So I’m turning eighteen tomorrow—
*shrieks* MWAHAHA watch out world I can vote now (such a great first election, eh?)
—and I figured these thoughts I wrote down a few months ago fit that occasion.
They say I am so mature, so old now. They shake their heads over the car keys and college applications. They give me more and more tasks, more and more privileges and responsibilities.
I feel it, myself—I walk into strange schools to take tests that determine my future (at least, that’s what it feels like). I make plans about college and careers and life. I drive myself around now. I even chauffeur others. I have a job and coworkers and a paycheck. Every day, there’s one more step to take that makes me bolder, more confident, older, more independent.
And I like it, mostly. I like stretching my wings. I like facing something scary and overcoming it and thinking, “Wow, look what I can do!” Or, rather—“Wow, look what God brought me through!” I like looking ahead and dreaming and have the world at my fingertips. It’s like in The Perks of Being a Wallflower—and in that moment, I swear we were infinite.
But sometimes, I feel like a fake. Like my life is duct tape around a crumbling stone, and how long can even duct tape support this sand? I swing the keys and save my salary and sell myself to colleges, and all the while, even while I revel in the new brightness of it all, I’m terrified, grasping at the remains of my childhood. It’s like stardust, so beautiful, so alluring, but so elusive, just slipping through my fingertips.
I’m not ready for this.
Because inside, I am a little girl still. A little girl who wants her mommy and daddy to hold her during the scary movies and the sick days and the long nights. A little girl who wants to catch fireflies and swing on the swingset and dance in the dewy grace. A little girl who doesn’t care what others think about her, who is, in a way, braver than this big girl who’s so often shackled by people’s perceptions.
I have always felt pulled in two directions, like a walking paradox. Maybe that’s why I like paradoxes, because they remind me of myself. They give me hope that maybe being an oxymoron is okay.
I want to open up and go deep, but I’m terrified of vulnerability.
I want to be at peace with everyone, but I also want to stand up for my beliefs.
I want to cling to the light, but I’m so aware of the reality and even necessity of the darkness.
I want to laugh and dance, but I also want to be serious, focused.
I want to be smart and I want to be simple, and I want to be somber and I want to be joyful, free and controlled, kind and honest, famous and unencumbered, savior and saved.
I want to be old, and I want to be young. I am old, always felt older than my years like I could see and understand things few others could, and yet I’m also very young. Very foolish, very shy, very naive and helpless and simple.
These years, they are this delicate, fragile balance between the old and young. Between so many of those dichotomies—but that’s the thing. Is it too impossible, too unrealistic and idealistic, to believe that maybe I could just be both? Somehow reconcile both together or embrace both or, I don’t know, just be? Just be me, contradictions and all. I’m not sure if I like the idea, because I like order and answers and reasons, and just being one person with so many conflicting parts doesn’t really fit that.
Maybe it’s like what Madeleine L’Engle says:
Sing for the glory
of the living and the loving
the flaming of creation
sing with us
dance with us
be with us
And maybe it’s about trust.
Just trusting the One Who made me this way, Who is Himself far more complex and a paradox, too—mercy and justice, majestic and meek, Lion and Lamb. Just living in the present, not worrying about the future when I’ll have to be even more “mature” or yearning for the past when everything was easier.
Maybe that’s what infinite is, after all. It’s the combination of growing up and staying young at heart—“we have worlds ahead of us,” that thought celebrates both. Ahead of us—growing up. And yet, the essence of growing up is that you haven’t grown up yet. You’re still young.
So I am going to relish working and driving and test-taking—okay, not relish it, but enjoy the sense that comes with it of doing important, “big person” stuff. And I am also going to splash in puddles and ride on a carousel and be willing to show how clueless I really am about the world.
I don’t know why I’m afraid of this whole thing, really, because God is still here, with me. I forget that—I look ahead and don’t see Him there, in the future. But He’s there, too, just like He was in the past. Just like He is right now. And actually, He’s in me. He made me. He understands me, better than I ever will myself. And He accepts me. He revels in the paradox and calls me to surrender it to Him so He can do His beautiful-mess-order-from-chaos miracle.
Surrendering sounds all complicated or vague, but I think it’s just a moment-by-moment—there it is again, living in the present again—saying, “What do you want me to do, God?” and “Thank You for this, God,” and “Thank You for who You are, God,” and “Forgive me, God” kind of thing. When I do that, when I think about Him, I don’t worry about myself. And then I can truly just be. I can be me best when I’m focused on Him the most.
I think I could embrace a paradox like that.