19 (Dear Cassie)

It’s seems to be popping up a lot. I’ve gotten interested in numerology, numerology-lite if you will, and I can’t help but think God, Angels, the Universe try to talk with me in a way my mind can comprehend through numbers I see everyday. I’ve seen 19 everywhere. I guessed at what it could be. It kept coming up in relation to young girls, 19, getting in over their heads. What is it about 19? Why do people think they’re so grown at this age? I don’t get it, won’t get it I guess, but then I also guess that just makes me an old lady who’s too old to remember  how she felt and thought when she was 19. I know that’s when I started living on my own. Even though it meant I had to roller blade and take the bus everywhere, I moved out of my mother’s apartment when I was 19. Well, I was thrown out actually but I left and never moved back so I think that still counts. It was good for me to be on my own, pay my own bills and be forced to take responsibility for my actions. It was good for me to have to roller blade to work and back until I could save up enough money for my first car, a Nissan Sentra (can’t remember the year but it was old. Cost me $2,000- I got RIPPED OFF)! It was bad for me however to feel so alone at such a young age. I wasn’t strong enough to be as old as I had to act. I was still learning about who I was. What I did I think many young women do. I turned to a man to make me feel better about myself, to make me feel not so lonely. I was 19 years old and was convinced I was in love with a boy named Mike who’d I met down the beach. As luck would have it this boy ended up having a girlfriend and I was quick to quit him. But why was I so lucky? Certainly, I did not feel lucky then. I felt even lonelier then before.
I FELT lonely.
What I was was free and as a 33 year old woman I look back in envy at how free I was, at the limitless possibilities beckoning me from a short distance away. But because of my brain, and I believe the brains in general of human beings this age, I was convinced that my future was fulfilled, that my life was almost over, and I’d grown all I would grow. I was convinced that I knew myself, what I wanted and everything I needed. So I searched for another boy and a year later I found him. He knocked me up and dumped me. The 19 year old mind is a volatile one. It is not fully developed and it is, and this is proven, because of it’s under development, incapable of rationalizing it’s own impulses. In other words, our attention spans are proportional to our outlook on life. At 19 they are VERY limited. So, what 19 year olds REALLY need, despite what they think, is their parents to continue to guide them and intervene. Of course, being over the legal age of consent this gets VERY tricky. And impossible really for parents to do. My mother was upset with me the day she threw me out. She called two weeks later and asked me to come home. I didn’t. I was good on my own. I was living with my friend’s grandmother any how so it wasn’t like I wasn’t still being cared for. I was paying rent, barely, doing my own laundry, working and going to school, but the food in the refrigerator was still prepared for me and the house was always cleaned by someone else. My set up was pretty sweet. My outlook on life was convoluted. I didnt’ know it though. I had no clue. I had no way of knowing I had no clue. So I mucked along the best way I knew how and made many MANY mistakes along the way. Those mistakes, after MUCH pain and suffering, struggling and crying to right them, have made me the strong, proud and intelligent woman I am today. Even though I still struggle, I am proud of who I am and wouldn’t go back and change a thing. But I found myself, in the arrogance of hind-sight, ready to jump on the throat of my amazing little niece, 19 years old, whom I just found out eloped a few days ago.
She and her 21 year old boyfriend went to a local justice of the peace and eloped. They were both the age of legal consent and so it was legal. Neither one’s parents knew about it and by law they didn’t have to. And I went ape shit when my mother told me. Because I realized that in my niece I saw my chance to fulfill all the amazing adventures and experiences that my mistakes at 19 kept me from. I wanted her to have what I hadn’t, year long treks through South America or Europe on bicycle, a road trip cross country, going away to college and a REAL spring break, even an internship at a major firm with tons of upward growth, maybe a tour with the peace-core. All those things she could have done, for me. But it isn’t my life she leading. Nor is it my life she has to make up for. She has to make her own decisions and in deciding, make some mistakes. She’ll have to grow the way I did, the way everybody does, by making choices in the moment and finding a way to live through them. My 19 year old niece is married. She’s married and living with her husband. And I wanted to kill her when I heard the news. I’m sure my brother and sister-in-law did too. I certainly had to hold off from calling her and screaming at her for fucking up and being stupid. That wouldn’t have done any good. Because right now she has no way of knowing how stupid she is. Because for right now she isn’t stupid. Her mind tells her she’s grown and she knows what she’s doing and she’ll only realize how stupid she is once she’s lived through her choice. Of course she won’t be 19 then. She’ll be older and have lost however many years it took for her to realize that she could have done better for herself. But by then maybe she’ll have the strength and wisdom to do better for herself. That’s really the difference between the inexperienced mind and the experienced one- the experiences; the wisdom that results from the experiences. At least her husband is young as well. They can experience things together. They’ll both be growing together. I’m sure had it been some thirty or forty year old man my mother would have also delivered the horrible news that my brother had been incarcerated for murder. Thankfully that is not the case. The two of them, my niece and her husband (God it’s as difficult to write as it is to say) are peers and as peers none will rob the other of experiences that they’ll both need in order to become the whole adults they’re destined to be. They are not adults yet. They are both children, playing, even though they don’t know it.  But playing is how young people learn. They commit themselves to play as if it were real, as if what they were playing at were the whole world. Children are designed to do it.  To be convinced of their own play so as to not get into the real-deal until they are ready. That is why marriage scares me so much. Because it is the real deal. And even though the two are still, developmentally, in play mode, they’ve been allowed to make a VERY REAL decision. So play time is over. Sooner then I would have liked for my lovely little niece. We adults who love them do try to extend that play time as long as we possibly can for them. Not only because we know how precious it is, but because we know how safe it is and would love to keep them safe forever. An impossibility I’m afraid. And whatever comes out of this marriage will be very real. And it will be very forever. These years will not be given back to either of these young people. So I hope they make the most out of the lessons they’ve signed themselves up for. It’s the lessons not the time that is really invaluable. Those experiences are what will build the people they will become. May my niece pay close attention, and not waste a minute of her experiences. Play time’s over. School is in. Just remember the world is still wide and I guess it’s possible to take a husband along on a bicycles trip through South America, or a pack-back trek across Europe. You can still taste the wine, just not those sexy foreign boys. Unless of course that’s your kind of marriage.
Oh Lord.
Maybe I’m about to get schooled.
I just hope she takes care of herself. And leaves doors open. Don’t let this be where you stop. Keep traveling. Don’t settle down even though you’ve, well, “settled down”. Take the marriage on the road and around the world. Grow. Together, hopefully.
And do me a favor.
No kids.
Oh God, please no kids.
Not yet….

