February 27, 2012
By , Portland, OR
I am that little girl who grew up. The adorable toddler from those sappy '90s pictures with the curly strawberry-blonde hair, fifteen years later. I've discovered the joys of boys, make-up, the Internet, driving, and independence. I've tasted alcohol somewhere other than at the Communion rail, and 'clitoris' is more than just another scientific word. My world no longer ends at the backyard, and there are now some things that my mother's arms cannot heal. Summer consists of much more than popsicles, tree climbing, and the sprinkler. I now sing the achingly familiar lullabies to children I babysit instead of listening to them myself. I cannot remember the last time I played Go Fish instead of Blackjack or Hearts. Drawing within the lines is just a metaphor, not an accomplishment.

Some young daughters are held close while being told to never grow up by their parents. I was born being told to grow up; it always seemed like whatever I did, I did in an attempt to catch up with my older siblings. The child that ran through the meadow past wildflowers and pines shriveled up and crawled into the back of my psyche once my brother was born. I was never anyone's little princess – the closet I got was pumpkin. The front of the refrigerator was never plastered with drawings and snapshots; no report cards were rewarded places of honour. Traditions were started and never continued; classic memories were foregone or forgotten. Family vacations became trials instead of tribulations – a week of attempting not to throttle a relative. The little girl's smile grew cold and hollow, unable to find a reason to remain genuine.

The young girl's curls slowly turned into waves, then almost disappeared completely. Her soft, red-gold hair turned like the leaves on a tree; first bright and thriving, then going brown and brittle. Natural freckles soon blended into the background as pimples conquered her face, only to be aggravated as they were coated with varying goey concoctions meant to make them disappear. Infectious giggles were replaced by silent smiles then just a stoney countenance. She couldn't find a reason to smile; the path back to daylight was hidden in a crevasse behind puberty, epilepsy, and high school. The little girl cried out for contact, for someone to realise that behind the dull facade I was just a lost child who didn't remember how to enjoy life. I still wanted to be someone's little princess.

Unfortunately, little princesses don't get far in the world when they are removed from their kingdoms. So as I moved past high school and started to catch a break with my acne dilemma the little girl finally recognised that she would never be happy if she depended on others to make that happiness. She learned to trust the almost-forgotten impulses that had long ago let her careen wildly through a corn field, not caring that she couldn't see where she was in relation to the outside world, trusting in herself to get out safely. Now as I stand on the cold, windy, harsh Pacific beaches, I am able to marvel at the beauty of it all. Five years ago I would have been bored by the monotony of the wind, waves, and sand; ten years ago I wouldn't have had the patience to just stand and absorb the majesty. The teenager who once plastered her face against an airplane window to see the never-ending spread of lights from the city below has merged with the girl in the meadow to create this conglomeration that is me.

Nothing is more beautiful than a city at night, except perhaps a desert or an ocean. The child who once cried in the back of my mind for release has now been quieted, content with making my life interesting by embracing odd impulses. I want to dance in the rain in Central Park; I've been known to burst out singing at random moments; sometimes I communicate via movie quotes; I'll tear up while reading a sappy love story; oftentimes, when I get behind the wheel of a car I have to fight the temptation to get on the highway and never stop driving. My childlike desires have merged with my newly-developed college student persona to make a crazy, adventure-seeking, adrenaline junkie who is of legal age. Some days this results in my thinking that I can take on the whole world with ease and style. Other times, I don't want to get out of bed and face any type of humanity. Yet each day I do manage to wake up and live a life that – while not custom-made by any stretch of the imagination – is still quite a bit better than some peoples'. The little girl will get her dreams and the woman will get her adventures. The student just needs to get the money.

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IntrepidRose This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 28, 2012 at 3:04 pm
I can relate to this in some ways. There are many parts I can only imagine, but I can relate to the way you discuss feeling in your last paragraph.
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