On the occasional morning, while on the way out of my apartment and into the festering jungle of workaholics and garbage men, I stop to take an innocent glance at myself in the mirror and am chaotically flustered with who I see staring back at me. A girl wearing a tucked in blouse and a high-waisted skirt, finished off with shoes that have just a small tease of a heel, one that wouldn’t be much help in fighting off a robber. My face is painted with primer, my lips, rusted red, and my born to be wild hunk of blonde hair is tamed, resting calmly around a thick rubber band.
And, while I hand off my lint roller for a bottle of green juice, I take one last look at my put-together self and scream out loud in broken English as I wait for the door to slam shut behind me: “When did this happen to ME?”
When I was 13 years old, a Rabbi looked at my pimple-infested face and courageously told me on my Bat-Mitzvah day, “Welcome to becoming a woman.” Then, me and my closest friends danced around in a circle to the Black Eyed Peas and Q-Tip. I thought I knew everything about growing up, because that same night I spilled artichoke dip on my ball gown, and I covered it up with a belt made out of napkins.
The other day, I was eating some French fries with a friend who started twisting the split ends of her hair in downright boredom and annoyance as I began to complain about the big ol’ elephant doing the merengue in the room — I was turning 26-years-old in just two weeks.
“Do you see the parallel lines of wrinkles erupting on my forehand?” I said to her in sheer panic, in the same way that one might lugubriously express that the world is about to end, “This is what 26 looks like!”
My friend, may God bless her for putting up with me, gently placed her banana milkshake on the table and grabbed the chipped nail polish tips of my fingers to give me a much deserved slap.
“You are ridiculous,” She told me, like I didn’t already know, “Nothing is going to change just because you are 26.”
Her eyes rolled, and my stomach turned. Sometimes all one really needs is to stare into the rolling eyes of someone we trust and try to convince them that they have us all wrong, when really they are 13 steps ahead at figuring us out.
“It’s just,” I stutter trying to justify my madness, “I thought by 26, I’d accomplish a lot more.”
We grow up almost always, it seems like, overnight. It’s like one afternoon we are fastened together by pink OshKosh B’gosh overalls, digging for worms in moist soil and the next, we are strolling across the polished floors of a stage at our college graduation. One moment we are leaping out of our parent’s SUV, wearing a crop top and a jean skirt, eager to be with our best buds at the mall and the next, our entire future is laid out across an ironing board as we put together an outfit for a job interview at a company with a view of the Empire State Building and an unlimited amount of free morning coffee.
But today, on my 26th birthday, I’m finding myself in cahoots with the 8-year-old version of Jen Glantz. She’s sitting on top of a bean bag chair, wearing sparkle pants and stuffing her face with a slice of pizza.
And as a crew of people, I desperately love, surround me and start to sing “Happy Birthday”, I’m thinking to myself that the only thing baby Jen would want to know, would want to ask me isn’t if I’ve become the Pink Power Ranger or how my Beanie Babies collection is. She’d want to know just one thing: “Have you given up yet on our wild dream of wanting to become a writer?”
And as the people around me start to press on about blowing out the candles so we can feast on some cake, I find myself at 26, still wearing sparkle pants and cramming pizza crust into the sides of my mouth, wishing upon a half melted candle that’s starting to become swallowed by a mound of ice cream cake, that I will never give up on the dream that, I know, would make the 8-year-old version of myself pretty darn happy.
We’re never too old to live out our 8-year-old dreams, we just can’t give up.
Dream a few sizes bigger than you already are, okay?