Flashback to Eighteen

My mother’s flowerbed this spring

Last weekend, we celebrated my baby sister’s eighteenth birthday. She’s seven years younger than me, and tonight, I was thinking about a poem I wrote when I was eighteen. I was an idealistic teenager with big dreams.

A Girl’s Questions

Eighteen years old
And as inquisitive as a child
Only this time,
Her questions seem bigger.
But like the child,
She is excited about tomorrow.
   Will her tomorrows be filled with
   Books and brain-work
   Cramming her hungry head
   Full of knowledge?
   Or will this dream
   Dishes and dirt
   Buckets and brooms?
Will her tomorrows be lived out
Nestled in the mountains
And buried in the snowdrifts
Of Western _________?
In a comfortable farmhouse?
Or in a remote mud hut
Next to the Mayan Indians 
Of Guatemala?
Will she stay
Or will she fly?
   Will her tomorrows bring
   Prince Charming?
   Someone she will love
   And someone who will love her
   “For better or for worse,
   For richer or for poorer,
   In sickness and in health…”
   Or will she walk alone
   With her God?
   Dreaming dreams with Him?
Will her tomorrows dance…
As children appear?
Endless games of hide-and-seek,
Countless stories before bed,
Timeless hugs and kisses.
Will she be a mother?
   Eighteen years old
   And as inquisitive as a child
   Only this time, 
   Her questions seem bigger.
   But like the child,
   She is excited about tomorrow.

I pulled down my box of journals from the top shelf of my closet to refresh my memory about my life then… which guy did I have a crush on at that point?  

My eighteenth birthday, I was flying home from a short term mission trip to Guatemala. It would have been my third year making the trip. I was sad that day… I’m just not sure how often I can do this, Lord. It hurt so bad to leave. But yes, I know it only hurts because I loved. And it is worth it all. It’s just so hard. Last evening, [M] told me that someday, I am going to go to Guatemala to stay. Just not yet. That’s just it: NOT YET! How much longer, Lord… (journal entry, Jan. 2014) I knew more at 18 what my life should look like than I do at 25. Guatemala was going to be in my future, as was a certain little girl at the orphanage we visited. At least, that would have been what I would have chosen. 

This was also the time of cleaning jobs. I hated cleaning jobs, but I was willing to endure them if it meant I could be earning money to go back to Guatemala the next year. I don’t miss those days. The thing about being good at cleaning is that it’s a blessing and a curse. If you’re good at what you do, people will want you to clean their houses. But sometimes, it can also feel like a curse, to have people want you to clean their houses. I survived.  

At 18, had I been a normal teenager, I would’ve also been a senior in high school. I was not a normal teenager, and my education was not a priority. 8th grade and a GED should have been enough for me. Honestly, this may be one of the things that infuriates me most about the culture I grew up in. I tried to do a little bit of high school work at home, for a while, but it’s hard to be motivated to teach yourself, and besides, there were always other things to be done that were apparently more important. It was a struggle at 18, as I still struggle now, with the knowledge that I didn’t do four years of high school. It made it hard that spring, as I had friends graduating, and I was not. 

And about the crush… Yes, my suspicions were correct. That was the Davy Crockett-like guy. I was seriously infatuated, which is rather funny now, because, well, picture Davy Crockett and Jane Bennett, and you might have an idea of why such a crush is laughable. And then I wavered, seriously wavered between Davy Crockett Guy and Guy-Who-Eventually-Broke-My-Heart-Without-Even-Knowing-He-Did. It’s tough, being 18, having confusing feelings, and growing up in a culture that didn’t encourage guy/girl friendships. 

Still, I was so full of hope about my future then. And I believe I may have more unanswered questions about life now than I did seven years ago. Why did things turn out so differently than I imagined?   

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