A story by Sofia 

Art by Mia Gleiberman

Give yourself permission to be fifteen.


I try out this advice. I try to allow myself to exist as a fifteen year old girl. I try to be good. I try to enter the adolescent normalcy I am submersed in. I want to be fifteen. I want to not think anymore. I want invincibility, sweet, transient, intoxicating. It’s not enough to be fifteen, for me. It’s not enough to be what I should be. I search for meaning to be in this hollow world of fifteen. I look for humanity and find it in scarce amounts. Am I okay? Yes, I’m okay, certainly. Why wouldn’t I be? Everything is fine, it has to be fine, because I am just fifteen, I am not an adult. I do not possess problems. My fear possesses no validity. I swallow the condescension like a bitter pill and look at my feet without responding. My neck hurts from all of the looking down I’ve been doing. I don’t mean to be this way, but I am, I am. Fifteen is a difficult number, a sensitive number, a fragile number. I carry myself around school without looking at my reflection. Fifteen serves no one’s self-love. The world feels big, but I am fifteen, so I am small, so small, unbearably small. I think about college too often and acne spreads on my face because of all of that analyzing, all of that foul, rotten matter accumulating inside of my brain. Does it hurt, to think these things, to be this person at fifteen? Yes. It hurts but I bear its weight. I bear its weight because there exists no other tangible possibility. I’m not myself without a hulking weight inside of me. It’s not unpleasant. It’s me. I’m told to terminate my obsessive thoughts about the grey, nauseating ambiguity that is the future. I’m told to create and to listen. My ears ache from all of that listening, sometimes. Words repeated, over and over, drilled uncomfortably and inexorably into my head. I can’t be more than fifteen, everyone says. Don’t try. Don’t try to be more than this time, this present, this number. I don’t want to try, I think, but I don’t say the words. I don’t say the words because understanding will not ever occur, not with adults. Not with those who say the words to me in the first place. Because. I am trying, to give myself permission, any permission, to be fifteen years old. I am trying to be a functional teenager and live like I am not running out of time. I am trying to see this strange truth, that absolutes do not need to exist yet, that nothing I do determines who I will be. I am trying to live, to be this girl that a fifteen year old is supposed to be. I am trying. Fifteen doesn’t last long. Fifteen doesn’t feel lovely. Fifteen breaks into pieces, but those pieces cannot be irreparable. Incoherent, indeed, but preservation undoubtedly is possible. Those pieces will be stitched back together, perhaps in an entirely new pattern, with additional threads, but they will be put back together. This is not the end. Fifteen is not the end. It is the beginning.

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