Ages of Exploration
by Victoria L. Cagle
Age 4. Try to make sense of the thin white booklets with the black letters that your older brother brings home from school. You can’t identify this feeling yet, but eventually you’ll realise that it kills you to know that there is so much information in the world that you don’t have access to, since you can’t read. Try not to be so hard on yourself, you’re 4 years old for crying out loud. Along with the help of educational TV shows and these mysterious white booklets, you’re going to teach yourself how to read.
Age 6. Young, barefoot and daring, you enter the woods near your house. There’s so much to do out there! Climb trees, wade in the water that gathers in the ravine, spot a deer if you’re quiet enough and lucky, spot a snake if you’re unlucky. Touch all the plants that Virginia wildlife has to offer. You learn that you’re allergic to poison ivy. Once your angry, painful, itchy, puss-filled skin has calmed down, you’ll go back into those woods again. There’s still so much out there you haven’t explored.
Age 12. Ask the guy with the shaggy blonde hair his name. You want to know everything about him. You’ll learn as much as you can, but it will never be enough. Ask more, ask deeper, because in four years he’ll disappear. He’s one of the many people you’ll meet that you will always be curious about, no matter how much you learn. People are so interesting because they’re endless.
Age 13. Read every book that you can get your hands on. It’s a portal to a different world. You feel trapped and you’re still too young to do anything about it. For now, all you can do is read and pretend you’re some place else for a while. Never be ashamed of your love of reading. This curiosity is the only thing keeping you going most days.
“Age 13. Read every book that you can get your hands on. It’s a portal to a different world.”
Age 14. Make your first social media account. You’ll find out that there’s more to the world than just your town and your high school. Do some googling. The predicament you find yourself in, the reason you’ve shut yourself off and feel so isolated, is more common than you could ever imagine. This knowledge saddens you, but at least you’re not alone.
Age 17. She had long hair then one day showed up to school with it chopped short. You’ve never seen a girl your age with hair that short before. You think she’s so cool. Go on, go ahead, find out more about her. She’s about to become one of your best friends.
Age 18. Ask him to be your boyfriend. You’re young and bored and there’s still so much you don’t know but maybe he can help you figure it out. (He won’t, he can’t, because a boy will never be the answer to all your questions.)
Age 20. Apply for that study abroad programme. I know you’re scared to leave your friends and family for so long. You have an extreme fear of missing out, I get it. But there’s a whole other life you’re missing out on in Scotland that you’ll never be able to experience unless you go.
Age 21. Go. Now. You want to leave. You’ve wanted to escape ever since you were 12 and you learned how alcohol can turn the person you love most into someone that scares you. You’ve been planning your exit for almost 10 years now, honey. It’s time to leave. You owe it to yourself to find out what the world has to offer. Let yourself wander.
Victoria is a writer from Virginia. Her goal in life is to write and travel, preferably at the same time. You can read more of her work on her blog.