What you used to do that you don’t do anymore

I used to burn incense. Yeah, I know. Incense. I stole the stand from my brother and bought 10 incense for a dollar at Funk&Standard. I could not have been older than sixteen. I kept a box of matches on my dresser that I had taken from my mom’s matchbox collection. Also, I was too young to buy a lighter. You must be nineteen years or older to buy a lighter in the state of New Jersey.

However, I did not mind using the matches; I actually preferred them. It was all part of this thing I did whenever I was feeling sixteen and angsty. I’d close my textbook and open my laptop. Then I would turn off all the lights except for the lamp on my night table. I’d go into my desk drawer and pull out the matches. The incense stick was all ready where I kept it displayed on the top of my desk. I would strike the match and hold it up to the tip of the stick. When it caught fire, I would blow the match out, watch the bright glow of the fire for a second and then blow that out too. The match added a nice touch to the authenticity of the scene.

The smoke from incense goes up in a single steady stream letting off an extremely strong scent. Within ten minutes, you can smell the incense from across the hall. My mom would come in and say, “it stinks in here!” And it did. She was absolutely right. However, I don’t think I did it because I liked the smell. I definitely lit incense for two other very specific reasons:

    1. My brothers used to do it. When I was in middle school, my brothers would light incense while doing their homework (at least I think that’s what they were doing). I thought it was a cool teenager thing to do and back in middle school, I wanted nothing more than to be a cool teenager. I remember sneaking into their bedrooms and holding up the incense stands. I would touch the left behind ashes and see if my hand smelled like the incense. I secretly wanted a friend to ask me about the ashes on my hand so I could say that I accidentally got it on myself trying to light incense like I do all the time…Unfortunately, I never got the chance to say that but I do thank my brothers for always encouraging me to be ahead of my time. When they caught me listening to Fergie or Pitbull, Mike would hand me a CD from Sublime or Pepper and Scott would show me a video of a Phish guitar solo. In the realm of coolness, I had put all faith in my brothers. So, it is with no doubt that one of the reasons I decided to light incense when I was sixteen was because according to what I gathered from my brothers, cool teenagers lit incense.

    2. I mentioned this word before, but I will say it again: angst. If I was having an emotional day, there was no doubt that I would indulge in it later that night. As a teenager, I absolutely adored indulging in my angst. I relished in the dim light of the lamp, the magazine collage taped to my closet door, the rolling of the eyes at the homework, the words “be free” on my mirror, the rereading of the last text he sent me, the poems, the lengthy journal entries, the scrolling through pictures of hipstery things on the internet, the listening to Kid Cudi, the painting my nails black, and the incense’s musky sweet odor clouding my room. But it’s not like I had any other odor to cover up. The incense were for reasons of pure aesthetics.

 I don’t light incense anymore. It’s not that I don’t still have moments of angst or that I’m still trying to be cool, it’s more about the fact that I have a better understanding of my emotions. At sixteen, feelings can be incredibly heightened. Everything is very new and raw. You don’t believe that anyone can relate to your life or how you’re feeling, but as the years pass, you begin to understand that these emotions, both the good and the ugly are part of life’s package. Everyone has their good days and their bad. You learn that sometimes life is just miserable but tomorrow is always a great time to start over. I don’t indulge in depression much anymore because I have learned that when life get’s the best of me, it’s easier just to go to bed.

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