Before I Turn Eighteen: A Love Letter

I’ve been eighteen for a couple of months now. I wrote this last year, during a most depressing first semester of college, because I needed to sort my feelings out and give myself some sort of reassurance. It helped for a while. And while I don’t agree with everything I wrote anymore, there are still truths within this that I haven’t moved on from. Purging these thoughts from my mind helped me once so maybe putting them down here could help again. [Cover photo is by Carrie Mae Weems]

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The desire to remain young is an illness that never goes away. This is a love letter to all my anxious babes, to all of us who wonder about what lies beyond, whose inability to see beyond the “now” sends up a flare in the pits of our very beings; here is the reassuring bit—we’re all going to die.

Life often feels like a “death at a funeral.” I feel myself dying every day, thinking about death all the time, seeing people actually falling apart at the seams, at the actual seams, body parts pulling away and deteriorating. Death is everywhere, man. I can’t get a rash on my ass without thinking of death, without seeing the clock winding downwards. Mourning in the morning; my daily routine revolves around death, around the acknowledgement and ignorance of death. And the loss I have mourned the most is that of innocence.

There isn’t a direct line indicating the end of my childhood. I just know that one day I fell sad, and the end of the world began. I know, I know; I’m dealing with nostalgia here and, no, those weren’t the happiest days of my life. However, I cried a lot more after those early years were up. Life hurt a lot more. Hurting is variable, and life has an endless supply of hurt so that I hurt at the uncontrollability of my future, I hurt at the black and brown bodies mercilessly bruised and battered on the streets, I hurt at the human nature of evilness and wickedness; I hurt less at physical wounds, though I still physically hurt, and more at the weightiness of owning a body, the responsibility of having a soul encased in a body so attacked by bacteria and men, a body so violently-prone, wrecked with brutal words, and swords, and all other instruments of death—I am dying every day.

I know that a teenager is really just feelings in a body, and that an adult is a ghost of feelings, and I’m kind of looking forward to the numbness of adulthood; kind of, but not really, because unfeelingness has never suited me anyway. I don’t know what it is to not feel things. Come to think of it, I love feelings, some more than others of course. I love love, and I love beautiful things; I love when things click in patterns that make sense, I love colors and I love decorating; I love moisturizing and I love showering; I love caring and I love seeing and I love feeling. Feelings are evidence of being alive, of sharing in the triumphs and woes of life. We are conquered and we are murdered, and we feel, and we live.

My favorite thing to think about right now is my future. Or rather, a utopic imagining of my future. A compound, like my maternal grandparents’, with spacious bungalows around the perimeters; the breeze and the sun all have full access. I have a garden and a farm which I tend to. I also have children, a barrack-full of them running around in the softest clothes. My library is the largest room in this home, the door reads: Library of Cherishable Books. There are clothes hanging on a line outside, the sweet aroma of whatever I’m cooking keeping them company. I have an airy room facing the sun where I write and dream. Everyone has a happy place, and currently, this is mine.

Before I turn eighteen, before I enter into another year of hyper-anxiety, I just want to remind myself to relax. To smooth out my wrinkles and to dance anyway, and to laugh anyway, and to smile anyway. “Death is coming for us all. There is no need to be uncool about it,” writes Tumblr user crimesagainsthughsmanatees in one of my favorite comic strips. And it’s true; death is coming for all of us. Why not breathe while we wait?

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