Updated: Aug 30, 2019
How cool would it be to have dinner with eight-year-old me.
She'd be in a pink, glittery hat with silver eyeshadow up and above her bushy eyebrows, pink lip gloss, a green scarf wrapped around her neck, hiding the collar of her gray High School Musical t-shirt, boot cut jeans, and dark purple converse—an outfit I thought made me look mature.
She would ask me how it feels to be a high school graduate, almost eighteen. By now, she would expect me to be rich out of my mind with a cute boyfriend, making arrangements to move to LA to write and sing—very clear about my decision to not go to college. She would expect me to be on the New York Times Best-Seller list. At this point of my life, I'm supposed to be in contact with Oprah. She thinks my parents let me do whatever I want now that I'm older. She thinks I dream at eighteen just as big as she does at eight.
And, I'd be sitting across from her in a much simpler outfit. My makeup would be light, my hair pulled back into a bun. I would have to look her square in her bright, hopeful eyes and break her heart. I'm not rich. I don't have a boyfriend. I'm going to college, staying very close to home. I am a published author, but New York doesn't know that yet. My parents still call me their baby, and I have to comply to a curfew. And while I am living comfortably, my eight-year-old self would not be impressed.
She would frown at my decision to stay home and perhaps sink in her seat when I reveal that I'm single. She may light up when I tell her I published a book, but will become upset when I tell her about New York. Why haven't I become the next Oprah yet? It would be hard to explain to her. Am I just as disappointed as she is? Well, I may surprise her with my answer.
The truth is that I'm happy where I'm at right now.
"You mean to tell me you're okay with going to college?" she would ask me.
And I would nod, honestly. I'm excited for classes to start.
"And the fact that you haven't had a worldwide book tour yet?" she would press on.
She would expect me to be discouraged, but I would emphasize the "yet". It's not happening now, but it will. Soon.
She would go on and on about how let down she is by me if I were to ever have dinner with her. How could I be happy with so many unmet expectations? Her disbelief would overwhelm her.
But, I see where she's coming from.
I remember being her—eight-years-old who had a harder time believing reality than a scenario I made up in my head. I was an eight-year-old who dreamed so big, even now I find some of those goals impossible to achieve. I stayed up late picturing my name on every billboard in LA and New York. I planned trips across the world, visualizing myself selling books, recording albums, making fashion statements. I didn't care how much it would cost, how long it would take to plan, or who was or wasn't on my side. All I knew was that it was going to happen—whether anyone thought it was unrealistic or not.
I was ignorant, in a way, but hopeful. Unconditionally hopeful.
And, I miss being her.
Therefore, as I am about to turn eighteen, I have been asking myself this: Is it possible that I can still be her?
The truth is that now, at eighteen, I know way too much about how money can limit your next move. I know about the importance of saving and having to put a really cute dress back because it isn't in the budget. I know about how expensive New York is, let alone how dangerous it can be when you're on your own. I'm more aware of how people can be your friend one day and the enemy the next, how people aren't as kind as you were taught to be. I understand that life happens. While you shouldn't let it get in the way, sometimes it forces its way in, and you have to put a hold on your dreams to clean up a mess. Sometimes things just don't go your way.
With all of this knowledge, I'm wondering if I can ever dream as big as I did at eight.
Because if I ever were to have dinner with her, she'd look me in the eye and tell me to snap out of it. Don't I know how abundant I used to think? Boundless thoughts that built me into the successful person I wish to be? Don't I remember the journal I kept when I was little that listed all of the awards I would win as a singer / song-writer / author? The journal where I wrote all of my songs and short stories? Don't I remember promising myself that I'd be next even while watching something as small as the Kids' Choice Awards? Am I really going to let myself forget?
I don't want to forget. I don't want to disappoint little eight-year-old Yana. And, in a sense, I feel like I'm not. I'm genuinely happy with where I'm at. Published author, single with a few incredible friends, freshman in college, staying close to home. However, I'm worried that the dreamer I used to be would see that happiness as complacency.
Yikes! Am I happy or comfortable? That's a question I see my eight-year-old self asking over dinner. Am I settling to exist as a young adult or will I push towards the vision I had as an eight-year-old? Will I let life kicking my butt a few times stop me from dreaming bigger and higher or will I keep pressing towards the goal? If I keep pressing towards the goal, would I be happy? If I resolved to enjoying my life as a young adult and achieving those dreams after college, would I be giving up? Is there a chance I can savor the moment I'm in now and still work towards the future I've always wanted?
Mind you, I know the answer to the last question is yes. But sometimes, it doesn't feel like it.
My whole childhood was focused on building a future for myself at eighteen. That was just the type of kid I was. Now I'm wondering if being happy with where I am right now is settling to exist or enjoying the moment. It's an interesting meditation. I don't have to be anxious about not being where I thought I would be at this point in my life. Deep down, I know this. I know I should enjoy the present—being a college freshman, being single, seeing my book in the hands of strangers, enjoy...now! But, what if I enjoy it so much that I never want to leave? What if I become so comfortable, I one day begin to laugh at being on the New York Times Bestseller list? What if I let myself down? Would I really be enjoying my life then?
These are the questions my eight-year-old self never thought I'd be asking at eighteen. According to her, I shouldn't be asking any questions. Just doing. But, if I ever were to have dinner with her, I'd tell her about all of the setbacks I've had at this point, all of the exhaustion I wake up feeling. I'd fill her in on my complicated thoughts—my scary attempts to stop caring so much. The storms I didn't see coming, the change of plans that were out of my control. I'd tell her this in the hopes that she would understand. However, she'd look right back at me, silver glitter on her eyelids and all, and make me promise that I'd make her proud. No matter how many times I want to quit. No matter how convenient settling is. No matter how tired I may get. No matter what, remember the eight-year-old girl who would cover her ears whenever an adult tried to warn her about the cost of dream-chasing. Remember how much she believed in herself. Remember that she dreamed as big as she did at eight so that I can do even bigger at eighteen.