Tomorrow is my sixteenth birthday(!!!) As it always is for me, it’s exciting and strange to be turning another age. This time, with all the created hype around this specific number, it’s a little more crazy. I’ve always somewhat subconsciously and somewhat jokingly kept a list of rites of passage in my head, and turning sixteen is one of them- even though it doesn’t require anything of you except staying alive.
I don’t think I would have ever put into words that this list even existed in my brain, but as writing does, it helped me form thoughts I didn’t even know I had. And as writing also tends to do for me, it helped me realize stuff. Writing about these rites of passage made me realize that this list is so specific to me, specific to where I’ve grown up and with whom I’ve grown up with. It makes me wonder what this list would look like for people over the world. This is what mine looks like.
It’s interesting which birthdays different cultures emphasize. Sweet sixteens, quinceañeras, bar and bat mitzvahs. By the way, I’ve never known which mitzvah is which, so here’s a memory trick I came up with: “Roy the boy.” Roy is for the “r” in bar mitzvah, which is for boys.
I asked my mom what birthday is important in China, and she said people like the birthdays that have to with the number 9. 9, 19, 29, 79, 999. It’s because the word “nine” in Mandarin sounds like the word “a long time” while the word “ten” sounds like “to die.” The weird thing though is that people celebrate their 60th birthday at age 59. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s so that the “good” number counteracts the “bad” number? No idea. And she also mentioned how in Japan, buildings skip floor fourteen.
Last month, my parents asked if I wanted to have a birthday party. It was a little surprising because neither of them are big on birthday parties, but also not, because my sister had a sweet sixteen party and I think they wanted to be fair.
Them proposing the possibility of a party did make my mind go into daydreaming mode, but I said no. I don’t really like hosting in general because however long the thing is, I feel like I’m responsible for everyone’s happiness. And also, parties are so hard to do. You have to a) come up with an idea b) make a guest list and c) actually pull it off.
For part a), here’s a list that will hopefully be helpful to anyone who’s looking for birthday party ideas. It’s a compilation of party concepts friends and classmates of mine have thought of and executed this school year.
-a sleepover over at the zoo
-an art lesson where a watercolor artist comes over to your house and shows everyone how to make something
-dance parties with different themes: red carpet, 50s fiesta (it was a compromise between Lexy and her twin that’s a guy), and space
-brunch in pajamas
-pool party (This was during the summer, and Moana came. My friend loves the movie and her parents asked the most recent Disney princess to come as a surprise. She came in singing, and everybody freaked. Then we found out she was a year or two younger than us, and yes, this was the first birthday party she’d been hired to sing at that was for a bunch of teenage girls and not five-year olds.)
I also came up with some ideas:
-an escape room
I’ve never done any of those things before, but I think they have the potential to be great parties. I didn’t even know the last one was a thing until my art teacher told us she was going to an ax-throwing class with her husband last weekend She said they also brought their baby with them-not bringing in the sense that the baby participated, but in the sense of them being parents. Just imagine if a kid grew up learning how to throw axes. Nobody would mess with them.
This one also makes me think about how different cultures emphasize different things, specifically in beauty. I think America puts more weight on straight, white teeth than other places in the world. Another contrast I’ve noticed is over skin tones. At school I hear my friends talk about how pale they are, how their skin is the same color as a piece of paper, self-tanner and spray tans, and tanning gone wrong. At home, my mom likes when I have fairer skin in the winter than when I get darker in the summer.
My friend actually sent me this video recently. It’s about this crazy webcam thing where some people make a lot money off of what sounds like vlog videos but live-streamed. I haven’t watched it yet, but she told me it also talks about the insane beauty culture and parents actually encouraging their kids to get plastic surgery because being beautiful is now important for their careers.
Ah, SATs and ACTs. I’m going to keep my thoughts on this one brief. It doesn’t need or deserve elaboration. Except this single thought. Have you seen Khan Academy’s program that joins with your College Board stuff and offers free SAT prep? It’s really cool. Khan Academy in general is cool.
Learning how to drive
The horror of parallel parking seems to be the one thing that has been crowned the hardest part about driving, but it hasn’t been bad. When it’s between two cones, that is. Two cars will probably be a different story.
The hardest part in my opinion was getting the hang of everything at first. Remembering how to get the car moving. Figuring out how to do turns. Being okay with going over ten miles an hour. Knowing when to go on right and left turns. Staying in between the lines and not scraping against the curb. Checking mirrors.
And there were other things that completely surprised me that I’d never heard about before. Like how the car moves when you’re not pressing the gas or the brake and how painful it is to hold the steering wheel on a cold winter morning.
Then there’s also the driving test. Over the years, there has had to be so many plotlines written around that and people failing it. I distinctly remember a Hannah Montana episode where she fails it and is so embarrassed about it because she already bragged about it to everyone and then her dad drives her to the party and reveals her lie to all her friends.
Anyways. After talking about the embarrassment that comes with not passing at school, I asked my dad what he thought about it, and I found out then that he failed his test four times. One more time and he would’ve had to take the paper test again. He said the first test, the instructor asked him to press the horn as part of the car check. My dad was like what?, and the instructor was like, the horn! the horn! But he didn’t know what was going on and that had him frazzled the whole test. What a priceless family story.
Also, this is a something I thought of while driving on the highway. I noticed that even though you’re going seventy miles an hour, it doesn’t seem like you’re going that fast because everybody’s going that fast. That feels like how life is too. How much you achieve or don’t achieve only seems that way because of who you’re by. You might be working way too much, but if everybody around you is too, you will still feel like you’re not doing enough.
Which goes with the idea I heard on the Tim Ferriss podcast that you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. And the one that I heard on Evernote’s Focus Culture podcast with James Clear– it’s the idea that a habit is easier to form when you surround yourself with people with whom the lifestyle you want is their norm. James Clear is the author of the Atomic Habits, which is a book I’ve been seeing around a bunch recently.
The most classic summer job would probably be working at an ice-cream shop, but that’s not a job I would go for in real life. I want to either work at a bookstore or newspaper (for free) or something like that because words, at In-n-Out because I’ve heard their salary is better than most jobs you can get without a diploma, or at a restaurant or a grocery store because I think I need to know what it’s like being on the other side of things.
Birthday party ideas?
Did you ever watch Hannah Montana or other Disney Channel shows? Wizards of Waverly Place. Suite Life on Deck. Yep.
Have you had a summer job?