Nineteen.

Every time I have a birthday, I think of the vignette “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros.  Please, oh please, click on that link and read the whole thing out loud to yourself.  It’s not stupid to read stories to yourself.  It’s powerful.

I was searching for a copy of this online so that I could share it with you and happened upon a video of Sandra Cisneros herself, reading her story out loud.  She started, and as she read, I found a copy.

And I paused Sandra Cisneros and picked up where she left off.

I read the entire thing to myself like I was a third grader.

I needed to hear it again.  It’s one of those rare pieces of literature where you read it and immediately connect with the message of the story.  Aside from the fact that Sandra Cisneros inspires me, I’m about to turn 19, so this is pertinent.

I have a general idea of what each year of my life means. Every year except for 19.  What does it mean to be 19?  You don’t get any new, special privileges or titles.  They don’t take the red frame that says “under 21” off from around your driver’s license picture.  The digits of your age still start with 1, and you’re still a teenager.

You’re just slightly older than an 18-year-old.

As I get older, birthdays seem to be less of a big deal, just like a fresh, new year is less of a novelty.  I’d like to propose that we bring back big birthdays, to revel in the newness that is the next number you get to present to people when they ask your age.  19.  I’ll get to say.   I’m 19.  If birthdays are a big deal, then maybe they’re our time to take a good, hard look at who we are and who we want to be and where we should go and what we should do.  Let no birthday go by without examination.

That’s what I’ll be doing in these few days before I turn 19, thinking about what I want 19-year-old Ashley to be, who God wants me to be.  And I will very likely think about cake and going home, too.  I can’t just have nice, mature thoughts when there’s red velvet cake bellowing my name.

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