Sorry. Had to get that out of me.

I love you bye the way. I’m sure I should have started out with that but… well… I would have come back around to it anyway πŸ™‚ (I still think you’re crazy though).

Here’s a little insight into what I was talking about earlier (From an Article by the Society for Neuroscience):

During adolescence, brain connections and signaling mechanisms selectively change over time to meet the needs of the environment. Overall, gray matter volume increases at earlier ages, followed by sustained loss and thinning starting around puberty, which correlates with advancing cognitive abilities. Scientists think this process reflects greater organization of the brain as it prunes redundant connections, and increases in myelin, which enhance transmission of brain messages.
Other parts of the brain also undergo refinement during the teen years. Areas associated with more basic functions, including the motor and sensory areas, mature early. Areas involved in planning and decision-making, including the prefrontal cortex — the cognitive or reasoning area of the brain important for controlling impulses and emotions — appear not to have yet reached adult dimension during the early twenties. The brain’s reward center, the ventral striatum, also is more active during adolescence than in adulthood, and the adolescent brain still is strengthening connections between its reasoning- and emotion-related regions.
Scientists believe these collective findings may indicate that cognitive control over high-risk behaviors is still maturing during adolescence, making teens more apt to engage in risky behaviors. Also, with the brain’s emotion-related areas and connections still maturing, adolescents may be more vulnerable to psychological disorders.
Current research is looking at the manifestations of psychological disorders in adolescents, particularly schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Large imaging studies have shown that brain changes associated with schizophrenia typically begin in adolescence when the brain undergoes the normal pruning sequence of myelination growth spurts and gray matter loss. It appears that a larger and more severe wave of gray matter loss occurs in the brains of adolescents developing schizophrenia, which eventually engulfs much of the cortex after a period of five years.
Scientists believe that the natural teenage process of pruning may be accelerated or otherwise altered in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other neurodevelopmental disorders.
This research is leading to treatment implications, including a newer antipsychotic medication that, if administered early, may prevent or slow the severe wave of gray matter loss in schizophrenia and keep the disorder from progressing. Scientists also are exploring the use of low doses of medication to prevent the functional alterations in brain cells in bipolar disorder.

The above composite MRI brain images show top views of the sequence of gray matter maturation over the surface of the brain. Researchers found that, overall, gray matter volume increased at earlier ages, followed by sustained loss and thinning starting around puberty, which correlates with advancing cognitive abilities. Scientists think this process reflects greater organization of the brain as it prunes redundant connections, and increases in myelin, which enhance transmission of brain messages.

A link to the full article :

I’ve also been reminded of one of my favorite episodes from one of my favorite shows, The Cosby Show. So appropriate for this occasion. Enjoy: