Written by Clara MacMeekin
Art by Simone Lerner
I am ten years old. School is hard, even in the fourth grade. No one seems to have a solution for that and I feel stupid for it. There is another math test today and before I left the car this morning, my mom reminded me of the deal. I am promised ice cream if I come home with a grade higher than a 70/100 on my math test. Such an incentive has dulled now; it has never worked before and it is not going to work today. The dreaded time is finally here and my teacher is passing out the test. I see our second “helper” teacher pace towards the door but I keep my head down. Soon, the second teacher will loudly call my name and tell me to start heading to the other classroom (I need to take tests away from other kids now because I’m not smart enough). And, like always, my throat grows tight and my stomach drops when I get up from my seat. My mind could not be less focused on the upcoming math test. All I can think about while I walk alone down the hallway to the empty classroom is how much I wish to not be a kid anymore.
I am eleven years old. My teachers now tell me I have attention problems, but the movie playing on my living room television has captured my undivided attention. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days has enchanted me and once again, I long to be an adult. My daydreams have always painted pictures of a blurry figure living somewhere far away, but I know that it’s me as a grown up because she’s happy and she’s smart. Such daydreams have always been passing thoughts– something to keep me afloat when the stress of being a kid takes its toll. Today is different though; today I long to be a grown-up living in New York City, working for a magazine and never feeling stupid ever again. Today, I met the person I’m going to be when I grow up and her name is Andie Anderson.
I am eighteen years, six months and eight days old. I am sitting on my twin bed in my college dorm room reflecting on the high school graduation that never was and the summer that left me pale and lonely. I moved into my college dorm today. I did not cry when my parents hugged me. The day I had so eagerly awaited is finally here. I am finally a student at the University of Alabama. I should be feeling more, I think. After so many years of perfecting my plans to end up in New York City and working at a magazine, I am finally at step one. I cannot understand why I am not more excited. Here, in this stuffy dorm room, I cannot remember the plan – perhaps I don’t care anymore. I still want to be Andie Anderson, but I don’t know if I know how to be myself.
I am eighteen years, six months, and eleven days old. I have just dropped out of sorority recruitment. In a few years, the time will come when I will laugh about how I cared about such things – but right now, I do care. Joining a sorority meant I would fit in and fitting in meant not being alone. It meant being a part of something big–some place to hide. The plan was to never feel like that fourth grader who couldn’t pass her math tests ever again. Now, I am going to be singled out again. I am not excited for any of my classes; the world is in the midst of a global pandemic and I have not even gone to visit any of the locations of my classrooms. I am starting to wonder why I chose the University of Alabama. It’s a shock to me that I wonder about anything these days. It’s a shock that I don’t know myself as much as I thought. That’s what they say about adjusting to college; that it’s a shock.
I am eighteen years, six months, and fourteen days old. I haven’t left my bed in three days. I don’t understand why; I just know that I am tired all the time and something about my bed brings the most comfort. Perhaps I am just having a harder time than most people adjusting to the new life that college brings. I am not sure what I think, the plan had not mentioned what to do in this situation. Now, more than ever, I wish to be an adult. I know that my problems will go away when I am grown up. In fact, I am positive that my problems will go away then. Andie Anderson says so.
I am eighteen years, six months, and fourteen days old and I am angry at Andie Anderson. How could she have set me up for such failure? I am not asking for a lot here–I’m not even asking for Matthew Mcconaughey to stop my taxi on the Washington Bridge and confess his love for me. We were supposed to be partners, Andie–where did you go? I’m the one who was supposed to leave first; we would be standing in my first apartment in Manhattan and you would look me in the eye and tell me you were proud of me; you would pass the torch to me and then you’d leave because I’d figured everything out. I don’t have anything figured out anymore, Andie. I don’t know the first thing about passing a college class, or feeding myself, or how to talk to boys, or what the point of all this is if my plan is ruined. I don’t know how to be Andie Anderson anymore.
Clara, you are eighteen years, six months and twenty days old and you have lost yourself. You have not gone to any of your classes and you have not brushed your hair in a long time. You have never felt more like a child. Perhaps you truly are a child–you did always want to grow up too fast. You should have known that your plan would fail from the start; I bet Andie Anderson never failed a math test. You were never going to be Andie Anderson, you just wanted to be anyone but yourself. But, Clara, when you are twenty-one years, six months, and nineteen days old, things will have gotten better. You are different now but you are happy. This will pass, because you said so.