18.

I was seventeen when I first dyed my hair.

I was seventeen when I went to prom.

I was seventeen when I graduated high school.

I was seventeen when I explored a small part of the world without my parents.

I was seventeen when I got my driving permit.

And I was seventeen at my last opening King’s Game as a child.

Where I was reminded that the following day, I no longer would be.

Seventeen was my sensational safety net, my blissful in-between. Seventeen let me explore the world in boundaries.

I got to see my favorite cities with my best friends, I got to go on family trips and eat new foods, and I was able to pay for things I wanted, when I wanted, because the cash inflow far exceeded bills that were still fictional.

It was one of the most special years that I’ll keep in a bubble-wrapped glass case, at the most reachable point of my bookshelf.

Without set intention, it set me up for what I had ignored: turning 18.

My 18th birthday was the most magical spectacle I have ever been apart of. It was, successfully, a three-day extravaganza, spent with some of my favorite people in the whole entire world.

My dad and I went to the King’s Game, our first as season ticket holders, and a blowout win for them against the Vegas Golden Knights, ending in a score of 6-2 and a hat trick for Anze Kopitar! I discovered my new favorite obsessions of the Staples Center; a cinnamon Wetzel’s Pretzel and the Los Angeles King’s Drumline; and met the people I’d be sharing some of the season’s best moments with.

We got home around eleven, and watched Fever Pitch (2005, Dir.(s) Bobby and Peter Farrelly) to celebrate the dazzling kick-off to the season! Which, by the way, has become a King’s win tradition that we now practice after every winning game.

Around the Ben-missing-the-Yankee’s-Game-and-therefore-the-best-game-in-Sox-history point of the movie, it was midnight, and I was 18.

It felt different and new and gross and great and terrifying. My dad wished me a happy birthday, went to wake my mom up and tell her how old she was, and I fielded texts from friends and family that summed up about the same things.

We finished the movie, went to bed, and I woke up a changed woman. A legally-responsible-adult, woman.

I carried on with the day, acting anything but. I watched Harry Potter and read parts of a book I hadn’t touched since I was eleven. I cleaned and packed and anxiously awaited the hour that my mom would get home and my friends would come over and we’d all be well on our way to Universal Studios Hollywood for Horror Nights, the second half of my yearly birthday tradition!

We got there, checked into the hotel, and collapsed for about an hour before gathering in the lobby and heading over to the park. When we got there, my mother suprised all of us by upgrading us to R.I.P. Tour, Horror Night’s Version of the VIP Tour.

I was shocked to silence.

And then whisked away, to a building that held the most beautiful things I had ever seen.

The building we waited in was one I had seen from the outside a million times, decorated with beautiful plant and bench-filled balconies, adorned with glowing lights and smiling faces that lit up just the same. It had always been a dream of mine to be inside of it, to see what overwhelmed people so much that they needed to come outside and take a fresh breath of air.

And when we entered those doors and walked up that beautiful staircase, I knew.

Pictures, props, and scribblings from every major motion picture you could think of hugged the walls, in frames or display cases. Famous words of legends like Spielberg were etched into the walls and painted up to the ceiling. Every inch of the space was calling my name, and my head turned every five seconds to try and accomadate each voice.

I saw people who had started with the same dreams as mine, their words and their art nailed down and showcased in a place for them to be appreciated. That was when I started crying, and started thanking my mom prefousley, breaking my silence just in time to be swept away by our new and favorite friend for the night: Sean.

Sean was the most amazing and perfect tour guide we all could have asked for. He was the best friend we needed and the perfect prankster, bouncing our energy back at us the entire night. We went through maze after maze, took advantage of a million photo opprotunities, and relished in our collective childhood dream of seeing the Jabbawockeez perform live.

It truly was night two of the most amazing birthday I’ve ever had. And, I was now, truly and genuinely, an 18 year old person.

We got back to the hotel at two in the morning, quickly wiped off our makeup and changed into pj’s, sleeping in ‘til eleven.

The next day we jumped out of bed to check out on time, got some McDonald’s for breakfast/lunch, and dropped my friends off before heading back home to get ready for the King’s game.

This game was going to be the first of many I would and will have the privilege of attending, all thanks to my dad. It was an amazing game against the Wild, despite the 3-2 loss. That game was what felt like the true beginning to a perfect season. A clean slate.

And that’s exactly what 18 feels like. I feel new and almost perfect, though I know I’m anything but.

The experiences I’ve had so far have been….interesting to say the least. And with turning eighteen, they’ve only expanded to the outside world.

After I turned 18 I got my license.

After I turned 18 I went on the freeway for the first time.

After I turned 18 I went to my first King’s game with a friend.

After I turned 18 I quit my job and got another.

After I turned 18 I got into a car accident and totaled my car.

After I turned 18 I got dating apps for two weeks and quickly discovered that I am not a dating apps type of gal.

After I turned 18, I quickly realized that childhood was over, and a new life was waiting to begin.

I can’t wait to see how it goes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is my 100th blog post. Oh. My. God.

I have been inconsistent, I have been committed, I have posted b.s. pieces and I have poured hours and millions of soul fragments onto these web pages.

But I made it to what I thought I never would.

100 posts.

Thank you for sticking around, and for believing in me even when I couldn’t do that for myself.

I hope some day, I’ll prove Im worth it.

I love you guys! Here’s to a hundred more!

-Kate Santos

Thursday, December 16th, 2021

T.H.P.O.E., Southern California

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