I’ve always been different from my peers, even from a young age.
Honestly, I’ve always just been an odd person, but my innocence was protected well into high school, and that separated me from most kids in public school.
I had a creative imagination. I believed in fairy tales, and I wanted to forever believe in fairy tales. I remember when I lost a tooth, trying to stay awake to catch the tooth fairy in action, but I’d fall asleep every time and wake up with a dollar bill tucked into my pillow. I remember arguing with a fellow first grader, trying to convince her that Santa was not in fact “dead.” It’s possible that I didn’t understand why other kids did not want to feel the same magic I did when I woke up on December 25th. I never had trouble sleeping, but I’d lay awake every Christmas Eve, the biggest night of the year, and anticipate the big man’s arrival hoping that he wouldn’t catch me awake. I felt butterflies in my stomach that lasted through the next morning. Butterflies that I miss today.
I wrote two fairy tale stories in fifth grade, one that won first place in the fifth-grade book contest. Then when I got into middle school, the magic that accompanied my childhood slowly left me, but I still kept my innocence. And that innocence carried me through public middle school.
When girls my age began their interest in romance, I kept my imagination and my growing interest in sports.
I didn’t understand it when acquaintances and even family members told me, “You’re so weird,” when I didn’t know the difference between normal and abnormal. I didn’t know if I was supposed to change. I didn’t know how to change. I simply wanted to be myself and eventually learn to bear the comments of other people. And that’s what I did. I embrace it now.
In my first year of college, I attended one party after not thinking about the college definition of “party.” When I heard the words “18-and-up club,” my Christian school self geared up for the cha-cha-slide and chicken dance.
As you may guess, no cha-cha-slide occurred for me that night. Within five minutes of arriving, I understood that “18-and-up club” meant that drunkenness and inappropriate dancing still presented themselves. I tried to hide my surprise when teammates twenty-one and over were so quick to buy drinks for their under-aged teammates. I denied alcohol offers at least four or five times while police officers lined the building. I simply did not understand.
I spent the next couple hours sitting alone and observing the people. The type of people I neither knew how to interact with nor wanted to interact with. Not in that state of mind.
I had driven teammates to the club that evening, and I’d agreed to drive them home. After meeting them just that day, it did not feel right to leave them even with several options for rides. So, I sat. I sat and uncomfortably watched. Uncomfortably refused many offers to dance with guys obviously drunk. Uncomfortably slapped away hands that tried to pull me into dances. Not the cha-cha-slide dances. Not the chicken dances. But dancing that would ruin the reputation I’d spent my youth creating. Dancing that would go against my faith. Dancing that would give these new teammates and classmates the wrong idea about me as a person.
This was my first night of college, the day after my nineteenth birthday, and the last time I went to a club or attended a similar party. Every weekend after this, I spent my Friday and Saturday nights enjoying the empty dorm and indulging in Netflix and a self-made snack buffet.
I attended my first year of college out-of-state, nearly five hours from home. By my first day of college, I knew I would not fit in with my teammates or the stereotypical college student. So, I got involved with the small campus ministry and made good friends that shared similar views to myself.
Two years later, I had my 21st birthday and pretended to be “hyped” about being of age. But in reality, I had one Cherry Limeade at Cheddars and didn’t understand why I paid eight dollars for a drink when I could have paid two dollars for a Sprite that would have satisfied me the same.
My two work friends threw me a Spongebob party at a bowling alley, and we imagined people staring and wondering why I was not living it up like a typical 21-year-old on her birthday. But we didn’t care. With our mutual childhood interests in Spongebob, we had a good time.
I’m weird. I know.
I’ve always dated younger guys, not intentionally. While it’s not as normal for women to date younger men, a good friend once told me that my patience and fun-loving personality would make a relationship work with a younger guy who might not yet match my maturity level.
I’m dating a guy nearly 3 ½ years younger than me, and he is my best friend. I shake off any outside concerns of our age difference, because rather than focusing on a factor that does not matter now and will not matter even more as time goes on, I focus on our friendship and the connection we share that is so unlike any I’ve ever had. While I keep him in line, just like any girlfriend does, he keeps the child in me.
I am a big child still, even as I gain more independence every day, but I believe that a person can hold on to the magic of childhood and still function well as an adult.
I know what it is like to dance wildly and feel cooler in my head than how I look in a mirror. I know what it is like to break dance to high school musical and turn around to my high-school-aged brother videotaping me with the plan to send it to his friends.
I still break out into dance moves at random moments and pretend I look cool. I still run up the stairs in fear after turning out the light. I still feel the magic of Christmas as a grown adult. I still run and jump in my bed at night to avoid the monsters that Junie B. Jones warned me about.
I love board games, video games, card games, and will play them until I’m forced to quit. In high school, when the rules said something like “first player to ten cards wins,” I’d request instead to play until we didn’t feel like playing any more. “Why stop when we are having fun?” I’d ask. Even when people rolled their eyes, I pretended I didn’t notice and insisted on playing longer.
I look forward to having kids and sharing the childhood magic with them. I want to have family game nights. I want to dance around in pajamas with them. I want to read them books and give them great Christmases and birthdays. Maybe this is all unrealistic. But a young woman can dream, right?
Most importantly, I want to protect the innocence of my children. I will let them have wild imaginations. I will let them believe in fairy tales. Because that was one of the most magical parts of my childhood.
I am not a typical 21-year-old girl. I do not like shopping. I do not like drinking and partying. I don’t care for trends. If something is “in style,” I usually try to avoid it. Call me crazy, but I simply want to be myself. I enjoy choosing my style and opinions according to what I like, rather than letting myself be influenced by other people. I don’t care about fitting in with people my age. I’ve never fit in entirely, and I do not intend to try any time soon.