I grabbed my bag and power walked down the hall. The Cliff Bar I picked up the night before at Walgreens (welcome to my version of adulting) in attempt to eat something other than peanut butter, hung out of my mouth as I shifted for my ID badge in the elevator. Too early for the shuttle, too early to walk –that leaves Uber. I glanced down at the bar and then at my phone, 3 minutes. My phone pinged, initiating the countdown. 5:10AM. Well if Justin and Madonna can save the world in 4 minutes, then hopefully I can finish this Cliff Bar in 3. This flavor was weird. The gnarly mint one I had mistaken for oatmeal. Oh well.
As I walked through the lobby I remembered another human was about to see me. Hmm, I debated what was more important, my dignity or my half eaten breakfast. 5:13AM. I’m not sure I actually settled that one. Reluctantly I took the bar out of my mouth as I got into the car. As I started friendly conversation with my driver all I could think about was how this thing was melting in my hand. Peanut butter would never do this to me.
He glanced through the rearview mirror. And then did a double take. You look so YOUNG! I smiled hesitantly. This happens a lot. I offered up my most genuine delivery, “Haha oh thanks, yeah, I look a lot younger than I actually am…” Wait for it… wait for it…
Really?? How old are you?!
“Um… 26?” I don’t know why but I always answer that like I question myself. Kate, do you know how old you are? Are you really just a teenager posing as a 26 year-old? Sometimes I feel like it.
Really?!? NO! I thought you were, 17! Are you sure??
Maybe that’s why I constantly question myself –after encountering so much (friendly) interrogation I feel like, well, maybe I’m not who I say I am. Insert nervous laughter here. I still don’t know how to respond.
I’m positive that one day this will be easy. I imagine somewhere around the age of 50. Then a simple “thank you” and smile will feel right. But at the moment, I’m stuck in the awkward place –I feel weird saying thank you, I’m glad you think I look like a teenager… but I also feel obligated to respond. Often, nervous laughter just fills the empty space while I try to decide. Beyond that I’ve conjured up some great space fillers, my favorite probably being “good times.”
Good times is perfect for any awkward situation –even if you’re not actually having a good time. Sarcastic undertones are my favorite. I feel like it’s often missed, probably due to the fact the delivery is coming from an awkward unassuming girl who looks approximately 17 years old.
But that’s okay. I enjoy knowing the context of my delivery.
This hasn’t always been the case. Looking back to elementary school, I felt like a fairly normal kid (minus the excessive bathroom trips and frequent bouts of nausea). But after falling below the growth curve my pediatrician suggested a bone scan. It’s quick and simple. They x-ray your wrist and evaluate the growth plate to determine how old your body appears, and then compare that to where it should be. The results? 2 years. I was 2 years behind. I didn’t expect the news to mean much to me, but 2 years? Suddenly it stuck to me. And even to this day I remember it well. From this point I felt like I had a little voice in my head that was pushing me. Telling me I needed to make up for those 2 years in other ways. I used school as an outlet. I volunteered. I did extracurricular activities. I pushed myself. But it wasn’t just about being behind. It was about being different. Having Crohn’s, at least for me, made me feel like I’ve had to prove I am equal.
Now things are a little different. I’ve given up on the quest to fit into that normal category. I embrace my awkward side. I appreciate who I am. It’s not a perfect appreciation, but I’m working on it. After comparing myself to other people for so many years I eventually realized, “hi, hey, over here, yeah you… you’re suck with me” –so might as well enjoy the ride.
After thought: plus if it means that not wearing makeup and decking myself out in cat paraphernalia will let me skip airport security, then I’m okay with it.