By Susanna Vagman, 16
My freshman year of high school, I was waiting in the nurse's office (because I had fainted in my marine biology class dissecting a crawfish) when this tall guy who was a stranger came over and asked me, "Do you go to this school?" It was clear he thought I didn't look old enough to be in high school.
I felt really sick, extremely hot, and probably looked very pale-and that was before his question. After, I also felt shocked and embarrassed.
Now that I'm a junior, freshmen ask me if I am a freshman. Then when I tell them my age, they have this expression of surprise and wonder. They say stuff like, "Are you telling the truth? Nooooo, you're lying. You skipped a grade, right?"
Part of the reason I look young is because I'm short. I'm only 4 feet 11 inches at most. But I also look young because I dress casually. In short, if you ever saw me walking the streets, you would never believe me if I told you I was 16 years old.
Looking young isn't all bad. It allows me to feel free to do things others wouldn't, like cry or act silly. I can also use looking young to get into the movies for the price of a child. And when my family and I went to a diner, there was a special kids lunch that looked delicious because it included ice cream. The only thing was that you had to be under 12 to get it. When I ordered, the waitress didn't even ask me any questions.
When strangers find out my age and look shocked, I feel like they are trying to tell me that it's about time I grew up, and I feel bad. I suppose I could change, but I don't really want to. Because the truth is, I don't want to be an adult - not yet, at least. That's why I act young, too.
I guess I like being a kid because I've grown up with lots of love, where I have everything that I need: food, clothes, family, love and money. I'm glad that I can come home, watch TV and eat a home-cooked meal without preparing it myself.
I don't want to get older. I'm scared of being alone without the kind of love you can't live without. I am scared that the life I have always known will be gone, and that life will offer me the kind of tests I cannot pass with a right or wrong answer, that nothing will seem black or white. I am afraid that when I get older, everything in my life will be gray and there will be no one, like my parents and teachers, to push me in the right direction.
If I stay a child, closed in my shell, I won't be afraid of making mistakes.
It's always been hard for me to accept change. When my family and I go to a restaurant, my sister picks all the new food to try. I just wait for my sister to try her stuff, and if she likes it, then and only then, I try it.
I know that getting older means that the time will come when I'll have to make choices all on my own. Right now, I like feeling like a child.
(c) New Youth Connections, New York