I’m 15 on the Inside. Are You?

I’ve made a realization recently that makes it a little easier to come to terms with how I feel inside some days.

I’m still a 15-year-old on the inside.

Maybe that sounds like I’m emotionally stunted, but hear me out. I still feel all the same feelings I did when I was 15 – hurt, sadness, emptiness, joy, disappointment, hope, anger, fear. If anything, I feel all these things even more intensely.

I still sometimes feel left out when friends or family are doing things without me. Although I also appreciate my solitude more now.

I still feel disappointment when things don’t go as I had hoped, although I know now from experience that things have a way of working themselves out eventually.

I get excited about dressing up for Halloween, or going to a party, or eating at a fancy restaurant, or going on vacation to someplace I’ve never been.

I’m sad when a friend moves away, or somebody is sick and I can’t help them.

I get frustrated with myself for not being more successful, for not being as confident as I’d like to be, for eating a donut for breakfast instead of oatmeal.

I feel infinite when I listen to music sometimes, like I’m expanding far outside myself into the universe and into other people. Just maybe not as much as it did when I actually was 15. But when I do I appreciate it more and it has more meaning.

I get angry at injustice, or being intentionally hurt, or seeing a friend get hurt. When I have no control over a bad situation.

I have all the same feelings. I still feel like I’m 15 on the inside. But I’m 40 on the outside. It’s weird.

My stepdaughter is 15. I’ve told her before, and I’ll probably say it to her again and again. How she feels on the inside right now? That’s how she’ll feel inside her whole life.

The difference is that at 40, I have 25 years of experience of being 15 on the inside.

These emotions are no longer surprising. Sometimes they are scary, and sometimes they hurt, but I know better how to deal with them. I am gentler with myself. I understand sometimes that my irritation is caused by hormones and I just have to give it a little time and I’ll feel better in a day or two. That sadness isn’t going to last forever. That pure joy is absolutely possible.

I think it’s okay to feel 15 on the inside. I kind of like it. I think being a child inside is just about the best thing you can carry with you as you age. I still feel wonder at the world. I smile at butterflies and hummingbirds, like I’ve never seen one before when in fact I’ve seen thousands. I like to go outside and play. I like to act silly, or retreat into my room alone and cry sometimes.

It’s all the same feelings. But I’m building a roadmap. I’m learning how they interact with each other, what causes them, how to encourage the ones that make me feel good and process and release the ones that don’t. I think it’s a lifelong job, making this map.

But I like it. I’m glad. I’m giving that inner 15-year-old a hug right now.

Here’s my 15-year-old self with my childhood best friend, Kim (who is still my childhood best friend at 40).

My childhood best friend, Kim, and I in front of my high school locker. We were friends at 15 and are still friends at 40.

And here I am on my 40th birthday in Sozopol, Bulgaria, feeling like a giddy 15 on the inside.

Do you have a 15-year-old living inside of you?