Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Happy almost half-birthday to me

Today is a happy day. It is a happy day because it is my last day of being less than halfway to entering my twenties. You know what that means - or maybe you don't because that wording was awkward. Either way, I'll tell you now:

Tomorrow is my half-birthday. The beginning of the end, friends. I am now almost an old maid, a spinster, a loser, no longer a teen.

Which is why I've decided to make a list - based on some observations today and just some general hopes - of goals to complete before my teenage life ends. I have six more months to improve and it's time to start.

1. Become a better cook.

When I made dinner for my dad tonight I felt a really intense sense of accomplishment and happiness that I'd never felt before. I've cooked in the past, but tonight was one night out of a relative few that I've thrown laziness to the wind and tried to do well by my hard-working papa and make him a really nice dinner.

Though he ended up taking the reigns a bit in part of the preparation of his own meal, I got most of it done before he came home and realized that the feeling of doing something nice for someone else, especially after they've had a long day at work, is one of the best feelings in the world.

There are probably a lot of ways of going about doing a nice thing for someone, but I've decided that a fun and rewarding way of doing so is through cooking. So even though I don't have all that much experience with it, after tonight I feel it's finally time to start devoting more of my heart to the art of cuisine.

Before I turn 20, I will learn more recipes and become a more skilled cook.

2. Be more discerning about what I need and what I don't.

Earlier today I spent quite a bit of time with my grandmother, some of which took place in her garage as we looked through boxes of countless junk items and also beautiful mementos. As we cycled through the "want it?" "yes/no" pattern, we finally ended up with a big pile of things that didn't matter and a pile of things that did.

And I realized while we were doing so that I spend a lot of my time latching onto things without really taking a second look at them. I have so much "stuff" and a lot of it is truly expendable. I just become so complacent with the way things are that I don't actively sort through what I need and what I don't.

My grandma is teaching me that it's okay to hold onto the past and maintain memories through physical objects. But she's also teaching me that it's important to decide what's necessary and what isn't. What constitutes a memento and what is just cluttering up my room.

Before I turn 20, I will take a long hard look at what is mine, and decide which things I truly care about.

3. Take control of the things that aren't necessarily the most luxurious.

Before sorting through a bunch of boxes with my grandma, I was out and about with her at lunch and a few shopping locales. The first place we went to was a store called Daiso, which is a Japanese hyaku-yen mart (100 yen is roughly $1.20). At Daiso in California, the cost was raised to $1.50, but for what the store had it was not the worst deal. In fact, it was a pretty awesome bargain.

I ended up indulging myself in a few things: a new headband, some Hi-Chews and Pocky. But I also took the opportunity to remind myself that I am no longer a little kid. Therefore, it is both my responsibility and my prerogative to create a life more suitable to my desires. And alongisde my purchase of fun items like candy, I also bought cleaning and cooking supplies that my house does not already have readily on hand.

Not only did I feel better prepared to tackle daily issues at home, but I felt more mature at having chosen to equip myself with the necessities of daily life rather than $1.50 luxuries.

Before I turn 20, I will learn to make purchases that are both pleasurable and functional.

4. Enjoy as much time with family as humanly possible.

I'm not sure how many times I've stressed this on my blog, but I really appreciate the relationships I have with my immediate family. I'm very lucky to have a wonderful father, a doting grandmother, a loving sister, an adorable niece, etc. etc. The truth is that I'm surrounded by a ton of people who are absolutely amazing and I really don't devote half as much time to them as I should.

When I'm not busy with schoolwork, I call my dad fairly frequently. But my relationships with the rest of my family often fall by the wayside because I get distracted by needing to wind down and be by myself.

Then when I arrive home after a few months at school, I realize how much I've missed out on and also how much I've missed them. In an ideal world I'd be able to balance familial relationships with all my other responsibilities and never feel like I've shortchanged anyone or anything. I know that's not possible and I mourn that fact. But I know that I have it in me to be constantly improving, and that's my goal.

Before I turn 20, I will have cultivated closer relationships with my family.

5. Seize the moment.

On top of every other goal (all of which are fairly broad and noncommittal anyway), I have one that really stands head and shoulders over the rest: I really need to step back and enjoy what's right in front of me.

None of us are teens for very long. We don't even get a decade of the zit-filled, hormone-driven, awkwardness-dominated years. And by the time we're done with them, we come face to face with the reality of life after childhood.

Some people think childhood ends when you're finally out of your preteen years. You turn the big 1-3 and you're suddenly no longer a kid. Others think childhood ends when you're legally an adult. You're 18 years old and you can finally smoke legally, gamble in some states, order things by telephone. You've hit the big time. No longer a kid now.

I don't believe any of these things. I've lived the past few years comfortable in the fact that I am still a child because I still have the "teen" suffix at the end of my age. But as 19 comes to a close and 20 slowly approaches, I'm beginning to refuse to let the word "teen" be the definition of my status in life.

When I turn 20, I'm not going to stop going to Disney movies in theaters. I'm not going to stop watching Nickelodeon. I'm not going to stop wearing butterfly clips in my hair. I will not look in the mirror on September 21, 2012 and suddenly see some old post-childhood hag.

Yet even so, I feel this ever-growing significance of being a young youth, still in my teenage years. And thus, I want to hold onto it as long as I can - for six months. By watching kiddie films in theaters, by going back and re-viewing every episode of Blue's Clues, by visiting Disneyland as much as I can. For some reason I feel like I need to do as many of these things as I can before my first 20-year-old wrinkle strikes (that happens, right? Maybe not).

Before I turn 20, I will feel like I'm ready to leave teenagehood and create my own form of adulthood.

Most of my goals are driven by one sole purpose: the need to mature in my own way. I've constantly feared growing older. I hold onto pieces of my past, trinkets and media and memories, and I have a hard time thinking that the childhood I've known all my life is coming to a close.

But 20 is just a number. And it doesn't mean that I have to grow up - and it doesn't mean that I haven't grown up already. It's just two stupid little digits emblazoned on my metaphorical forehead. And in reality, it's your birthdate that shows up on official documents, not your age in numbers. So there's no reason to cower away from it.

I've made this list not only to help me become a better person for the next six months, but also to remind myself that just because it feels like I'm making a big step in my life, doesn't mean I actually am. In fact, if anything, this is just as normal a year as any other.

With enough faith I might actually believe that.

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