life | turning nineteen

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Photo taken by my good and talented friend Jamie Tung

Seventeen was the year of brand new cars and drivers' licenses. The blinding disco lights of a birthday party. A girlhood era of high heels and makeup. Snapchat filters and high school romance. Immersing ourselves in the thrill of being young, fully embracing our moment of "I'm an adult but not quite yet."

Then eighteen was what I called an "important age". Stepping out of the carefree, party-filled teenage dream and into the age of major life decisions. What college? What career? Where do I go? What do I do? The classroom doors close. The friends say farewell. The kids embark and finally face reality.

Now when someone mentions nineteen, I picture a responsible, big girl with well-kept hair who makes everybody proud. Jeans that fit just right, soft, lavender curtains, and a clean, tidy dressing room. Adults love her, younger kids look up to her, she makes her own Christmas cards, and has her whole life figured out.

Needless to say, maybe, just maybe, 

I could've imagined something a little more realistic.
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Act I: A Pattern


There are many things I could call it. The Year I Don't Mess Up, The Year I Finally Get Things Right, or The Year I Stop Having Emotional Breakdowns.

Couldn't I do it? Write a cliché "18 Life Lessons I Learned When I Was 18", make a list of some golden life advice, and dazzle everyone into thinking I'm smart, or wise, or dearingly relatable?

Couldn't I pretend and announce that I'm finally turning into a beautiful butterfly of this girl I've always envisioned myself becoming? The girl I keep in the back of my head, whom I built upon nothing but motivational Pinterest quotes? The girl who rarely worries about anything and always takes such excellent care of herself?

I thought about it; proclaiming this as the year where I'll finally become her. Strong and sensible, thriving and successful, #GirlBoss 101 and just utterly fearless. As the year where everything finally becomes perfect.

And then I paused. I took a deep breath, and instinctively, I let it go.

Because there it was. That word again.

Perfect.


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Every time my birthday approaches, there is a pattern that would repeat itself each year. It slowly forms through sentences like:

"By the time I turn 20, I will already be this kind of person."

"Before I graduate, I will already change into that kind of person."

"Within the next few months, I will already accomplish this much for myself."

As great as it is to strive for "better"-ness, it's a pattern that gives us a massive amount of pressure. We want success and we want it in deadlines. Rather than embrace growth, we expect ourselves to be a certain type of person (a beacon of success, or an effortless goal-achiever) at a certain point in our lives – like a year's start, a month's end, a specific age, or, well, a birthday.


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Act II: A Guest

Because of this, in the moments surrounding my birthday on June 3rd, I was stricken with worry. Don't get me wrong – I was happy that day. It was lovingly celebrated, we opened gifts, we ate cake, and it was a wonderful weekend.

I just felt like I wasn't ready yet.

For an analogy, imagine a wedding organizer, who still doesn't have those roses for the table minutes before the event.

In this event, Perfect was the guest I highly anticipated. I busied myself and prepared everything, expecting her arrival. She would come in, glowing, and be everything I was hoping for.

Lights were dimmed, and the decorations glittered, and the room was gradually filled with sheer happiness and love. Smiles in all directions, and music that made the heart sing. Every guest finally took their seats, and excitement grew in every corner.

Yet I wasn't in on it.

The party had begun, yet I didn't dare place myself in the center of the scene. Completely oblivious to the warmth and cheer of the evening, my heart was sinking with concern. We're still missing one guest.

This isn't how it's supposed to be, I'd think, where is she? I'd glance at the door every minute, anxiously fixing every possible flaw. In a party that was coming alive, there I was. Burdensome.

Finally, a friend taps me on the shoulder.

"She's not coming," they say.

I pause. First came anger, mostly at myself. Maybe if I tried harder? 

But then it sinks in. Perfect isn't coming. Perfect isn't coming. Perfect is never coming.

I finally breathe, and let go of my waiting. And I realize it then; this is good news. I have a party to enjoy, a spectacle to witness. An atmosphere of love that I can finally step into.

It wasn't the good news I wanted to hear,

but it was the good news I always needed.

---

Act III: An Affirmation

If I have just the tiniest bit of truth unmasked to me over the past week, it's this:
I can rest in the knowledge that I will never be perfect. That I can try my hardest, pursue every success on earth, reach for moons, land on stars, and never stop until I become the nearest thing to perfection itself, yet still fail to reach it. I can rest in the knowledge that no matter what I do, perfect is unattainable. I can breathe easy–not because "I'll be perfect someday", but because I never will be.
That party was my life, and Perfect was a guest I thought would've shown up by now, but didn't. And yet, it was still a party. It was my experiences, my moments of joy, my loved ones, and every good thing I've been blessed with up to this point. It was the happiness that always waited for me, and here I am, finally immersing myself in it.

No longer do I anguish myself waiting for the guest that simply isn't coming. No longer do I become a dog chasing its own tail, frantically trying to reach something that's only causing me to go in circles.

Becoming better doesn't mean being completely rid of shortcomings. Expanding ourselves to new levels, doesn't mean reaching a stage where we make no mistakes. You can soar to new heights yet still stumble along the way. You can have faults yet still be better than who you were yesterday.

Try your best each day, to live a life you're proud of. But if you don't always find excellence, then friend, effort will simply have to do. It doesn't mean getting it right every minute of every day. It doesn't mean turning into a completely new person overnight. It simply means you try. And that's it. You try. And my God, that's good enough.

---

It's taking everything in me, dear friends, to be able to write this piece. The last time I wrote about perfectionism was two years ago. And here I am, 2 years ahead, 2000 miles away, still trying to shake it off of me.

Perfectionism is demanding, but it never truly goes away. Perfect is still a guest. Perfect would sometimes still want a seat. Sometimes it's just a matter of deciding not to take her so seriously anymore.

Surely it's a reminder that's taking me a lifetime to accept. And with this, I need to be okay with not always trying to sound smart, or wise, or dearingly relatable. As hard as it is for me to write this, I need to be okay with not knowing if anyone would resonate with these words. This time, my aim is not in trying to appear profound. Rather, it's just to be honest and self-reflective.

In conclusion, here I am. Nineteen. And if 17 was for being young, and 18 was for making choices, then maybe 19 can simply be the year I stop trying to morph myself into a fictional character.

Here I am. Nineteen. With a confidence that I'll know more tomorrow than I do today.

Here I am. Nineteen. With feelings I've placed in my pockets, that I couldn't always make disappear. With hands smeared with ideas I don't always know how to execute. With a heart brimming with dreams I don't always know how to explain.

Here I am. Nineteen. Life messy. Future uncertain.

But it's a party. And I love it.

Come join me.

It feels fantastic.

---

I'll write again soon.
















3 comments

  1. Happy birthday! May the next year of your life be perfect!
    xx from Bavaria/Germany, Rena
    www.dressedwithsoul.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is so beyond encouraging, and so freeing. Thank you. I'm coming up on my eighteenth birthday soon, and this has been running through my brain on a constant basis. So thank you.

    And happy belated birthday! I hope that you have the most wonderful year that you could imagine. <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad if it spoke to you, dear. Hope you have a lovely 18th birthday! <3

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