Ten years ago, I was sixteen. I'm not going to lie, I was not, in any way, a glamorous sixteen-year-old. I wasn't even a semi-glamorous sixteen-year-old. You know in high school drama/comedies there is always that pretty-but-doesn't-know-she-is-pretty-extremely-smart-and-talented female lead? Yeah, not me, either. If I even made it on camera, I was the chubby one wearing bad clothes, trying to be cutting edge, and failing miserably.
Teenage me was awkward at best and lost, lost, lost.
At this time 10 years ago, I was getting ready to go to a new school. Not because we had moved or anything, but because the school district changed and we were re-routed to a brand new high school. I was to be in the first graduating class, so I was one of only 200 juniors making the move. I thought it was going to be a good experience. I could "start over," reinvent myself. Did that happen? In a round-about sort of way.
The summer of my sixteenth year, I was lifeguarding and teaching swim lessons full-time at an outdoor YMCA. I was driving a 1981 Volvo that had no air conditioning and a sunroof that cranked open. That car was wonderful and a nightmare all at the same time. It had hideous blue upholstery, the powder-blue paint was cracking and peeling, and I had to duct tape the front left headlight to keep it from falling out of the car. Every once in awhile, the turn signal would quit working, so I would have to pull over to kick it back into submission.
I was no longer swimming at that point. I can't remember when I officially gave up, but know it was by the time I had reached that summer. I often wonder why or how I lasted that long in a sport... Any sport. I'm just not much of an athlete, even when I was training and competing all of the time. I often wonder if I should have continued dancing, but I never really had the body for it, and well, let's face it, that's the kind of thing that you look back on and say "what the hell was I thinking?" but in reality, would I have actually enjoyed it? Who knows?
I loved to read, I was in love with Coldplay, in love with Scotland, and in love with the idea of writing. I hadn't done much of it at that point, but I wanted to. I would write little snippets and dream up entire novels in my mind. The discipline that actually came with writing came later. I'm not sure when, but it took me awhile, but when it did happen, it didn't stop.
At sixteen, college was a near-distant mystery; something to plan for, but something so far away, it might as well be light-years. I had no idea what I wanted to do, where I wanted to do it, or why. I was 16... why should I know? I didn't actually think I would end up at Georgia Tech, that's for sure. And I certainly didn't think I would be an historian. At sixteen, I liked history, but my academic strengths were pretty all over the place, then.
Ten years later, I wish I could go back and have a nice long chat with that girl. Not necessarily to tell her how wrong she was, because, for the most part, I think I made a lot of the right decisions. That new school was simultaneously the best and worst thing that had ever happened to me... In being a horrible decision, it led to amazing decisions. Decisions that made me a far better student, scholar, and probably person. It sent me across the world to the one place I have ever fallen in love with, to the one place that taught me how to write. But I would ask her to work on the clothes. And the hair. And definitely the make-up. I'd ask her to be a little more outgoing and a little less completely terrified of people.
Amazingly, a lot of my goals then are the same they were when I was sixteen. I wanted to be a writer when I was sixteen, and that desire has only increased in the past decade. I probably appreciate the craft much more than I ever did as a teenager, but then, what teenager isn't overly optimistic about the work involved in life (don't answer that)?
But if you had told me at sixteen that I would be married and have a child in ten years, I would have laughed. And laughed. And laughed. I was convinced I was one of those women who would be well into her thirties before she ever settled down. And an Army wife? Pfft. I was an anti-war hippy. Besides, I was convinced I was going to do something extraordinary... at twenty-six, I can honestly say: being extraordinary is over-rated and requires a lot of work.
And work has never really been my strong suit...
I'm still going to be extraordinary... It's just going to take me a little longer than I had originally planned, and it might not come with as much money as I planned in my head. If one of my books becomes an international success, you better believe I'm going to be all over that... But sometimes, there are a few more important things that should come first.
In the event that you made it this far, perhaps you would like to drown out my incessant rambling by checking out one of the blogs I faithfully read: Working On My Moon Tan.
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