The Magic Number

Dylan Schmidt



For some people 18 is a magic number.

At 18 you can vote!  Join the armed forces!  Buy houses, do taxes, and all that scary unknown adult stuff.

But it’s not unknown anymore.  Because after 17 years and 365.25 days, the level is pulled, the switch is flipped, the magic spell is cast and bingo! welcome to your halcyon days!


But not really.

18 isn’t that different from 17.  Just one year. And a year can past so fast.

One minute you’re stressing over prom, the next you’re stressing over college.


Like a matryoshka doll—those Russian dolls things that have smaller dolls inside—you are made from a single piece of wood (well, the doll is, but people are still made of only one person)

And that person has lots of other people inside of them.

You might be 18, and technically an adult and ready for the world, but you are also 17.  Just as confused and irritated and angsty about school and friends and family as you were before.  Because the issues of life are not separated by years.


Deeper, you are still 16, yearning for freedom in the form of a driver’s license, and complaining about teacher.

Deeper, you are still 15, anxious about high school and scared of the future.

Deeper and deeper, the problems of an age that aren’t solved don’t just vanish after the birthday.  That isn’t growing up.


Growing up is being able to move past those issues, see what ones were actually legitimate, and continuing forward towards the next problem to solve or ignore until it too is revealed as irrelevant later.

Growing up means not forgetting.  Not forgetting the 17 year old you were, the 16, the 15, and all the way to 1.  You don’t forget these ages or their issues, but with your new age you are now able to tell what problems were actual problems.


Because 18 is not a magical number.  After some 65 thousand days of living you are not suddenly capable of taking on the world.  

And deep down we are all confused, panicky, children pretending to know what they’re doing wondering how taxes work and why school costs so much money.  Some of us are just better at convincing ourselves and were able to do so until we actually figured out what to do.

This poem is about: 
My community
My country
Our world


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