(Kody Keplinger, the author of THE DUFF and the upcoming SHUT OUT, is an agent sister, friend, and occasional writing challenge buddy. This is for her.)
I know, I know...in some ways it does suck to say adios to your teens. You're stressing. I could feel your anxiety over the Internet.
At first, I couldn't understand it. You published a novel at 18. You have another coming out in a couple of weeks. You've accomplished more than people twice your age. You're independent and lovely and focused.
But then...I realized that I'd forgotten.
I'd forgotten that jumping into your third--and first wholly adult--decade is a throat tightening plunge into an ocean of wide open nothingness. The water appears vast and overwhelming, and it seems the waves pull your raft--the safe, secure anchor of teen life--farther and farther out to sea.
My 19 year old self, full of nerves about the future, wrote a timeline for my 20s in my journal: By 19-- I would publish my novel (Um...not that I'd actually written one at that point!) In 19-- I would travel through Europe with only a back on my back. Then I would meet a wonderful man and get married. We'd live on a commune in California and an artists' colony in Provence and a rustic cabin in Maine. Etcetera, etcetera--the list was waaaay long.
Some of those things happened. Some of those things didn't. Your twenties is when you realize planning with pretend knowledge of the future is useless. And this is a freaking exciting revelation. Because anything can happen.
It is also universally acknowledged that at some point between twenty and thirty you will be the best looking version of you. (This is not a superficial statement because this beauty comes more from internal than external factors.) Acne will disappear, baby fat will melt away, and you will be years away from wrinkles and age spots. Your skin will glow. You might not have much money, but you will be secure in your taste and confident in your style. Your hair will shine. And one day you'll be sitting with some friends, holding a glass of wine or a root beer or a San Pellegrino, in a romantic cafe in a city you've come to know as your own, in a city that you've come to own. The sun will make the glass in your hand sparkle and you'll think of all the things you know and all the things there's left to learn and the road is so deliciously long. "This," you'll say, "is life."
And it is good.
Happy Birthday, Kody. The best is yet to come...
For more birthday wishes, check out blog posts by Amy Lukavics, Lisa and Laura Roecker, Erica O'Rourke, and Kaitlin Ward later today!