenty-one for all of two months, but what have I done so far that I can advice myself on?

It’s not worth the stress. That’s what I needed to hear two months ago, and probably did, several times, but refused to internalize it. The small, petty things are not worth the stress and aggravation. It’s unbelievable how much can happen in the course of two months. I know what’s best for me, I know who I am and where I need to be in order to be my ‘healthiest’ self, and yet, my self imposed rules tend to fly out the window.

At the end of the day, it’s best not to sit and think about what could have been done differently. Had things happened differently in my life, I wouldn’t be who I am now, and that would be a shame. Every difficult moment led to a moment of realization which lead to a maturity sprout. Where would those moments go if I knew how to handle everything that was thrown my way? Things would be completely different, and, I imagine, much less thrilling. Life is meant to be taken in leaps and bounds at times, and at others, in peaceful strides. Either way, I would have never reached this point had my gait and pace changed, even for a single moment. 

That’s my answer. What’s yours?