You were curled up in the corner of your bedroom with your bottom lip pouted out, breathing as heavily as a little kid can, and your mom was pounding at your door. “I’m never coming out! I can’t wait to move out of here!” you yelled at her. She is too patient to yell back – she always has been — so she just stood there, knowing that you would, as always, be too hungry and weak-willed to last longer than ten minutes.
You were 6, and this was the first time of many that you would decide that you couldn’t wait to grow up. You would imagine a day when you could set your own bedtime, or lack thereof, and not have to worry about how dirty your floor is. The light at the end of the tunnel was a day when you could eat chicken nuggets and Lunchables for every meal of the day.
You were 6. You had no idea what you were wishing for.
You’d wish you were old enough to watch Rated-R movies, but appreciated the animated Disney ones while you still can, because when you were older, you will find yourself watching Peter Pan when you are sick in a college dorm room and wish your mom was there to hand-feed you Saltines and spoonfuls of honey. You will find yourself watching Mulan when you come back from a night out at 3 a.m. and your friends can’t stop singing “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.” And you will find yourself scheming to go to a new Disney movie in theaters, surrounded by kids still even if you don’t have any of your own and you feel momentarily out of place. It will make you feel everything good in life all at once.
You would wish you were old enough to wear glamorous clothes, the dresses and suits and heels of adulthood. You won’t realize how much the stiff shoes will hurt your feet, or that you will choose to wear sweatpants and t-shirts over anything else any day of the week.
You would wish that you were old enough to drink wine like your parents. You don’t realize that, when you are in college, the closest you will come to their fancy glasses of Pinot Noir would be a cheap box of indeterminate red that will inspire you to swear off any alcohol until next Friday.
You’d wish that you were old enough to drive a car. You’d assume that your parents would buy you one for your 16th birthday, because that is always what happened in television shows and movies, but this will not be the case. You will probably fight over a car with two siblings, and good luck with gas money.
You would wish that you were old enough to be in a relationship. And yet, when it came time to go to prom, you’d find yourself wishing that you were 6 years old again and the biggest social event on your calendar was the Father-Daughter Dance. You’d find that you did not fall in love on every weeklong summer vacation, or with people who will always love you back. You’ll miss the mandatory Valentines and little notes passed to you in class, the ones that were sincere but without agenda.
You’d wish that you were old enough to live alone, but you’d endure countless roommates before this day comes, and none of them have the binding obligation to love you that your siblings had when you shared a room with them. The day will come when you do live alone, too: in a 12’ by 12’ matchbox apartment in the bad area of the city that you always avoided. You will come home from a long day of work, sit down on the floor because you can’t afford a couch, and realize just how alone you are.
When you were a kid, you’d wish that you were old enough to stay up late. And you will stay up late, slaving over essays and consoling a sobbing best friend on the phone. Sometimes you will stay up late because you have no choice, because your mind is racing a million miles a minute and your thoughts are too loud for your pillow.
So instead of wishing you were older, be young. Be young right now. And be a little older next year. Age and wisdom and experience will come, but you cannot understand everything that they will bring. It will be good, for the most part, and you will be happy. But you will never again be as young as you are now, and being young is one of the most underappreciated gifts in the world.