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(by B.)

I am eighteen years old and I worry about the world around me. I have no choice; my generation is dying and no one is moving fast enough to stop it.

I am eighteen years old and do not remember being young. Other generations can be nostalgic for their first dance, first date, first kiss. My generation will not have the luxury of nostalgia; it is hard look back with fondness at that special first dance when we had to go through metal detectors to get there. My generation will not be able to remember; not all of us will live long enough to remember. We're dying, on the street, in the schools, in cars, at home. Too many of us are dead already, forgotten. They never had a chance to truly live. Some don't even have the audacity to dream of life beyond the age of twenty-one, for they know it will be a miracle if they actually get there.

I am eighteen years old; I remind myself of this constantly because it is not what I expected it to be, nor did I really expect to get here.

I am eighteen years old and a senior in high school. I try my best to look at the pictures of babies of my friends and not cringe for the lost youth that holds the picture. I have just applied to college and try my damnedest not to remember those who didn't live long enough to even apply.

I am eighteen years old. I was born in the heartland of two married, normal parents.

I am eighteen years old; my name does not matter nor does my face. I dress like everyone else, look like everyone else, live like everyone else. I am the average American teenager. This should scare you.

I am eighteen years old and a self-nominated spokesperson for America's dying children.

I am eighteen years old; my friends drive too fast and drink too much. I laugh at the accidents, the crashing into things but in my heart, I cry I look around mv class; on a Monday morning and see the dark shades of a hangover.

I am eighteen years old, part of my school's intellectual elite. I take the tough classes, study on weekends, "do my best." I come to school not to learn but to leave, leave my house, leave this town, get the hell out of here. I have the right scores, the right numbers, the right activities. I am a shining example of the potential of America's youth, a point of light.

I am eighteen years old and a teacher's pet for classes I came to only part of the time. I'm a good kid; I've never brought a gun to school, never threatened a teacher, never worn a hat in class. I always wear my school ID badge above the waist and never get caught when I don't.

I am eighteen years old and carry Mace in my purse. No one asks why any more.

I am eighteen years old and lucky to be alive. I try not to think on that fact too much because those that do die.

I am eighteen years old and do not cry. I cannot cry for the dead for I envy them their peace; I cannot cry for the living because I do not have enough time to cry all the tears.

I am eighteen years old and do not smoke.

I am eighteen years old; I'm not a statistic.

I am eighteen years old. I can vote now but do not care who runs the country. I may not live long enough to see my future.

I am eighteen years old; I have a mother, father, brother, step- father, step-mother, step-brother, half brother, and a cat. Keeping track of the names is a hobby of mine.

I am eighteen years old; every day I try to convince myself that this is not my life. I cannot imagine what I would do if I believed the truth, that this life is actually my own.

I am eighteen years old and cynical. I have reasons to be.

I am eighteen years old and believe in God. Who else can save us from ourselves? Definitely not Newtie.

I am eighteen years old and have moved again. Every time I call "home," I ask if anyone else is dead or pregnant.

I am eighteen years old and not a mother yet. Congratulate me.

I am eighteen years old and HIV negative. I know this because I spent the two weeks of waiting in a masochist's dream world, limbo. I thank God that I am negative because I don't know how I'd tell my mother if I wasn't.

I am eighteen years old; I read Sartre, Kierkegaard, and Victoria Holt.

I am eighteen years old and have gone from being poor white trash living in a camper in a trailer park to middle class nothingness living in a four bedroom, two bath house. I miss being poor white trash. At least then I had an identity.

I am eighteen years old and now live in the ideal American town. This is where sit-coms come from.

I am eighteen years old and do not belong here.

I am eighteen years old; I like to go shopping with my friends and go to the movies.

I am eighteen years old and still duck when I hear a loud bang.

I am eighteen years old; my friends are junkies, dealers, honors students all. I miss them.

I am eighteen years old and am losing my family. My cousins are lost, to guns, to drugs, to the streets of LA.

I am eighteen years old and my mother found my spermacide in my sock drawer. I still want to know why she was in my sock drawer in the first place.

I am eighteen years old, the typical American teen. I like pizza and French fries and the mall.

I am eighteen years old and have moved more times than I have fingers to count on.

I am eighteen years old and not afraid to die.

I am eighteen years old and I worry you. I should; I worry me too.

I am eighteen years old; I could be your child, your neighbor, your friend. It doesn't really matter who I am; the true thing that matters is that I am alive. It doesn't really matter if you like who I am or not; I exist whether you like me or not.

I am eighteen years old; all I want to do is stay alive, graduate high school, and go to college.

I am eighteen years old, I want to see tomorrow but am scared of what it might bring.

I am eighteen years old and I don't know what to do; I never planned this far ahead.

I am eighteen years old; I am the future. Someday, the people like me will have to run the country, the world. I think that I will move to Switzerland.

I am eighteen years old and I am everyone. I hope you hear our cry.

by B., 1996