during my "cool" stage//age 3

I am twenty three years old. Five years ago I graduated high school. Two years ago I dropped out of college. Seven months ago I moved to a new city where no family lives or hardly steps foot.

I am young.

And that is hard to say.

I have many friends who are older than I. It is often brought up how young I am, usually in a jovial chin-chucking manner. This causes me, without fail, to protest and then try to throw in as many SAT-worthy vocab words into the conversation as possible.

But I am young, and until I embrace this, I will not be able to face my world as I truly am.

My roommate has asked me repeatedly to not smoke on our porch. Sometimes finding this difficult to do, in my youthful petulance, I shuffle down the mossy steps of my house to perch on the wall holding back the climbing succulents from the street below, and I breathe out clouds of smoke into the purple night, trying to convince myself I know more than I really do.

But I don’t. I am in the first spin of my post adolescent life, and I am still off balance from the tipsy hallucination that with my own cell phone bill I am a fully grown woman with everything figured out.

Everything is forever at twenty three. Every heartbreak, every triumph, every decision to eat more pie than my stomach asked for. Time expands to hold small moments until they burst at the seams, and then snaps back in surprising elasticity until an entire season has passed so quickly it stings.

Only at twenty three can I look back with nostalgia to only one year ago. My cocoon is shedding so quickly I never know quite what part of my wing will show- what colors will be on the tip, how strong it is, how far it will let me fly. I look with wistful backward eyes at yesterday, where I did not know what would emerge, and thought it to be beautiful.

There are no guards up. At Thanksgiving dinner I joked with friends that my face shakes when I scowl, since it is an expression I hardly fit on my face. I operate under the notion that everyone is good, everything is OK, nothing is beyond redemption, so why scowl? With the rise of every new, often rainy, day, there is another leap or stumble toward the brilliant unknown. I am sometimes fearless, ready to bound forward into what I am positive is the next incarnation of who I know I can become. But almost in tandem, I am paralyzed and reminded of the moment when I was small and realized that if I was to pirouette out of a plane, the cotton clouds would not hold me. They were just vapor, and they would let me through, and I would be cold and wet and hurtling toward an earth where people cared more for the oil inside than the confused life on top of it.

Despite my growing knowledge of the hypocrisy and sadness and shadowed nature of people and the world, I cannot seem to build my walls. They are easily toppled, and consequently so am I. Shaken by people’s words, slave to the hope that people will untangle with just one more tug, I am a soft creature. I unfurl with promises, untempered by a lack of hardening experience, and am often left curled on a corner of a soft sofa, tired and impossibly turned around, looking toward the unknown, holding onto its hand as a new and unsure friend.

The unknown has to be my friend at twenty three. It is the bulk of what I have, if I am lucky enough to accrue enough years to make twenty three the beginning of my singular, beloved life. Especially at a point where I have been bumping into life’s coffee table corners more often than my clumsy heart can handle- I have to expect that rosy blush makes up my being more than purple bruises. I know that the mottled skin will heal until I can see freckles again.

However, I have nights with my feet pushed against the porch wall, my rocking chair leaning back past its safe fulcrum, and I am drowning in the night air and the darkness seems to permeate my pores until I am soaked and weighted. And it is then  I know I am young.

If I am young enough to feel this touched by the narrow eyed world, then I am young enough to still believe that I am untouchable. To still believe in the magic of sledding too fast, holding someone too close, the satisfaction of shaking a wrapped gift, the bridge in a song that brings you along until you’re lost in the melody and the belief that everything is a story that can be resolved in four minutes.

So there is my confession- I am twenty three. And only, and definitely, and wonderfully, and lucky to be, twenty three. See you out there.

Here’s a video that makes me feel how I was describing. Video shot, directed, and written by kids in Southern California for Bryan John Appleby’s song, “Backseat.”

Bryan John Appleby “Backseat” from OMG Cameras on Vimeo.