I’m looking at a picture of you, the one where your nose and cheeks are bright red from the cold and you’re wearing a red knit beret and laughing like you’ve never been happier. Your smile looks like you’ve never tasted pain but oh, I know you have to know sadness to be able to smile like that. And you laughed often, but your laugh was a little empty, more about people knowing you knew how to laugh than actually being worth the chuckle.
Sixteen was taking your mama’s old red lipstick and wearing it to a party for the first time, blushing and shy and praying no one would notice, yet hoping someone would. You look so young and fresh and delicate, but I know on the inside you were an old soul, old and tired like the rocks on the ocean coast, the sharp edges worn away by the brute force of the waves.
You were so weary, dear. Tired of caring about what other people thought, tired of wondering where God was and tired of never feeling free to be yourself. Tired of not knowing who you were or who you wanted to be.
And Sixteen, I’m sorry love, but you’re just getting started. Because Seventeen will be unlike anything you’ve ever known, like walking through a sandstorm against the wind, and you’ll wonder if Eighteen will really be your saving grace or just another battle to fight. Fifteen was gentle and sweet and a little bit sad, but Fifteen was kind. So you walked towards Sixteen with open palms and big eyes, expecting only the best. But Sixteen hit you hard and you came into Seventeen with your fists up, ready to strike the first blow and beat Seventeen into submission before it ever had a chance to take you first.
What happened, baby? Where along the way did Time become your enemy? When did you mix up growing up with getting old, maturity with how much makeup you wore? And if Seventeen taught you anything, it reminded you of who you were and how you’d never be happy being anything but the girl who wore a makeup-less face and t-shirts, and Seventeen taught you to be okay with that.
But Sixteen, you were about discovery. And so you tried to be fashionable and you tried to be cute and sassy and athletic and you wanted to fit in so badly, but then you realized that you didn’t want to be like them. It wasn’t worth it. You got hungry for originality and going against the crowd, so you listened to Frank Sinatra and The Beatles and Journey and it was your streak of defiance, that no one could tell you what you could listen to.
You little rebel. I love you for that. You may have thought it was nothing, but Sixteen is often not so honest. Sixteen likes to lie for a little longer and whisper you can be one of them if you just try harder. But you didn’t buy the act, Sixteen. You paved your own way. You always did want to be a trailblazer.
I don’t know if we’ll ever meet again, Sixteen, but in case we don’t: thank you. I needed you, and you arrived right on time.