When you were born, you could have been anybody. So quick and malleable, your parents could look at your face and see a future president. They tried to mold you as you grew, but they could only work with what they had. And when their tools stopped working, they gradually handed them off to you, asking, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” There’s a certain art to becoming who you are. There’s no standard kit you can use to assemble yourself, swapping out parts as needed. Instead, it feels more like a kind of stretching, a teasing out at the edges, like a glassblower standing at the furnace. A teenage personality is a delicate medium, its emotions almost too heavy to handle. You had to figure out a way to keep yourself together and tease out the good parts without falling out of balance or stretching yourself too thin. You couldn’t stop everything to try to fix your flaws, but you couldn’t just ignore them either. Luckily, you were nothing if not flexible, softened by the heat of youth, which kept you warm on a dingy couch or a night in the wilderness. You knew that you weren’t just you, you were also the person you would one day become. So even when you failed, you could still be whatever you wanted to be. As long as you kept moving. Inevitably you got hit, and you got hurt. You prided yourself on how well you absorbed the blow, bouncing back as if nothing had happened. But the pain changed you, in little chips and cracks that might take you years to notice. Over time you learned how to position yourself in very specific ways, protecting the most vulnerable parts of your psyche, even as you knew they were still a crucial part of the real you. Gradually you became more and more reluctant to move from that position. Growing a little harder, a little more brittle.