I didn’t fully appreciate this at the time, but when I was coming-of-age, I did so in New York and at the heels of one of the most adventurous people I have ever met. This was pre-internet and social media, and everything felt like it was word-of-mouth or underground. I took for granted that my backyard was one of the world’s most famous grids, and it wouldn’t be till years later that I would realize just how sharp my street-smarts were.
We were good kids, for the most part. We were city kids, wild in our own ways. Whereas some may have grown up running around forests and woods, we found ourselves weaving in and out of lofts, night clubs, parks, subways, fire escapes, landmarks, and on occasion, even strip clubs. It wasn’t so much out of perversion; it felt more like we were out there earning our scout badges. It was proof of our slickness.
We colored outside the lines. Gave the middle finger to all the rules. Went where the night would take us, and encountered all kinds of people along the way. We ran around and got into all sorts of good trouble, without caring at all whether it was documented or posted or tagged or hashtagged or whatever. We played for the sake of playing.
We were 13 going on 22, and we loved it.
And yes, if my friends would have jumped off a bridge, I probably would have been mid-air right behind them.
Though it’s probably not accurate to refer to these kids as my friends. In retrospect, I think I really only had one friend, a Colombian girl slightly older than me, from whom I picked up the arts of charisma, charm, right timing, quick wits and raunchy humor. She was like a cool older sister. I don’t think any of the others actually liked me (in fact, I experienced some horrid bullying from some of them). But because I was a friend of the Colombian girl, there I was, getting into trouble with the best of them. In New York City.
I have always felt somewhat transient in my life. I don’t have any physical roots: I’ve moved 20+ times from the time I was a baby, for a variety of reasons, spread out across the board. Early adolescence straight up sucked because it coincided with me moving to the United States, a different land with a different language.
The boys were mean, the girls were mean; at first because I didn’t speak English, and over time, they found other reasons not to like me (and in their own special ways, they reminded me of this almost daily, bless their little hearts). It was the Upper East Side, and my class had it’s fair number of Blair Waldorfs.
Not coincidentally, it’s around this time I began getting lost in books. And writing. I was happy to spend most of my free time alone doing either. Until that glorious, magical day in 6th grade when the new Colombian girl came, who also didn’t speak any English. I wanted to be the friend I wish I had had when I first arrived. I loved her from the start, and we became really good friends. We would come to bond over such things as One Hundred Years of Solitude, Fulanito and Beavis and Butthead. We once gushed side by side as we sat in an intimate reading given by Isabel Allende; it was with her that I got to experience a thousand and one cool things.
As it were, the Colombian girl, unlike me, had won over EVERYBODY. The more English she learned, the more she befriended others. Effortlessly, it seemed. And inevitably, she became one of the cool girls. But she never forgot me, and so there I’d be, wherever she got invite to, running around like wild city children. And we grew up. Fast.
Such that when I actually turned 18, I was exhausted and nearly partied out. And when I turned 21, I had almost no interest in drinking, let alone getting drunk.
The bravado I had found in my teens, and the street-smarts I picked up alongside my Colombian friend, I then used during my 20s to go after all that I desired. I took risks and I hustled, I went on different adventures and collected a different set of scout badges, so to speak.
It is no different now that I’m in my 30s. The stakes are higher, the risks riskier. This past winter was true to its roots: a sort of fallowness and death permeated certain aspects of my life. While it’s true that I’m no longer a teenager looking to break all the rules, nor a 20-something traveling the world and soul-searching, I still feel that same sense of adventure as I welcome the Spring on this night of the Equinox.
On this night of a full moon, after a whole season of gestating, I think about the risks I’m about to take and the adventure I have decided to embark upon. I do so with an open heart, feeling every bit of badass’ness. Remembering that I have not known life any other way.
To be continued 😉