for the past 5 months i have been taking coffee orders and showing people to tables in which they will sit and have meaningless or maybe the most in depth conversation they have had in a while. i have witnessed very selfish people talk down to me and my co workers. i have witnessed very sad people come up to order coffee and end up telling me about their mother who just passed away. on the contrary, i have met some very soft spoken, level headed people who tip $10.00 on one order of coffee. last night as i sat a guest at their table, the man asked my name. not in a condescending way. and in my 5 months of working at that restaurant not one guest had asked my name until him.
i have gained both clarity and frustration working these two jobs. and i have understood how many people define your intelligence and life experience by the most insignificant quality, your age.
so for those of you who don’t know. i’m 19. and because of that little number, i have been put down multiple times. and i am not the only one. there are lots of men and women out there that are nervously sitting in the hallway of that job interview waiting to hear if they got it. while the managers are quietly whispering among themselves, “well she’s got all the credentials, she has experience, she graduated with a 4.0. but, she’s just not. old. enough.”
i am so done with society telling me i am not old enough to accomplish the things i want to accomplish.
when i was 10 i wanted to know why my parents got divorced. “maybe when you’re 13” was the response i would get.
when i was 13 all i wanted to do was learn archery. an older boy would come up to me every practice and make fun of me. i would cry in the bathroom stall. the teacher came and occupied the chair opposite, “maybe you’re just not old enough to handle that.”
when i was 15 i had my first boyfriend. i just wanted go to school dances with him and watch movies. maybe give him something for valentines day, because you know, that’s what couples do. he moved away and i cried because i loved him. i would lay in my baby blue covers, and as i did, “you’re not old enough to know what love is.”
when i was 18 i was told i needed to go to college. so i got into one. and then i quit because i didn’t know what i wanted to do. i asked around for advice trying to understand why everyone else knew what they wanted. my response was, “you’re too young to know what you want. you should wait until your older to go to college.”
now i’m 19 and i’m working two jobs, figuring out how to pursue the things i want in life. how to make myself happy. i sat three men the other night at their table, they started asking me what my dreams were, what i wanted to do ‘when i grew up.’ i told them. they scoffed. “you’re not old enough to be doing that.”
so, how do we deal with this? how do we not let these people tell us we aren’t good enough? old enough? pretty enough?
it took me a long time and i’m still trying to figure it out, but part of the solution is to go out and do it. there is nothing better than breaking stereotypes. the norms. to pursue what you want courageously and without fear. i live for the opportunity to tell people what i’ve done in life and watch their facial expressions as i tell them my age.
but this isn’t about me. this is about you. what are you doing to better your future? are you doing something you are proud of? will you look back at yourself and think good thoughts? if not, change it. push the limits of what you think is ‘right.’ fall in love. over and over again. with yourself, with the sunrises, with people, with that really good cookie, with your handwriting, with the way you make your coffee.
going into expedition photography is a very competitive field. and one that is not occupied with a lot of women. it doesn’t make a lot of money, if any, and can be dangerous. but quite frankly, it gives me life. it makes me create. it tests my limits physically, emotionally, and creatively. so if i’m told that a 9-5 job will make me happy because it will provide financial stability, i say no. i will go and explore the world and i will find a way to make that happen whether i’m 19 or 61. i know, only in part, hear just a sampling, behold merely a fraction, possess little. and in that, find enough. so i might stay here. or walk down the way. i want to continue to love extravagantly, listen intently, observe with wonder, and be present knowing i’ll never arrive.