The Age of Innocence

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As I approach my 7700th day of living, I feel queasy. It sounds so incredibly ridiculous that I feel this way, but it’s true. I feel anxious, scared and sad. What does tomorrow mark, you ask? I will be 21.

I know what you’re thinking, “What a self-centered, pathetic little ass.” Well, in a way, I kind of agree with you. I wish I was the type who was proud and excited to be reaching such a milestone, but I don’t feel that. For the past three or so months, I’ve been dreading the day. Why do I feel this way? I have no freaking clue. I’m usually the type to analyse my own emotions and instantaneously categorise them. But, this time, I’m lost for words.

It officially started, in its minute form, on my 14th birthday. My ex best-friend, who is eight months younger than me, introduced me to her younger friend from Girl Guides and the first thing she said was: “Jenna’s almost 14!” The look on the new girl’s face was priceless; a mix between Edvard Munch’s The Scream and Macaulay Culkin’s Home Alone expression. “Oh my god! You’re turning 14? I feel so sorry for you!”
For some reason, this situation struck me as particularly powerful, and in a way, a form of indirect bullying (well, in my opinion, anyway). At first, I remember agreeing with this girl until arriving home in a bizarre existential-like state.

I guess my fear for birthdays originated here. Before that, the birthday vibe was one of glory and exhilaration. A countdown would be conducted at the beginning of the year until the final few seconds of my life as another digit. But, now things have changed. No longer do I wake up at 5am, sprinting to my parent’s bedroom only to find them putting the final touches on the wrapping paper of my presents. No longer do I anticipate the crackles of the gift-wrapping early in the morning, always opening the smaller presents first. No longer do I write exaggerated present lists for my parents with the slight hope of finally receiving my own pony. I grew out of that years ago, but I miss it. I miss the hype.

It was only today that I came to realise the intensity of the situation; the fact that tomorrow is my ‘big day’. No, I’m not having a big ’21st party’, nor am I going to get insanely drunk. I’m not even going to have a fully-fledged party. The day will be spent with a couple of friends and family. If I knew this was the way I’d be spending my 21st a few years ago, I would have told myself to ‘go jump’, but now I’m comfortable with the idea; with the premise, not the age. I believe that once I conquer and accept the fact that I’ll be 21 then everything will be fine. Oh, and as my mum says, age is just a number.

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