Each day, I look down to see my small breasts where they usually are, the poke of my stomach, and these familiar skinny feet. And I remember it’s not just a dream, it is real, and this is who I am. I am a woman now, and not a new one either. I am twenty-seven, and I constantly monitor my progress and my understanding of my role. I should have the ropes of things by now, at least, that’s what I’d imagined when I was younger. 

Twenty-seven seemed ripe and regal once upon a time, and though so much has happened, much of it, (most of it,) wasn’t what I’d predicted. I thought growing up would be a steady and smooth rise upward, I thought time would pass like music, and I would extend myself upward and outward, softly swaying and bending with each new day. I would gracefully unfold myself like a flower. 

Today, I am not sure what I am, but I am certain I am not a delicate flower. And I am not sure I’ve made it here unscathed, without the evidence or chemical damages of what I’ve gone through on the way. I am not sure of where I start and end, and I hardly know what colors I am, much less the ones I will become. If I am a flower, what is my smell? My taste? My symbolism? Again, I am not sure I’ve made it here in one piece. I am not sure I’m anything to pluck up and put in Nana’s vase, not even the kitchen counter. No—I am something more mangled than that. I seem to have turned into something else.

What I’ve come to be, I wonder every day. I used to believe I was more pliable than this. I thought I could be flexible, fluid, always optimistic enough. Now I don’t like what I see, and I have to bicker with it about leaving. I am not always in optimal control of what startles me, stings me, or soothes me. Some parts of myself are still resistant to change, even though I have decided they are not good. I’ve made survival habits that are outliving the circumstances that warranted them. I am understanding now how deep impressions can go—how deep they’d gone within me. I take a magnifying glass and a razor blade and I try to find the problem. In the belly of one problem, there is another.  A mess is a mess is a mess, and layer upon layer, I must have tumbled here. 

I should have this figured out by now. Miss Ripe and Regal, tell me—is loving as easy as you imagined? And are you that idealization in the sparkled thought cloud above your six year old head? Well, you are missing the briefcase and pencil skirt, but you do own heels. Sure, you only wear them for birthday pictures, but they signify some womanhood, right? And you are beautiful. But your body is anxious, and you regularly consider yourself a terrible creature. Why? Are you beautiful or not? You don’t seem to have decided yet. Sure, you own a vehicle and you’ve written a check, but was this the freedom you’d always imagined?

Each day I look down at my small breasts, sitting where they usually are, the small poke of my stomach, my skinny feet. Each day I remember that I am a woman now, no longer a girl. The things I dream about matter, and not in the important sense, but in the sense that it must make sense. I have to reel it in, stop shooting for “the stars,” and start shooting for a certification, a tax bracket, or a title. In the mirror, there is a terrified woman undecided, misunderstood. I look at her square in the eyes, and I say, “you need to cement things.” 

I continue to see the gigantic space between the beautiful idea still high on the mental shelf and the flawed prototype that stands before me. 

I should have the hang of things by now. But, my mornings are often started in a tired, heavy body. Sometimes it is only the promise of coffee that pulls me from the bed. I begin over and over again, with the lists and the journals, the books and the routines. I have been teaching myself new things, like patience and rest. I have given myself new rules, new protocols. And I have decided, I don’t always want to be studious and eloquent. I like to remember the joy of being playful. I felt like a little girl when I started painting again.

All the while, I grow ripe. I am redefining regal. My accomplishments were sweeter in theory, I admit. But, I always thought they meant more than they did. I have learned a thousand human qualities my child self never knew existed or were needed. I’ve seen myself transform in the harshest of seasons. I have been strong for myself, and others. I’ve spent time easing tension in the reflection. I continue to wash my wounds with forgiveness, they grow smaller and then break open all over again. So I practice my patience, and I practice my rest. I feed the indecisions faith. 

Twenty-seven, I admire your heart. There are somethings I never knew to want, but I’m so thankful to find. This pitiful honesty that goes down to the bone marrow, this warm radiation of love, this strange, quiet strength. I know that even when it has been misunderstood, it is divine genetic code. I harvest this in myself as a way to live forever; Sap of my soul. Over and over again, I know I must be brave, I must leave it on the page. 

And so, no—I am not the idealization, I am not the dream. 

Indeed, I have turned into something else.

I look lovingly at that which I cannot quite define.

I say, “maybe you are not finished yet, but so far, you have done well.”

—twenty seven.

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