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“Angelina, you’re 18 going on 45” – that’s my best friend, Bailey’s, favorite expression. What most people don’t understand, though, is that those qualities of mine that make me seem older are simply the result of a rather unusual upbringing. Of course, saying that usually brings on the ever-popular phrase of “You didn’t have a childhood, did you?” No, I did have a childhood; it just wasn’t the typical childhood.
While most ten-year-olds were in bed by 9 on a Friday evening after watching their favorite Disney movie, I was at the Metropolitan Opera House with my father and about 1000 bejeweled widows. After a two-hour car ride, I would sit in the front row of our box, my eyes never leaving the stage, trying to make sense of Puccini’s La Boheme. The Met wouldn’t be putting in subtitle boxes for a few more years, so any translation I made had to be solely drawn from the variations in the music. Even if I didn’t catch on to every detail of the story, I was completely taken in, and ever since then my parents haven’t been able to kick me out of “my” seat at the opera.
When not at the Met, I spent my free time watching foreign films with my mother – Cyrano de Bergerac, Cinema Paradiso, The Seventh Seal, and Breathless were our favorites. Being surrounded by all these languages combined with taking French at school since I was ten years old allowed me to quickly pick up on what the characters were saying. By the time I was 13, I would, somewhat cheekily, tell her that the subtitles weren’t translating the French correctly, and subsequently give her the “real” translation. Even today, I’ll be watching a French film by myself and suddenly my parents will hear me from the next room shout, in true movie-critic fashion, “Nope, translated that wrong, too!”
Now that I’m 18, my friends all get a good laugh when I say that I like to sit in smoke-filled hotel lounges, listening to piano players with my dad for kicks. Well, I’ve been doing it for years, so why stop now? I remember sitting on my dad’s lap listening to “Piano Man” countless times in bars around the world – it is still the one song that makes me think of home. Of course, when I was little, I thought the song was more amusing than it really is, because the line about “putting bread in my jar” always invoked the image of someone stuffing a roll in a shot glass. If you know the song, I’m sure you can figure out where else I may have perked a confused brow. Either way, being able to just sit there, totally relaxed, surrounded by the swingin’ over 40 crowd, listening to songs I grew up with makes me happier than going to any party ever could.
So maybe I didn’t have the typical childhood; maybe I do enjoy activities people my age usually fight against experiencing, but that has never hindered me from finding my niche in school, nor has it stopped me from getting my friends to at least appreciate the things I love. Moreover, I know that I only evolved into what I am today because of the opportunities my parents offered me. Without their trust in my maturity, I may just have had that type of childhood my friends are so aghast that I lacked – and sometimes I really wonder if I would have been better off playing with Barbies and watching cartoons. But I can’t change who I am now, and I really wouldn’t if someone gave me the chance; I can only change what I will become. Therefore, no matter where I end up in college, I want to be able to continue to experience things outside of the norm and share what I’ve grown to love with others. Wherever I can do that will be the perfect place for me, be I 18, 45, or anywhere in between.
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