posted at Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015 at 9:21 AM | Discussion Posts, Other Bloggishness
Alright, that title’s definitely misleading, but it made me chuckle so much that I’m keeping it. I won’t be discussing Mulan or Disney today (I don’t think), so I’m sorry if that’s what you came for. What I want to talk about is my teenage self, my current self, and the strangeness of being an adult who’s been out of high school for ten years.
I graduated from high school in 2005, which means that the ten year reunion will be occurring later this year. I’ve been added to a Facebook group for it, and it’s been odd to say the least watching the conversations take place between all these people I’d mostly forgotten. This post isn’t going to be so much about the reunion, but that’s definitely what’s been stirring up the past in my head. However, if any of you guys have thoughts about reunions, let me know. I’m thinking I probably won’t go, because I doubt that schadenfreude alone is worth the money it would cost to actually attend.
When I was a wee, unhappy teen, I would sometimes dream of my reunion. In grand Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, I planned to wow everyone with how much I’d changed. I would look fabulous and be someone important, and all the myriad guys I had crushed on would instalove all over me. Of course, I would pick out the one that was hottest, and we would be happy forever. Teen Christina would have written really terrible books.
In high school, I was deeply unhappy most of the time. I was a social outcast, like many a YA heroine, but I didn’t have the whole character arc bit where I gained self-confidence and a hot transfer student boyfriend. I was mostly friendless, though high school was an improvement on middle school in that regard, so thank heavens for small mercies. What friendships I didn’t have were mostly not that healthy, contingent on my being in band (I lost almost all of those friends entirely when I quit band after sophomore year) or one-sided. They were a little bit toxic, but still better than being alone.
There are only a few YA novels which have really captured how I felt as a teen. This Song Will Save Your Life is the closest to how I really felt. Like Elise, I was so lonely and desperate for someone to really, truly like me. Like her, I realized that, though all I wanted was friendship, I had actually been actively pushing people away with my sarcasm, my resting bitch face, and my general attitude. My revelation only came in college, but it was really shocking to me to realize that for years I’d been making even those I very much admired feel stupid. I’ll always be a judgmental person and on the acerbic/grumpy side, but I’m really trying to make sure that the people I value feel valued. I’m a work in progress, though, so bear with me. What called to me in Elise too were her thoughts of suicide. Now I wasn’t really suicidal and I certainly never even sort of tried like Elise did, but I sometimes contemplated my funeral, imagining the way people would regret not having taken notice of me. High school was a dark time for me and for a lot of other people. Leila Sales put teen Christina’s feelings in a book, and it was so powerful. I’m so glad teens now have that book to turn to, because it really could save a life. If only I’d realized how I pushed people away years earlier, you know?
Another book that really spoke to me was Sloppy Firsts. My life is pretty much entirely unlike Jessica’s what with Marcus Flutie and her best friend she writes letters to and the fact that she’s somewhat popular. However, Jessica’s internal monologue was on point. She judges everyone for everything, and that is what I did (and sometimes still do). Like Jessica, I judged myself just as harshly (and that part’s definitely not changed one bit for me).
Finally, there’s Cath from Fangirl. Like Cath, I often feel like I should isolate myself when I’m upset, rather than searching out comfort. I have a tendency to withdraw into fiction, hoping that someone will want to come lure me out. My social anxiety never got as bad as Cath’s, but it could have. I read Fangirl fully aware that I could have been that girl who never went to the dining hall. In fact, my campus had the main dining hall, a more fast food style place, and a more restaurant-like dining establishment. For the first year, I almost never went to the actual dining hall, and it took a couple years before I was comfortable going in alone.
It wasn’t until college that I had to confront a lot of things about my personality. Because K-12 had been such a shit show, I wanted to go to a college far away where I wouldn’t know anyone. I had this whole big plan of becoming one of those people everyone is drawn to. Unfortunately, you can’t just make yourself that, and I never will be that. Still, I played the extrovert for a while, and I learned a lot about myself in the process. As I mentioned before, that’s when I realized how I came off to people, that I’d been pushing them away even as I tried desperately to make them love me. How I realized this was that I overheard some girls on my freshman year hall talking about me (I was on my way to the bathroom across from their room, and they had left the door open). I cried a lot that day, and it took a while for my rage to cool and me to really think about what they’d said. Eventually, I realized that they were right, even if the way they handled it was still pretty shitty. In a lot of ways, I’m grateful it happened, even though it was one of the more painful moments of my life. It also proved a catalyst for change.
The other thing that I learned in college was what true friendship was like. With that new window onto my personality, I wasn’t sure if anyone could ever truly like me (especially after the years of friendlessness and two-faced friends who pretended to like me but actually didn’t). What I learned was that, if you find the right people, they will love you for who you are, not who they wish you were. Some people appreciate sarcasm and bad puns and obsession with books. Obviously, finding the book blogging community many years later was also an important stage in my life.
It’s a fairly safe bet that most of you have seen 13 Going on 30. “Thirty and flirty and thriving” was basically how I thought my life would be when I was 25. All my dreams (even the reunion ones, which show how great my math skills were) centered on me at 25 (I should have gone with 27, because it’s been much better than 25 tbh). Dream me was slimmer, larger-boobed, tanner, and had perfect straight hair. Probably taller too, because why the hell not? She was never awkward in conversation. She was engaged and had a gorgeous wardrobe.
Let’s take stock. I’m not slimmer, though I did eventually learn how to really shop for my body type, which does help tremendously. Boobs are maybe a smidge larger, but I’m never going to be a C cup, but I’ve mostly come to terms with that. No longer do I want to be tan because risks of skin cancer and also it gives you wrinkles later. In high school, I straightened my hair pretty much any day it didn’t rain because I loathed my curls, but I’ve actually come to accept them and, on most days, like them. I am most decidedly not taller; I’ve not grown an inch since 6th grade. I remain a deeply awkward person, and I ever shall be so. I am, however, learning better how to fake being a social person. That’s something that’s only started coming in the last couple years. I’m learning that I can play the part, and I can make people like me. A smile has a lot of powers I’ve been wasting for years. My teen self would be thrilled to know I have a boyfriend and shocked to know that marriage isn’t something I’m in any rush for. I’m working on the gorgeous wardrobe. It’s funny that, even as a teen, my fantasies didn’t ever involve any vision of a profession, but I do have a job and I can be professional when I have to be, so I think she’d be pretty happy with that. Nothing’s as easy as I imagine, but, at 27, I’ve come a long way from myself at 17.
I’ve rarely talked about myself on my blog, because I don’t really like opening my weaknesses for others to see. Still, I always love the way Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner) is so honest in her blog posts, and I’ve been really feeling the urge to talk about this stuff, so I did. Tell me about what high school was/is like for you guys. Tell me about your high school reunion, if you’ve gone. Tell me what your high school self hoped you would be like as an adult.