I’m fourteen. It is an ailment to be such- one that people refuse to acknowledge, scoff at, disavow, but I
beg for your trust when I say that it is existent, for it is tangible. I sense it in the aches of my chest, in the
sting of my puffy eyes, in the fatigued tremble of my anxious hands. I wish nothing more than to be able
to will it away- shun it from my mind, my body, my soul and everything it encompasses. Lock it away
from my fond memories it is seeking to taint and squeeze in its hands- those that desire to destroy all that
It is true that it is no monumental moment in one’s life. It is not a milestone you will photograph and tape
inside your closet- not on the walls, no, for you are too ashamed to display the unsightly kid you so hated
to whomever will pass by- for you to brush your fingers gently over and revisit as the years blur by. And
yet, I know with a certainty akin to the fire in my heart- the very same that is gradually dwindling in the
shower of my sorrows- that it is one I will remember.
Indisputably, I will recall those days I spent in the confines of my own grief- for the death of my own self,
of the child buried deep inside, the one that is too afraid of the darkness to even try and search for the
light. Those same days when I realized that I am a child, but that will change, and change- change is the
thing that ruins us all. How must I face it when I do not even know who I am to begin with?
If you open me like a Russian nesting doll and leave my core vulnerable, what- or whom is it that you will
see in its center? Would it be perceptible, or would it be a shapeless, abstract figure, seemingly ready to
burst into something more. Would you see a child, who yearns most to be one, and yet is imprisoned in
their mind that knows much more than they should? Who swore off their innocence long ago- kept in a
faraway land you could no longer reach, the world you once saw in rose-tinted glasses, filled to the brim
with juvenile jubilation and youthful negligence.
Fundamentally, biologically, socially- and to everyone else, I am a child. I wear frilly dresses with
rainbow colours, and I play tea with my friends. I study and know nothing about taxes or work, or any of
the other “real and valid problems” that adults face. I do not hear my parents arguing next door, and I do
not know of their plans of divorce. I do not know much of anything, really- simply because I am a child.
False, false, false.
One may call it a generational curse. One may call it the consequence of our own actions, and
undoubtedly the internet. Perhaps both are true, or both are wrong. What matters is that the result will
remain. All of us grew up fast, with society and peer pressure pushing us up to a spotlight, allowing us to
see, everything- our insecurities that we never knew even existed, problems that aren’t our own, our
parents that continue to berate us like kids, but admonish us for being too “childish”.
In fact, we mellowed out so fast that we never even had the chance to figure out who we are, what we
stand for, what we like and dislike. You will wish that life would slow down for a moment, to let you
catch your breath and reposition yourself to brace for impact- but it is cruel. It continues to remind me
that I am a child, but that will change, and change- change is the thing that ruins us all.
I realize this as I begin to tread the world with cautious steps, in fear that one slight incorrect motion will
send my world thrashing on its axis. I stare into the mirror and take in the sight of my knobby knees, the
crimson spots dotted on my cheeks, and my dyed hair that I bleached one too many times because- “It
isn’t as blonde as hers!” The same way I stare into it after hours of exercise with improper form and done
with utmost impatience, paired with days of starving myself and think, “Why was I born with such a wide
The same way I stare into it after scrolling through my favorite influencer’s account, the one with the
blonde hair, blue eyes, a button nose, a model-worthy body, a picture-perfect life. We all know social
media is fake, and yet, we fall for it everytime. Everytime, you will compare yourself to the airbrushed
image of your “idol” and rupture into pieces when you realize you’re nothing like them. You realize this,
all of this, and you wish that life would give you a chance against these unjust standards. That it would
aid you in your journey to achieve this “perfection”- but it is cruel.
The universe has always been unforgiving- but I realize the one thing it does equally, is its unfair to all,
and with this, I realize. I realize that everyday is one step closer to change, and all the offenses that come
ready to attack me with it. Closer to when I will inevitably drape a black cape over my shoulders, place a
hat on my head- that I will wear as if it is a crown made of the purest gold and diamonds- meant to signify
my freedom until I learn that life is not so kind, and all I have succeeded to do is to succumb to the
horrors of adulthood.
Closer to when the tears I shed over failed tests will turn into sobs of desperation over the unpaid bills
stacked on my desk, and my head no longer pounds from the many hours spent on games, but instead
because I cannot bawl any more or my body will refuse to cooperate. My mother isn’t present anymore to
wrap me in her comforting embrace- the one that I once would shy away from in feigned disgust.
Closer to when the daily family dinners turn into long-awaited annual schedules. Always marked on your
calendars, a reminder to visit, but never crossed in completion as emergencies at work continuously arise-
“I can’t miss this meeting, Mom. I’ll make it up to you.” Yet another promise of a tomorrow spent
together is broken and the guilt starts to gnaw you from the inside out, but- “It’s okay. We can always
meet up next time.”
Closer to when you are compelled to watch as your “lifelong friends”- those that you intertwined your
pinkies with, laughing as you utter your prayers to the universe, “We’ll be best friends forever!”- slowly
drown underneath the piles of paperwork that grow forevermore. You watch as their names on your phone
that were once at the top of your list of messages now lay at the bottom- missed but still untouched, and
will remain that way until their laugh crosses your mind and your heart sputters at the thought- this is
when you remind yourself to wish them a happy new year- another one that they will spend without you.
You know these times are coming, but it unmistakably does not mean it will be any easier for you to
digest the truth, and for this, there is no powerful enough enzyme to break it down for you. I realize this-
all of this, and it is killing me- sending stabs straight to the source of my livelihood, the organ that pumps
to the melodic rhythm of the song it weaved for those that I love.
And so, the regret starts to brew. It boils deep within my guts, threatening to spill over and send acid
spraying over scarred skin in hopes that the pain will remind me to love- because life is cruel, but as most
laws in this universe are antagonistic, it is not an exception. For all its brutality and iniquity, you will
realize that it can be understanding- kind even.
For there will come a day where life, if you stay and try for long enough, grants you the ability to readily
take on change, no matter how unexpected it is. You will learn to love it- you will learn to love yourself
despite your shortcomings. You will pay those fees, and you will find your escape- but most importantly,
you will meet your loved ones and tell them just how much you care.
Fondness thrives in distance, and you will realize this statement, too. Catching brunch, gossiping about
the scandalous newlywed relatives, merely being in their presence- you’ve taken these for granted but you
will learn that they are privileges. Those marked dates on your calendar will no longer manifest guilt, but
calm anticipation- laying dormant until you feel their touch against your skin and only then will it
combust into elation. It will be your reward, your drive, your love.
And this will be enough- for I wish nothing more than to be able to love- with my mind, my body, my
soul and everything it encompasses- because fourteen is an ailment. An infectious, cruel, and unforgiving
disease that is born from pain. And pain, is born from love.
Shanaya Sudjono is a 14 year old Chinese-Indonesian girl who wills her sorrows away through writing. She puts far too much pressure on herself when it comes to her studies, but enjoys unwinding by doing crafts despite not being the best at them. She loves spending time with her friends and watching movies until the dead of night. Shanaya is often held back by her insecurities, but she is determined to change that.