THE ACHE OF ADOLESCENCE

On the evening of my sixteenth birthday
I remember curling my hair with an iron and
burning the tips of my fingers pink,
mumbling pained words under my breath
that I probably shouldn’t ever repeat
unless I desire to live beneath the shadows
of adult eyebrows being raised so high
they might never come back down

as if they had never said something like that
before

that night I put on a silver dress,
and lipstick so red it almost gave the illusion
that I had been bleeding from the mouth
but I felt unstoppable, so why not?

“why not” was the question
that was always replaced with stone-cold silence
and the shrug of a shoulder
instead of an answer

that night, I blew out sixteen flaming candles
and felt beautiful,
surrounded by the smiles of friends I had met in high school
and ones I had known since the days when our only worries
revolved around who had the prettier Barbie doll
and who held hands during recess in the fourth grade
and these thoughts caused my stomach to somersault because,
now that we were illuminated by candlelight and the brightness of celebration,
everything had changed.

 

I blew out my candles and did not wish
for a car, or a new wardrobe, or for more
faces to call my friends, but rather,

I wished to be taken seriously.

I knew there was a deep-rooted problem
when I became acquainted with real love for the first time
And everyone said that I was too young, too incompetent to understand
What that word even meant,
That I was silly for believing that such a concept could exist
When you’re sixteen and five and a half feet tall
and not that great at chemistry or parallel parking
and can barely even hold up a strapless dress
as if somehow that dictated
that I was too small, too stupid to realize that
love was something much bigger than I am
but I did.
I do.

And there is something so contagiously twisted
That lurks in our society like a epidemic
The idea when your age lies between thirteen and eighteen
you are not really a person
that instead, you are a shadow of ignorance that sleeps all day
and clothes yourself in different shades of apathy
and that the only things you care about are
alcohol-induced parties on Friday nights and
losing morals and hours of sleep while gaining temporary highs
as if that is the highest I will ever go in life

you have to be kidding me.

because you might look at someone like me
and snarkily remark that I never look up from the screen of my phone
and you might think that my taste in music is repulsive or that
I’m only holding his hand because I love the thrill of letting it go,
and you might think that people my age have brains
that contain only a spoonful of intellect and the rest is just
empty space filled up with disease
but maybe it is time that your pedestal falls
and you realize that the older the wiser
is hardly ever true at all

I have witnessed lives spiraling out of control

the truth is not that we are dirt
and no, I am not taking pictures of myself unclothed
or chatting with strangers in online rooms
maybe the reason why I’m on my phone
is because I’m talking my best friend out of killing herself
and I’m researching time travel and why the happiest people hurt the most
and a cure for my own depression
and better words to fit my poetry
I am not equal to the garbage you see kicked to the curb of the street
Or scenery while you ride on by in your horse and carriage

I am just as great
As someone who has spent 80 years of their life achieving
And if time is uncontrollable
Then why am I being treated like somehow,
I have not chosen to be here long enough to know anything at all

And one day I dream of having my words praised for the truth that they are
Rather than having eyes roll back in guilty judgment
Because I have not lived as long as you have
And yet I am the one writing the words

Because yes, I am sixteen.
I haven’t even been here for two decades
but I do not search for happiness in empty glass bottles and clouds of smoke like you think I do
and I do not play with hearts like they’re made of matches
because I know that they burn
and when I tell him that I love him
I am not doing it to kill time
and I know that life is sacred and
impossible to retrieve once it’s gone and I am not going to waste
the precious seconds of my own aching until someone decides
that maybe, I am worth listening to.

Because I know that I am.
And on my sixteenth birthday,
as I smiled scarlet in every photograph
I was right–
I am unstoppable.

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