I’m going through this awful phase lately where the most minor remembrances from childhood and early adolescence send me into a spiral of disgust re: adulthood, inducing a massive longing for priorities that revolve around endless hot chocolate, watching Spice World until their discography plays endlessly in my brain, nurturing my Tamagochi, buying all the bubble furniture that could possibly exist, and reading teenybopper magazines that have since ceased publication.
Ideally, I think to myself, I could just start over—come out of my mom’s belly armed with everything I’ve learned these past twenty-three years and show my life how it’s really done. It’s obviously a very dark—not to mention, delusional—place to go. Stumbling upon some silly old photos recently only sparked the fire, and I became immediately convinced that I was just cooler back then, in my party dress and layers of mismatched jewels (what looked more like a strangulation apparatus, and less like a so-called “neck party”). It was obvious that I gave zero fucks—not unlike Harrison Ford at the Oscars—and I couldn’t help but grieve over adulthood’s considerable degradation of that very attitude.
The recent birthday of my younger sister, who I’ve believed to be a perpetual zygote since birth, has only increased my nostalgia. This, despite signs to the contrary—a new boyfriend, an increased reliance on sarcasm and eye-rolls, the proliferation of SAT books in her bedroom, and the exciting realization that we now have real conversations, ones that don’t simply involve me cooing in her direction. I’ve tried to ease myself into this transition, mainly by denying it altogether, but her tip-toeing towards adulthood now has an engine pack attached to its ass in the form of a license.
With it returned memories of my own entrée into the world of roads, with a good helping of rage, as my friends and I drove aimlessly around the suburbs, feeling a surge of adrenaline from flipping off a driver who probably (given my skills behind the wheel at the time) should have been sending that gesture my way, instead. But the more I thought about it, the more those latent gonna-be-a-mother-one-day vibes rose up from my nether regions and started freaking out. Will she be safe? What if she texts and drives? I should resend her that documentary about how dangerous it is! I worried, in the same vein as my parents did with me not so long ago.
Their behavior was despicable to me back then, as I lingered in that cozy space of boneheaded naiveté that comprises most of high school. But now, with my sister behind the wheel, thinking about colleges, and, gasp, even looking at them in the flesh, I could relate to my parent’s unease. Quickly, though, that unease was overshadowed by something that looked and felt like envy, and, well, crap, probably was envy. “She gets to start fresh,” I whined to myself, swirling the pool of self-pity that was slowly filling up my brain. It lasted so long that I began to wonder if I was not unlike Kim Kardashian, whose recent selfies in her younger sister Kylie’s swimsuit had a twinge of sadness to them, like she was out to prove something by donning the tiny bikini bottom of her supermodel little sister.
Yearning for youth is nothing new—we all do it, whether or not we have younger sisters beneath us working as constant representations of what, we convince ourselves, we’re losing with every tick of the clock. And a twenty-three year old yearning for youth, when, to most people, she’s still deeply enmeshed in it, is downright irritating—even to the very twenty-three year old who has the audacity to do so. My sister herself seems shocked by the sudden moves she’s making into The Real World, which is, thankfully, nothing like the MTV show of the same name. “I always thought you were so old when you headed to college, and now I’m about to be doing the same,” she told me recently, with a twinge of hesitation in her voice.
Thankfully, her comment brought me back down to earth, as the anxieties and excitement of that period of life came rolling back to me in high definition. It wasn’t all bad, but it wasn’t all sunshine and roses either, I remembered. Our memories always seem a little prettier than most really were, as if they’ve all been art directed and photo-shopped to death before revisiting our conscience. As fun as my early life of Dunkaroo-dipping and Hanson idolizing was, ditto that feeling of immortality that comes with our teens, they were decidedly lacking in a fully fleshed sense of self, and a comfort with that self. Those voids were filled with a lot of nerves, and a lot of scary questions.
My sister is about to go through that, and will probably handle it with more aplomb than me, given her uber laidback sensibility. But she’ll have her moments, and I don’t envy them, I simply know they’re par for the course—the course that is growing up, which really only happens after you trip a few times (or twenty) on the upswing. When she does, I’ll be there in a heartbeat with hot chocolate, Spice World (an eternal pacifier, really), and all necessary adult-world fucks-to-give left briefly at the door.