I’m 19, But I Feel Like I’m 80

Braudie Blais-Billie
Braudie Blais-Billie

I wake up in the morning and can’t open my eyes. I roll out of bed, landing on my hands and knees. I vibrate as I rise, and walk hunched over to the bathroom. My spine is like that of a dinosaur, ridged and curved. I rub my eyes and spit in the sink. I wipe my mouth. I look in the mirror and don’t recognize the man looking back. Where have the years gone? I ask myself. What happened to me?

Once I was young and full of hope. In high school everyone was the same. I had the naive thought that my friends, full of talent and energy, we would all find creative fulfillment, would all find and pursue things that we loved. But they didn’t—many I lost to drugs, many to mental illnesses. On the way to work, I drive through one of the worst parts of Cleveland. I see people waiting at bus stops, out of jobs, out of energy, out of hope. This much I share with them.

When I was younger, I remember how magical the firsts were. The first time I got high, the first time I had sex, the first time I drove a car by myself. Those firsts are what growing up is. You looked forward to the movement, the experience of life. Then you experienced life and being high became being normal, driving became mindless, and you thought about emails while having sex.

I talk to other people my age, and many of them feel similarly. We are a generation of #OYP—old young people. You’re an #OYP if your bones creak when you get out of bed in the morning. You’re an #OYP if you look at other people your age and feel so much older than them. You’re an #OYP if every birthday makes you feel like you’re losing relevance.

As an #OYP, I enjoy being around younger people. Their ideas, their youth, it makes me feel happy. I enjoy mentoring these young people, showing them the way, showing them my mistakes. Hopefully they can learn something from me. Maybe I can live forever through them.

I write this tapping away on my iPhone. It’s a wonder I’ve figured out how to use it. We didn’t have iPhones when I was a kid—technology has changed so much in my lifetime. I remember when I was younger, there were no cell phones. We would tell our parents to pick us up at the bowling alley at a certain time. Now, these kids, they can call someone a hundred miles away and see that person’s face. What kind of dark magic is this, I ask myself as I light candles in my room.

These new TV’s, I swear, they’re too realistic. I look at them with wonder. Since when did a TV screen become a window?

I was in LA recently, where I met a young starlet. She was 17, I was 19. Her body, her smell, they were too young for me. I had to let her go.

When I exercise I run on the elliptical—on the days I’m not too tired to work out—because my knee blew out when I was in 9th grade. I wear a mouthguard at night so as not to gnash my teeth. My google search history includes “biggest regrets before you die” and “what is there to life after this.” I’m tired—physically tired, yes, but also mentally and spiritually tired. I listen to “Young and Beautiful”—the line where Lana Del Rey sings “I’ve seen the world”—and I agree.

I’m going to turn 20 soon, but I might as well be 80. I don’t know what else there is to life other than this. I’ve lived all across the country, tasted the dream life, and now I’m not afraid of death. Drugs, women, wealth—I’m through with that shit. Leave me alone in a house with a laptop, a library and a nurturing, kindhearted 18-year-old girlfriend and I’ll die in peace.

Here, at the end of the night and the supposed beginning of my adulthood, I just feel so, so old. TC mark

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