I turned sixteen a week ago. I spent my birthday in the sweltering yet comforting solitude of my bedroom trying to prevent my English teacher from finding out and avoiding awkward attempts by her to acknowledge it by making our class sing to me. I also tried a Zoom peer review with a friend.
It’s finals season for me. So no matter what, I will probably be doing homework through my birthday for the next couple of years, as it always falls right before finals.
It was a busy birthday. I was studying for the last trig test and the last chem quiz of the year, doing Spanish practice activities, and brainstorming less-than-dumb ways to actually finish my photography assignment.
But somehow this year, I felt more alone than ever. And I’m including the birthday when I cried in a bathroom at school because I was so embarrassed about a bad assignment (sixth-grade Kaavya was a weird kid!)
Two of my friends were sweet enough to drop by with gifts (a Tupperware of brownies and a bunch of snacks, bless their hearts), and I will love them forever for that. But I was still pretty much stuck at home all day.
Turning “sweet sixteen” in quarantine was not what I expected.
At the very least, I hoped that I could go out with friends, even if we didn’t go all-out. Ideally, that would be eating exorbitant amounts of ice cream with the monthly Baskin Robbins deal (a dollar per scoop is too much of a bargain to pass up) or drinking bubble tea in the late spring sunshine. We’d probably be pretending we weren’t stressed about finals either. That’s okay, though.
Admittedly, I shouldn’t complain. On my birthday, I was quarantined with my family of five, which helped alleviate the irritation of being stuck with one person for too long. And there was my favorite thing alive, Luna, my cousin’s dog, adorable, fluffy, and faster than any person I’ve met.
But it just doesn’t feel like your birthday without seeing your friends.
The night before I turned 16, I watched both Mamma Mia movies with friends and they sang me happy birthday at midnight, which I loved.
The thing is, my birthday has never been my favorite day. I don’t like the awkwardness of happy birthday greetings and teachers trying to get my classes to sing to me. I do appreciate family and friends buying me books and being able to choose the cake.
But I don’t like getting older. I would’ve gladly stayed six years old, when I could read all day and get complimented for it. Today, being productive means ACT prep, schoolwork, debate, summer courses, and something else I’m probably still forgetting.
Or, I’d much rather be in the last couple months of being fourteen last year when I was riding high off the end of debate season, good test scores, and good mental health.
Quarantine has worsened that regret of getting older. The last three months have not felt like actual months, but just lapses in time that may or may not have happened. My birthday was just the frosting on the cake (cue groans about how bad this pun is).
I’m sixteen though. Not much can change that. Unless I get in some odd Benjamin Button situation or the time travel mishaps in Avengers: Endgame.
Age is just a number, I guess. Sixteen is only significant for being four squared.
There’s always next year. And the year after.
Kaavya Butaney is a sophomore at Los Altos High School in Los Altos, CA. She writes for her school newspaper, The Talon, and loves speech and debate and choir. Kaavya is an intern at India Currents.
Edited by Meera Kymal, contributing editor at India Currents.