We were teenagers once
At 22 years of age, we’re hardly past high school and we’ve just squeezed past the teen years. How, then, can that time of our life feel so mind-bogglingly distant?
Recent events have made me realize that I am no longer a teenager, and can’t quite remember the time I was. Certain moments remain poignant, of course: the freckles of that boy in 10th grade, walking through locker halls like I was someone important, the mantra of “be confident, be cool, be calm”… but these memories run rather like projected images in my head. The stream of thoughts behind them, the insecurities and heart-wrenching bouts of crying, is the story I somehow cannot reclaim.
This self-distancing must have happened so slowly that I never saw. I didn’t realize how much memory I had lost until I found myself struggling to understand some iconically “high school” dilemmas facing a teenager very important to me. I admit, I felt the immediate temptation to condescend to her issues from an age-superiority pedestal – which instantly screamed to me that I was failing to empathize. I had forgotten the fresh challenges of high school, and the questions, potential answers, what was or felt important. I couldn’t relate to her current reality, because I couldn’t relate to my own past one.
But, I’m trying, and the topic has inevitably slipped into chats with other friends. Here’s a brief scan of our sharpest memories from high school. (Dare I say it, it’s also hilarious.)
[excerpts from recent emails, taken with permission]
Karina – 22 years old – Lima, Peru
Melanie – 22 years old – California, USA
Anna – 22 years old – Alabama, USA
– listening to Tom Petty in art class
– sitting in the bleachers in the band section during pep rallies and football games, thinking about the sax player to rows in front of me
– waiting for the first bell to ring while sitting in my red VW bug and either listening to Deathcab or discreetly reading Twilight (before Twilight was the Twilight phenomenon it is now…)
– the play during 10th grade when I had to kiss the guy I ended up dating for a couple of years and fake an Italian accent
– the moment when that guy I had a crush on said hi to me in the hallway and I walked straight past him, thinking surely he had said hi to someone else
– prom: senior year—date: that guy-I-had-had-a-crush-on’s brother–memorable moment: he commented that I had probably gotten into Stanford just because I was Hispanic