I will never be nineteen again, and really, thank God. It was the year I got my nose pierced, the year I first visited New York, where I entered the upstairs room of a shady piercing parlor I now would never enter, let alone allow a stranger to stab my nose with a needle and slip in a piece of jewelry that would lose its rhinestone months later. It was the first winter I spent in Boston, the year I learned how to run (and how to not run) in snow and over ice and in temperatures the windchill dropped below zero.
Nineteen was the year I took my first photography class and discovered why I could never be a photojournalist. It was the year I learned the patience of spending hours in the dark room, waiting for an image to rise up on paper, throwing print after print after print away as I tested the exposure, the amount of time in each chemical bath, until everything came out just how I wanted. It was the semester I took three writing classes and, ironically, earned the worst GPA of my academic career.
It was the year I ate dinner in the dorm dining hall and the year I contracted my first case of gastroenteritis, the first time I believed I would certainly die. The days I spent bedridden and vomiting and learning which of my new college friends were really friends and which were not. It was the year I discovered what spring was supposed to look like–the city swelling into blossoms that fell as quickly as they’d formed, the heat and humidity swooping down in a matter of weeks.
Nineteen was the year I had no finals and came home early for summer, the first summer break in five years I didn’t have school or work or dance practice, the one I spent sleeping in too late and staying up even later. It was the year I lost my first great love. It was the year I learned that the fortune-teller, who’d told me I’d fall in love at twenty-three, was wrong–though I should’ve known that already, since I’d fallen in love at sixteen, years before the fortune-teller and I had even met.
It was the year I took my first road trips with friends–to the Grand Canyon, then to Berkeley. It was the year I watched my first friend get married, the year I recommitted to yoga, the year I began running three times a week and would keep running three times a week for as long as my circumstances and injuries allowed. It was the year I moved into an eighty-year-old building, into a wedge-shaped room the size of a shoebox, and I loved it because I no longer had to use a communal bathroom.
Nineteen was the year I took a lot of British literature and learned how to use a radiator and rearranged heavy furniture. It was the year I started to blog. At nineteen, I spent a lot of time not wanting to be nineteen, wishing it was over and done with and that I was older. I spent a lot of time thinking about what nineteen-year-olds were “supposed” to be doing and how I was hardly doing any of it. I will never be nineteen again, but if I could be, I’d probably do everything the same.
Or maybe, that’s not true. If I could be nineteen again, I’d be a little kinder to my body, to my psyche, to my heart. I’d sleep more and worry less and pay better attention to my intuition and less to my fears. I’d let things go. I wouldn’t force. I’d like to bottle up how I looked and what I felt at nineteen, so I could open it up all these years later and see if any of it was true. And maybe the fact that I think all this now means, at nineteen, I was doing exactly what I was supposed to.