I remember my 16th birthday like it was yesterday. My parents and I transformed our backyard into an outdoor movie theater complete with a chocolate fountain and swooping string lights in the trees. My entire class was there, and we watched Sixteen Candles at dusk in the warm summer mountain air. I wore a bright blue dress with white daisies on it, and I had flowers in my curled hair and tall lace-up espadrille heels. Pre-Pinterest, my mother and I created an impressive soiree that would have been Instagram-worthy, and we caused quite a stir when our PG-13 movie selection showcased a full nude shower scene. I planned, prepared, greeted, hosted, entertained, and I loved the excitement of being responsible for creating an unforgettable experience that everyone enjoyed. It was an inspiring and beautiful day, and I remember feeling more like a grown woman and less like a girl for the very first time. It was thrilling, and I became incredibly eager to become the successful, confident woman I knew I could be.
Since that birthday, I’ve continually been mistaken to be much older than my actual age. When I was 18, I remember being offered wine at restaurants, and when I was 21 I was asked to manage a team of 15 at a business operating a 2 million dollar annual revenue. The maturity allowed me to advance at an accelerated rate, but it has also brought on reverse ageism, bullying in school and the workplace, and responsibility that kept me from enjoying the bliss of my early twenties. I have no regrets or negative feelings, but I’ve realized that I’ve spent the past ten years of my life trying to do and have it all at the wrong time.
Tomorrow officially marks the end of that era, and I couldn’t be happier to say goodbye. I am grateful for the ten years that have shaped who I am now, so in reflection, I’ve put together a list of valuable life lessons for each year of being more of a woman and less like a girl. It would have been comforting to know where I would be in ten years when I was 16, but above all else, what I’ve learned so far is that the beauty and joy of life is in the ride, not the destination.
2007 – Not everyone is going to like you. And that’s ok. Be true to yourself and move on.
2008 – It’s ok not to know what you want to do. You’ll figure it out when the time is right.
2009 – Change is scary, but it’s so good for you. Embrace the new and learn to enjoy the thrill of the unpredictable.
2010 – Don’t take no for an answer. Find the yes on your own, and stay gracious to your doubters.
2011 – No, not everything happens for a reason. But, you can learn something valuable from every negative experience.
2012 – Letting go is hard. But, you have to close some doors to open better ones.
2013 – Good things take time. Practice patience and exercise your willpower whenever you can.
2014 – Trust your gut. Never doubt your instinct.
2015 – Hard work pays off. It may not make itself known in an obvious or literal manner; success comes in a variety of forms.
2016 – Never give up. Even when you’ve never felt so weak, use the negative energy to push yourself harder rather than giving in to the stress.
I’ve tried nine times to replicate the joy of my sixteenth birthday, but I have never managed to duplicate that experience, and I’ve decided to stop trying. That day was a moment of transition, and it should be kept as it’s own unique experience as this year of transformation should as well. Cheers!