Back From Aruba
By Onnah Plummer
“Back From Aruba” is about how I began to encounter parts of being a teenager on this trip I took with my nephews Andrew and Jack.
I’ve been going to Aruba every summer for the last twelve years. When I was on the island, I never wanted to make friends, and when I did want to, I didn’t know how. I sat in the hotel room and watched TV all day, or sat on the beach and stared at the water. There were games like ping pong, chess, beach soccer—so much to do but nobody to do it with. There were some stores and gift shops that I could go to, but I didn’t want to go by myself. But last year, we brought my two nephews on vacation with us. Andrew is thirteen and Jack is twelve, and I am very close with them even though we don’t get to see each other very often. Our time together usually centers around birthdays and holidays, so I was excited for this trip with them.
When we got to Aruba, Andrew and Jack didn’t want to sit in the room with the TV. They wanted to go outside, which forced me to hang out outside instead of in the hotel room. At first, it was awkward because I’ve never had a lot of social interaction with people at the resort before, but soon I had so many amazing new friends. In a two week span, I was comfortable going up to people and introducing myself, and doing random things in public like cartwheels in the lobby and diving into the ocean. I was stepping out of my comfort zone because of the people I met who encouraged me to be myself.
At this resort in Aruba, people were divided into three groups: families with their kids, couples young and old, and the teenagers. Before this summer, I felt stuck with the family group. I was always with my family, following them around the resort. I felt like a pretzel with no salt—boring. But now I was part of the teenage group. There were about fifteen of us hanging out at the pool and bar. At the bar, anyone could sit for as long as they wanted. There were comfy, tall chairs and we would sit there for hours, talking to each other or the bartenders who made us non-alcoholic strawberry daiquiris and chocolate mudslides (which were basically chocolate milkshakes). It was almost impossible to get a seat at the bar, and when we couldn’t get there quickly enough we went to the pool where we would play games until we had to meet our families for dinner. A lot of the games involved rating each other and ranking people from least attractive to most attractive, the kind of talk teenagers are into these days. We all knew it was just for fun and we weren’t serious about anything. A year ago, I wouldn’t even be in a situation to joke like this because I would have been too scared to say the wrong thing.
My nephews were a big reason I changed on this trip. When I’m around them, I feel comfortable being me. Sometimes, I feel like I have to be a different person, because there’s nobody I live with who likes the same things I do. It can feel like I have to be like the rest of my family in order to “fit in.” But My nephews like the things I like. They play and understand sports like me, and they have the same sense of humor as me. When I’m with them, I come out of my shell. And when I’m being my authentic self is when I make some of my best memories.
In Aruba, I felt so free, more like the teenager I imagined I would become when I was younger. Even though I’m in New York and can’t have as much freedom here, because it’s a city where the pools are locked away and the bars are for adults only, I still feel a kind of freedom. It feels like the beginning of something new. Like I am transitioning from childhood to adulthood.
People in Aruba have a saying: “Nobody knows you, nobody cares!” Those words make me feel like I can do anything.
While thinking of what to write, I knew I wanted it to be about a positive experience. The first thing that came to mind was how I started to experience what it was like to feel like a teenager through this trip I went on two summers ago. I started out by writing down the key points to talk about, then over time, formed them into paragraphs. While writing, I wanted the readers to take away a few key points: be open to trying new things, take advantage of new experiences and be grateful for the people around you.
Onnah Plummer is a 14-year-old girl from Newark, NJ, who loves sports. She is a freshman in high school. In the future, she really wants to become an athletic trainer for hockey.