When I Grow Up

Baby Girl
"When I grow up. I will be brave enough to fight the creatures. That you have to fight beneath the bed each night to be a grown-up." - When I Grow Up, Matilda The Musical

I wanted to be a grown-up. 

To be tall, and smart, and pretty. To reach the books on the highest shelf. To answer all the questions I needed to know. To look in the mirror and see a face I liked. I thought turning eighteen meant becoming the grown-up I wanted to be at eight.

I waited years to turn eighteen. When I turned eight, I counted the decade before I became an adult. When I was thirteen, I thought life would be better in five years. It’s been five years later. A lot of things have changed, but I'm not sure if it's for the better.

Yes, the clock has struck midnight. I'm eighteen years old.


Scrapbook girl
reading book
girl scrapbook

Birthdays are important to me.

Whether it's mine or anyone else's. I gape in shock when someone tells me they don't celebrate their birthday. The horror of not cutting ice-cream cake, or feeling the nostalgia wash over you. 'It's not a big deal.'  They assure me, but that's not true. Birthdays are a big deal. They are the biggest of big deals.

It’s life telling you: Congratulations! You survived. You survived a messy year of unexpected twists and turns. You survived to live another year. You survived. Congratulations on surviving, good luck on the next year.

I am not the same person as I was at seventeen. It is clear that 365 days can change a person. On my seventeenth birthday, I was on the phone crying in Malaysia, no one seemed to remember my birthday. On my sixteenth birthday, I found out I was (am) anaemic. I don't even remember my fifteenth birthday.

On my eighteenth birthday, I'm here. Typing away alone late at night, hoping I have enough energy to study for History paper tomorrow.

I never expected much for birthdays. No one is throwing pebbles at my window nor is there a surprise birthday bash (pun intended). There's just me, unsure whether I should consider myself a grown up yet.

birthday
diverse friends

I'm not sure I even want to grow up yet. All the years of daydreaming of heightened maturity and profound sophistication. They never amounted to anything. They were wishful thinking and skewed perceptions of what being a grown-up would entail. I felt so ready to face the adult world at eight, but I'm terrified of it at eighteen.

Growing up means having monsters. No one tells you that when you grow up, they will be monsters you have to face. Monsters in forms of papers, perspectives, and people. You don't have a sword to swing or a shield for shelter. Monsters don't have weaknesses but you do. You arm yourself with your weaknesses, call them strengths and hope Monsters believe you.

I was oblivious to monsters at eight. I would meet monsters at thirteen. I will have to fight monsters now at eighteen. My hope is when I do grow up, with the maturity and sophistication I've dreamed of, the monsters will go away.

When I grow up, these monsters will grow up with me. I understand that now. Perhaps if I knew that at eight or thirteen, I would stay a child. Euphorically innocent and blissfully ignorant. I don't want to grow up, I don't want to survive,  I don't want to face monsters.

I want to live.

Smiling Hijabi
Hijabi FamilyBirthday Girl Hijabi

I wanted to be a grown-up. 

To be tall, and smart, and pretty. But I'm only 5'1. 'Bimbo Bash' is a delightful nickname my friends bestowed on me. And my face is only acceptable with five pounds of makeup slathered on. I'm not the grown up eight-year-old Bash wanted to be, but I am the grown up I have to be.

The grown-up versions of me will have a life I may not comprehend now. At times I wonder what Future Bash(es) are up to. Nineteen-year-old Bash is in the UK, typing a similar melodramatic post. Bash at Age 21 is complaining the Indian food is too spicy. By the early thirties, lights are off by 9PM. I can't wait until I'm thirty.

But for now, I'm eighteen. I need to go to bed soon, it's twelve minutes past my curfew. Wow, eighteen with a curfew. Adulthood is not kicking off to an exciting start.

So when did you grow up?

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