Eighteen. How can you dread a number so much?
Eighteen to me means darkness. Mistakes made, depression, loneliness, and hardship. It means suicide, it means being afraid for maybe not ever seeing nineteen. Eighteen, to me, is a burden.
Eighteen, for most teenagers, was “semi-legal adult”. It meant going to get tattoos and piercings without parental consent, sneaking out to go to 18+ parties in the city on a Friday night, drinking, thinking about college, the beginning of your independence and your life. Some of you may wish to relive the memories of eighteen; I wish I was able to hit my head so hard in the pavement that I could permanently never have to remember.
Eighteen holds many of my demons, my insecurities, my inability to love myself and accept me for what I am in twenty-five. Twenty-four. Possibly even thirty.
I repeated this story in detail plenty of times: through creative non-fiction, poetry, journal entries, and even during therapy sessions. I tried to tell my story to help heal me. So, why do I dread eighteen? Why can’t I let eighteen just die?
Because I never got to honor you, eighteen. I never sat down and celebrated how you got through it. I never saw you as my literal hero, because you chose life before you were able to choose to be defeated. You allowed me to live to see twenty-five. Twenty-four. Yes, even when it’s time to be thirty.
Because eighteen, you deserve to know the following:
- You found a way out from the emotional/mental abuse you were experiencing because deep down, you always knew there was a life that was better for you out there. You fought through the manipulation of another human being, despite what was being said, and got through that shit. You were patient and kind enough to see good in everything and everyone, even when you were constantly being pulled down to the ground. You lasted long enough to see you deserved happiness and what you were in wasn’t true happiness. Through the drama, death threats, abuse, and all that you took; you were able to say enough was enough.
- You graduated high school in the top quarter of your class and made it through despite hating going to that hellhole five days a week. You solved those Pre-Calculus questions, you studied for that AP English exam, you learned every single second soprano note on every sheet of music for vocal, and you showed up despite the embarrassment and humiliation you faced. You did everything you could to finally get out of that place and never see those people in your life again. You were able to put everything aside: the depression, the constant suicidal thoughts, the cry for help, everything that would destroy you to get the work done. You showed me that no matter what happens to you in life, you have to get through shit to get to the other side.
- You made mistakes, of course, you were young, but you never lost your morals and values, despite feeling like you were not worthy of having any anymore during eighteen. I don’t call you lucky after you escaped a situation where you could’ve potentially been raped, and honestly, that day had haunted everyone to twenty-five like it was yesterday, but some entity protected you that day. Maybe it was those morals and values you hold so dearly to your heart, maybe it was God; either way, you came out of dangerous situations alive, remorseful, and stronger. These things needed to happen to one of us in order for us to learn, and you were brave enough to go through it as young as you were. Thank you for risking your life for us; the twenty-five, the twenty-four, and even the thirty.
- You kept doing what you loved despite being called worthless, useless, and horrible at your craft. You wrote poetry to get through the sad shit, the bad shit, and the depressing shit, and despite being told that you weren’t good enough, ever, you kept going. You kept that major your freshman year of college despite being told you weren’t good at even speaking English and didn’t need a degree to write, you continued to love a passion despite people wanting you to take a more “realistic approach” to what I wanted to do. You’re the reason twenty-two got that bachelors degree, and that twenty-four got that masters degree. You never gave up on doing the thing that makes you happy, and I applaud you for keep going.
- At the end of each day, when you cried on the bathroom floor at 3 in the morning, cutting yourself with your sharp nails until blood started to run down your arm on its own, thinking you were this horrible person that deserved everything that happened to you and just wanted to die, you still went to bed every single night hoping the next day would be better. I know how badly you just wanted to get hit by a speeding car when you walked home after a long day, I know you just wanted to kill yourself so that the people who drove you to such insanity would feel bad that they did such thing, but you chose to take on life instead of taking it away from yourself. As much shame as I may carry around about you on my shoulders whenever I’m forced to think about you, I know you are a lot stronger than I give you credit for. You went through shit without anyone’s help, and that’s a challenge all on its own. I honor you for your will to live through such a dark time because twenty-five would not have been able to honor you. Thirty wouldn’t either in the future. There would not have been a Liz if you didn’t fight through your demons, those who lived on the inside and those who tried to destroy you on the outside. Thank you.