Sixteen-Year-Old Optimist

January 26, 2012
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I woke up a sixteen-year-old optimist this morning.
At school, it’s sort of a competition to see whoever has more balloons on their birthday. I told all my friends that I wanted to look like the house from Up with all my balloons. When Brittany ran up to my car with a huge smile, I knew she was excited about something. She pulled me over to her little blue Mustang and giggled as her boyfriend pulled seven bright balloons out of the backseat. She handed them to me, hugged me, and told me how she almost died because her vision was so impaired by the helium filled dump truck that reminded her of me as soon as she saw it. I’m not quite sure I understand why, but I love it, the dump truck that is. And from then on, I knew I was going to have a great birthday.
Logan gave me a balloon that he blew up himself taped to a pencil. Yeah, it was pretty ghetto. But I really didn’t expect more from Logan. He’s sort of unconventional.
All day long, I got death stares as I walked through the hallways and my balloons hit people in the face. I was fine with that. Whatever. At 11:09, I turned seventeen. I told Brittany I’ve decided that since I have 365 days left until my childhood is legally over, according to the state of Texas. In honor of my last year of youth, I’ve decided that I’m going to do something childish every day until I turn eighteen. I figured this would involve jungle gyms, chasing down ice cream trucks, Disney movies, and sidewalk chalk.
I got home. 48 new Facebook notifications. You were one. But Your message was pretty anti-climactic. “Happy Birthday Shelby!” All my other friends practically wrote me love letters, and you, well… So I made up for Your lack of trying by adding seventeen exclamation points at the end of my “thank you!” Something tells me You aren’t going to be my Jake Ryan this year.
As Shack pointed out, while sixteen is the year you get to drive, and eighteen is the year you become an adult, nothing happens at seventeen. I can go see rated R movies now, but it’s not like I didn’t sneak into them before. According to him, nineteen isn’t anything to look forward to either.

After sitting at home for twenty minutes having already opened up my Dirty Dancing DVD, $25 American Eagle gift card, and eaten a slice of my zebra cake, I realized that I have nowhere to go. Brittany’s at dance practice, Logan’s grounded, and You… well, that’s another story.
Mom sat back down on the couch, having only stood up long enough to take a picture of me with my cake. She turned on the TV, like every night, and sat down mesmerized by the glowing box already. I didn’t find this any different than any other night- I mean my mom and my stepdad always neglect me for CSI and The Simpsons. But then the calls started coming in- other family members who care, including Dad who slipped away from the hospital long enough to call me- and they all wanted to know what I’m doing tonight. My original response of “nothing,” turned into, “nothing?” I guess I’ve forgotten what birthdays are supposed to look like since I’ve been spending them consecutively with my mother.
Mom and I haven’t gone out to eat in over a year. And we aren’t tonight. Not even on my birthday. Not even on my birthday am I worth more than the flat screen. She says it’s because she didn’t know I would want to go out. Because of course I’d love to sit at home in my room doing nothing on my birthday, the one day out of 365 that belongs to me.
And now my eyelashes are all stiff with tears. It’s not fair. It’s not fair because every single birthday has ended like this since my parents divorced. And I feel awful for even thinking about complaining on my birthday.
But guess what? I walked down those hallways with seven balloons today, feeling amazing at first because I must’ve been the most loved. Who else is given seven balloons on their birthday, right? Because each birthday balloon is like another Facebook friend- the more you have, the more you’re obviously loved… right?
Apparently January 26th is a pretty popular birthday. Four of my close friends share it. And today, I saw another girl carrying around her birthday balloons. She was pretty and constantly escorted by her boyfriend. And while she had only three balloons, they were all way cooler than the ones I originally thought were the shizz. And she had a boyfriend, which is something I would trade all my birthday balloons for. Another guy I know who was born just hours before me just updated his status from the snazzy sushi restaurant where his parents are treating him. Another friend is turning nineteen, and her dad got her a necklace that said “If daughters were flowers, I’d still pick you.” My dad just texted me asking me what my shoe size is. He’s last minute like always: I’m not going to be surprised when I open exactly what he’s talked about getting me, like always.
So here I am. Seventeen. No boyfriend. No sushi. No surprise. All I’ve got is a playlist full of sad songs that I sure hope my mother can hear me blasting from my room.
The only hope I’ve got left is that maybe, just maybe if I keep that chat box open for a little while longer, you’ll decide to make my birthday a little bit more happy.
I may have woken up a sixteen-year-old optimist, but I’m going to bed a seventeen-year-old pessimist.

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Regs_the_Shorty said...
Feb. 4, 2012 at 6:17 pm
Really good I liked it! 5 stars! Can you try and look at some of my work if you have time?
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