I don't know who's dog this is, but I love it. One of my life goals is to own a Cavalier King Charles Cocker Spaniel, just like this one.
As I marked this momentous occasion, I realized that this is really the end of my teen years. The official cut off date, so to speak. I mean, I don't feel like an adult yet. I'm still in high school! I still live with my parents! But now I can vote and gamble and almost drink and get my name printed in the newspaper if I commit a crime. All big stuff. I'm still adjusting. I still feel like a teen, still talk like a teen, still have teen friends, and, of course, I still read teen books.
I actually own this guide. It's quite helpful.
But officially, according to the law, I am an adult. And so, I thought I'd take a minute to reflect on what being a teenager meant to me. Everyone makes such a big deal of the teen years. So many movies are made about it, shows centered around it, and, of course, books written about it. It's when you figure out who you are, apparently. I didn't. I don't know if I ever will. I don't know if anyone ever does.
Who am I? You're guess is as good as mine!
For me, being a teen was not awful thing that pop culture makes it out to be. But it wasn't great either. I think that's the way with a lot of things in life. It's not as exciting or dramatic as the movies, in a good or bad way.
One of the worse parts of teendom was the change. Teenagers change a lot. A lot of my friends changed completely. They're different people now. Strangers, almost. The girl who I talked to everyday, the only girl who was quieter than me, now has a boyfriend. That blows my mind. The girl who always made a sleepover great, who always made me laugh, and was always there when I cried, apparently sleeps with so many guys that it becomes gossip at other schools. Almost all my friends drink now. A lot of them do drugs. They've all changed. And I've changed. We aren't friends anymore, because we aren't those people anymore. We don't have anything in common anymore. We don't have anything to say to each other anymore. To me, that's shocking and sad, and a really hard part of growing up.
I was in a program where it was all academics all the time, yet there was still a lot of drama and theatrics. A girl swore at me for giving her a bad review on her project. My entire theatre class spent two hours burning me at the stake. A guy from my class hurt me, humiliated me, and never once apologized for it. Another guy spread rumours that I liked him, laughing as he told people.
I never had a boyfriend. I never had a first kiss. I never had sex. I never drank. I never did drugs. I never broke the law. I never broke a school rule. I didn't do a lot of teen stuff. I did homework instead. But still, I feel like I lived my teen years well. I had the drama. And, yeah, maybe, I didn't experience everything I could have. But I gave it everything I had. And I'm coming out on the other side, happy with who I am. Still scared and uncertain, but still proud of what I've done, and, more importantly, what I'm going to do.
I have a debate with my parents: If I had gone to a different high school, who would I be? They think I could have easily gone down a different path. A much more typical one. That was hard for me to believe, at least at first. But, upon reflection, it seems somewhat true. When I was thirteen, I was unformed. Undefined. I had ideas of who I was, principals of what I wanted to be. But really, I could have been anything. To use a really nerdy reference, I was a stem cell. I had all the functioning organelles, but I was unspecialized. I could still grow to be anything. A liver. A pancreas. A gall bladder. A heart.
This was always my favourite diagram to draw for biology. And, it's the most important organ. The one I want to be the most. The thing I want to have the most.
In the end, I think I grew to be something of a geek. A theatre nerd. An antisocial weirdo. An academically obsessed alien. A young adult book blogger. A crafter. I'm not fully formed yet, but I've started to specialize, deactivating certain parts of my personality and activating others. I could still turn out to be a lung, but I couldn't be a skin cell.
You get to experiment a lot when you're a teen (and no, I don't mean drugs). You have an increasing freedom, with very few responsibilities. There are a lot of possibilities in your teen years. If I have any regrets (and I don't truly believe in regrets), it's that I didn't explore more of them. But oh well. We can't do everything, as it said in the poem from the IB english exam this year (another nerdy reference! Look at me go!)
There's a website I recently came across--Dear Teen Me--where people write letters to their teenage selves. What would I say to myself? Well, don't think I've had enough years to reflect, but I'll give it a try anyways:
Age 13: Treasure your friends as they are now. Because they're all going to change. But that's okay. You'll survive, I promise. But you can never get this time back, so appreciate it. Appreciate who you are right now.
Age 14: Good job. You survived the hard part--your first year of high school. And you've done fairly well--good grades, a really good friend. I know, things aren't perfect. But stop expecting them to be. You're not perfect. Your friends aren't perfect. Accept that!
Age 15: I know, it's hard right now. But I promise you, truly, from the bottom of my heart, it will get better. In the meantime, try to stop being so stressed. Stop putting so much stress on your friendships. Certain people are only meant to be in your life for a certain amount of time. That's okay. Move on. Accept your friends, and accept how things are now. I know, you don't like change, but you're going to have to learn to deal with it some time.
Age 16: Good luck. One of the biggest challenges of your life is just beginning. I wish there was something I could say to prepare you for it, to help you get through it, but there isn't. It's hard. That's the truth. It's a lot of work. And you're not always going to succeed. But in the end, it'll be okay. More than okay. You'll do great, trust me. And yes, you will get hurt along the way. Really hurt. You'll cry a lot--because of teachers, classmates, and friends. But you'll survive. Somehow. Again, good luck.
Age 17: You're almost there! Yay! But still, you've got a long way to go. But keep going. This will be the best academic year of your life, you'll see. Believe in yourself. But also allow yourself to feel things. To feel stressed. To feel hurt. Stand up for yourself. Enjoy yourself. This is your last year of being a teen.
And so, here I am, eighteen. No longer a teen, not really an adult. It feels weird. But a good weird. Rachel having Emma weird. And I know, I shouldn't make an old tv reference right now. But maybe, just maybe, that's the nerd I am.