On Turning Eighteen

Rae10Last week, I turned eighteen. I ate pad thai and tried on prom dresses with my close friends. I came home and blew out candles, ate cake, watched as my family embraced and congratulated me on becoming an adult—legally, I was allowed to buy lottery tickets, get married, vote. But, as I watched the crumb littered dishes stack by the sink, I realized that I didn’t feel different at all. I was still seventeen. And sixteen. And two. Sandra Cisneros wrote, “The way you grow old is kind of like an onion or the rings inside a tree trunk or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one.” We are all the ages we have ever been.

As writers, we can use our journey of growing older in unique ways. On the days we are feeling three years old, we can write stories about being on a playground, kicking our feet out from swings and sliding against sand. On the days we are feeling seventeen, we can write poems about preparing to leave our families, going to college, starting lives on our own.

Whenever I feel like I am in a writing rut, I always try to trace my memories back as far as I can and write from the perspective of who I was. Trying this can help you vary the kinds of voices you use in your work, and also help broaden the topics you write about. If you need a little extra push, here are some poems about childhood/ adolescence that stand out to me:

  • Flashcards by Rita Dove


  • Three Songs at the End of Summer by Jane Kenyon


  • Believing in Iron by Yusef Komunyakaa


Enjoy your journey! I hope you have as much fun as I did.

–Raegen Carpenter, Poetry Editor