I’ve always wanted to be older.

Part of this stems from my personality, I think. I’ve always been a bit of an old soul; quiet and thoughtful, reading books I barely understood because I was too young and always sitting in on adult conversations just to listen. When I was younger, I had a picture in my mind of who I wanted to be when I was eighteen. It was a blend of all the best parts of the people I admired and what I thought I wanted to become. I naively assumed that simply growing older would change me into that person; I thought I would achieve it with maturity.

Now that I am eighteen, I’m thinking of that image, that girl I was supposed to become, and she seems so foreign and untouchable to me. If I had tried to become her, I would have compromised who I am at the core of myself. I wouldn’t be myself anymore, and something about that doesn’t appeal to me because I actually like who I am becoming. It’s a subtle development and yes, I have flaws, but I realized that I’d rather become more of myself than turn into a bad imitation of a fabricated image. It was a mental shift: focusing on who I am and how to develop that rather than focusing on who I am not and how to obtain it.

In a little over a month, my time as a high school student will quietly close. Lately I’ve been thinking back over these past four years, drawing up old memories and wondering what I would have done differently. I hated most of high school, but this past year has been so different and I’m discovering why. At the beginning of the year, I knew I wanted to end well. Previously, school had been a place of tension manifesting between me and myself. It was a battle ground in which I subconsciously set impossible expectations and failed to live up to them, lending to a subconscious feeling of failure (because a 100% average is an unrealistic goal that, now, I am not ashamed that I never achieved). I wouldn’t think of judging others by their GPA, but somehow I didn’t escape my own criticism.

With a subtle shift in focus, this has become one of the best years of school so far. I slowly gave myself permission to be genuine, lowered my expectations a little, intentionally tried to focus on other people and, in exchange, I gained personal freedom, achieved the same GPA without all the pressure, and had so much more fun. I love setting goals, but only goals that are attainable and in keeping with who I am and who I want to become. At the beginning of first semester, I prayed about very specific areas of school and life that I knew I wanted to change and I’ve been surprised and blessed to watch them take on a new dimension and depth to me. It was a process: I didn’t wake up one day completely changed and I’m still not completely changed, but it’s a healthier way of living.

Now I am finally the age I always wanted to be and it seems silly now, because it’s just an age. It will fade away like all the others and my spirit, the core of who I am, will be the same. I can’t change that. I interact with elderly people on a regular basis, and many of them will lament to me about growing old. In some, though, I can see a youthful spirit shining through their eyes, the energy that vibrates within, and I tell them that they are only as old as their spirit feels.

I should listen to my own advice.

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