On On Being Nineteen by Stephen King

Today is my birthday, so I figure that means I get to write about what I want. Holly pointed out that I basically already do that, so maybe that doesn’t mean much.

The GunslingerOf course, being able to pick just anything to write about is not the easiest thing. It’d be easier to just write something basic. Just another post. Or else, to write just a completely geeking-out post about one of my favorite things. A lot of these ideas went through my head. But that got me thinking of a post I’ve been wanting to write, but I never knew what context to put it in. Stephen King’s concept of nineteen.

I’m turning 29, so I’m a decade out from nineteen myself. And yet, the further I get from it, the more that King seems to be right. And a birthday is just the thing to put into context this idea. So read on, and join me in considering that most interesting of ages, 19.

On Being Nineteen – The Introduction to The Dark Tower

King wrote a couple of different intros to the books in the Dark Tower series – all exploring the idea of nineteen. He infuses this number throughout the series, consciously. Like something he’s trying to escape. Like something he’s trying to accept.

His premise is that even as we grow older, we are still pretty much the person we were at nineteen.

Now, the closer you are to nineteen, the less perhaps that this makes sense. At nineteen, of course, you are like this. A few years out, you don’t feel like you know how you have changed. I read these words years out from 19. Now, a decade out, I still like the sound of it.

What does it mean to become an adult? To me, I think it has to do with those conscious moments, where you look at the beliefs and assumptions you have, and accept or reject things – accept or reject your childhood, the things that make up who you are. You build an identity.

It is the things you accept, the things that you believe at yourself, the identity you build at this point, that becomes then the core of who you are. And thus, years later, we are our nineteen-year-old selves.

Because we face adulthood at nineteen – our dreams, our direction, our ambitions, our future. However, we are still little more than children – or, better put, we are still young. And hopefully, we can keep that youth in mind as long as possible.

Under the DomeFor King, it was an extreme brush with death that pushed him back to the Dark Tower to complete it, that made him realize he was no longer nineteen, that he did not have his whole life ahead of him, but that some, at least, now lay behind. He completed the series (maybe? A new book came out not long ago), and while it might have seemed his career could then end, it is instead still going strong.

He escaped the hold that nineteen had on him, that the Dark Tower had on him. The desire and ambition to create something epic. Because apparently, his recent books like Under the Dome aren’t quite epic enough? Made into an incredibly successful TV series not long after it came out. King is doing well, say please, say thankya.

Me at Nineteen

So what makes me feel like nineteen applies to me? Because I too look at myself and believe certain things about myself – things that were true at nineteen. It would be easy to talk about the sorts of things that were changes in life at this age, as for so many people who leave home at this age, find themselves, take care of themselves.

But it’s more than that. At nineteen, I got the Internet for the first time. Suddenly, I could be in touch with my friends at a moment’s notice. I was on Instant Messaging constantly. I still view myself as this person, able to juggle six or more conversations at once, with different trains of thought, at high speed. Even though I haven’t signed into any messenger in over a year I imagine. Now I text – and I have led to many people taking up texting. And to needing to get unlimited texting. This is a person I am in my mind, and this is who I was at nineteen.

At nineteen, I stayed up as late as I wanted. I remember the time I went to bed before midnight – it was deliberate, a belief that I ought to do so once. I also remember my first all-nighters, remember falling asleep in 8am classes, and thinking there was no way I could ever wake up at normal morning hours and function. And yet, now I go to bed around 10pm, and wake up every day at 5:45 – and haven’t slept through the alarm yet. And in-between, I was going to bed at 8pm, and waking up at 4am. Yet still, in my mind, I am absolutely a night owl, and I can stay up late and wake up and function. Just, you know, don’t make me prove it, right?

At nineteen, my favorite album was Urban Hymns by the Verve. Come On is still the music of life. Will have to blog more about music later.

At nineteen, I took up Final Fantasy XI, and played my first MMO. I bonded with my best friend (GuestGeekBrian) over this game. We would play marathon 6+ hour sessions – because you had to, because that was really kind of how that game functioned. Because you had to have a party to do things, and a party took hours to form and get anywhere. And we were good at forming, and holding together, parties. We regularly got complimented on running the best parties people had been in. And I could tank through Benediction – and I still find myself playing the non-standard tanks, finding the best ways to hold the party together in games. Because that’s the sort of character I play, am good at. Because I was at nineteen.

And at nineteen, I did NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. Which was the last large-scale writing I did, but I still absolutely think of myself as a writer. While I took a lot of creative writing classes throughout college, it was really this blog that has gotten me back in the habit of writing all the time. I plan on NaNoWriMo this year, because while I have not been writing it, I have been dreaming and expanding the world I began at nineteen.

In so many ways, these are the things I am. Sure, I am more than this, and sure, I recognize I have changed, grown, moved on. But in many ways, I haven’t. I still believe these things about myself. And it’s not a bad thing, necessarily, either. I still have my plans, dreams, and ambitions. I am still writing my story, still in touch with people, still could stay up and be productive if I needed to.

What about you? Are there things about yourself at nineteen that still apply in your life today? More, perhaps, than you might expect? Let me know in the comments below!


7 responses to “On On Being Nineteen by Stephen King

  1. Reblogged this on DBCII and commented:

    It’s my birthday week, which had me thinking back to the post I wrote last year on my birthday. One of my more personal posts, and I really enjoyed it. Maybe you will too.

    Trying to plan what I’ll write for my birthday this year… I think I have a plan!


  2. I still push myself forward whether it’s with completely new jobs or trying to carve a career out of writing. I was the same at 19. Love the Dark tower novels but under the dome was only so so and the TV show was a little worse.


    • Yeah, Under the Dome lost us as viewers… but it turned out to be a proof-of-concept for short-season network TV… which is working quite well for, say, Sleepy Hollow.

      Thanks for stopping by!


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