The Daily Post prompt for today says, “Tell us all about the person you were when you were sixteen. If you haven’t yet hit sixteen, tell us about the person you want to be at sixteen.”
I was sixteen and incredibly insecure. I somehow fit the template of “popular” but never felt like I fit in. I was a cheerleader, I got good grades, I hung out with the “cool” kids, but I felt ridiculously awkward in my own skin. I wanted to fit in more than anything. But I didn’t. I didn’t agree with a lot of the things around me, and I didn’t have the courage to assert my beliefs. I didn’t think I believed in God, but I was in church multiple times a week. It seemed so acceptable, so normal, to everyone else; I couldn’t understand why I didn’t have faith that seemed to come so naturally to everyone else. There was an interracial couple at our high school. I hated the way that people gossiped about them, and I hated myself more that I stayed silent. I hated when people jokingly called someone “gay” or “faggot” and I hated it more that I never protested.
I took a trip that summer to Europe. Our Word History class sold cheese (yes, cheese) to finance our trip. I loved being on an airplane. I loved being in another country, another way of life. I loved buying fresh produce at a local market (this was before farmer’s markets were the common thing they are now) and eating bread, cheese, and cherries for dinner. I loved wandering museums, lost among artists. I loved seeing people live lives that were so different from what I lived in North Carolina. I loved that the French (at the time) seemed to hate Americans, but had no qualms about interracial relationships. I loved experiencing a different way of life.
Sixteen was the year I decided that somehow, my life would extend beyond what it currently was. I didn’t know how that would happen, or even if it was possible, but that was the year that I decided that I would do whatever I could to see more of the world, and that I would do whatever I needed to do to have the courage to speak my mind.