Kid #2

The Graduate

So, I graduate high school this week, and I’ve never felt more like a teenager. Whether it’s justified or not, I normally feel older than my age. But at 18, I’m officially an adult, and it seems the timing couldn’t be worse.

I’ve always been a very responsible kid, independent and self-driven. But now that I’m actually responsible for myself, I have the urge to do stupid, stupid shit.

I know this is a common phenomenon. I know that’s how a lot of kids die every year. And I’m keeping myself in check, because I want to maintain at least the semblance of respectability I’ve built for myself.

But truthfully, I feel very lost. I think we all do. I’m set free in a way I haven’t been before. Class ended last week. I got off the waitlist at my top choice. Everything’s coming up Phoebe, effortlessly. I have no real responsibilities until I start work for the summer in about a month. So really I want to swim at midnight and sneak out at 3 a.m., jump off piers and drive to the mountains, because I’ve never been able to do that before.

I don’t allow myself to do a lot. I procrastinate, I do work poorly, I’m late a lot. But I try to be polite, I listen to my parents, I get home at reasonable hours and I follow all the rules, because for all my talk, I am a Goody Two-Shoes. My feet stay decidedly on the ground.

This is the appearance I’ve created for myself. I want to appear collected and reliable and, more than anything, good and strong. Weakness and badness are the things I fear most. I’ve struggled to be a good person. I’ve felt myself slipping into bad habits, becoming meaner or ruder because I thought that’s what the people around me wanted.

I attribute a lot of my better personality traits to my mental issues, because they keep me obsessively checking myself, but I have created a person I’m good with. I still feel weak a lot. My mental shit, as open as I am and as positive as I try to be about it, makes me feel weak as hell. The tiny voice says, “Phoebe, you don’t have any mental issues. Your mind is completely typical. You’re just weaker than the average person.” And it tells me other stuff too, like how that little mistake I made, some offhanded comment, just proves what a bad person I am, how truly awful I am on the inside.

So I know how my summer will go. I won’t go wild, not in the least. Because, like all of us, I wear a mask that separates our inner from our outer. My mask hides my insecurities and my feelings (sometimes), but it also keeps me in check. It keeps me responsible and just and kind.

As seniors at Casco Bay High School, we are required to reflect on our time there, and I want to share some of my reflections here.

I’ve been told I come off as distant, cool and mysterious, though I would never describe myself as such. Still, it is sometimes nice to hear. We are all actively cultivating an outward appearance, and while mine comes off a bit standoffish, a bit cocky, that is not the one I am trying to create. I definitely want to appear cool, but I’ve spent so much of my life feeling like a total loser that the word will never feel right.

Maybe I’ve finally grown into the appearance I’ve been trying to create all these years. But behind the carefully curated exterior, I am so extremely sensitive on the inside. I think if I could go back and change the person I’ve created for myself, I wouldn’t try so hard to hide when something hurt me, when I felt something other than elation. I know I don’t do as good a job as I think I do at hiding stuff, especially on the bad days. But I can’t be upset without going off. The only time I show emotion is when I can’t control it anymore.

I try so hard to be a good person. For all my snark and sarcasm, I care very deeply about those around me. I try so hard not to hurt anyone, but you can’t live your life without mistakes. And I’ve grown to a point in my life where I realize that.

I may never be able to take off my mask completely. I like the picture of myself I’ve painted too much. But I want to take that mask off, a little, anyways.

My summer won’t be crazy. I won’t be as spontaneous as I wish I was. But soon I will go out into the world, because I don’t have a choice, and I will wear a mask, because we all do. And behind it, I will know who I am.

I’m terrified, and I can’t wait.