It happened to me the other day. My dad was infringing on my precious homework time and refusing to leave my room, pestering me until I reddened and shouted, “Dad, you aren’t listening to me! Get out of my room!”
I paused right then and thought, “Wow, I sound like a teenager.” My dour mood, the parental disconnect—both ingredients for a zesty stew of teen angst. I smiled, realizing I was acting my age.
As I slouch toward my senior year, nostalgia shrouds me like gauze. I look at old baby photographs and think, with utter solemnity, “I will never be that girl again. She is gone.” I look up clips of Disney movies and attempt to stir up that old feeling of rapture when I first saw Beauty and the Beast. And, most of all, I reflect on myself and realize that, for as long as I have been a teenager, I have done everything in my power to not be a teenager, and that revelation saddens me.
Since high school began, I have been surrounded by a storm of homework, papers littering my bedroom floor. I feel guilty when I’m not working and view previously relaxing hobbies, like reading, writing and movie-watching, as “work.” All my time is devoted to furthering myself, mentally or academically or artistically, and it’s exhausting. I cringe to admit it, but I’ve never been to a high school party. (Where do you find those, anyway? In dark alleys? Secret warehouses? The basements of American Apparel stores?)
Over the years I’ve also somehow managed to culturally distance myself from my generation, while I hide in my room with my Cat Stevens records and silent movies. I honestly didn’t try to be that obnoxious old soul scowling in the corner. I don’t know how it happened; one day Lizzie McGuire ended, and I gave up understanding what was popular with the young’uns nowadays.
I know the typical “teenage” experience does not exist; however, I feel a bit cheated out of my rosy younger years. My teenage existence has all the malaise of J.D. Salinger and none of the scenery of John Hughes. The more I mull it over, the more terrified I am to look back and remember only piles of homework and how much time I spent daydreaming about the future and crying over Joni Mitchell. I don’t want to have some sort of childhood resurgence in my forties and buy an emporium of toys just to cure that missing piece in my spirit.
At the same time, I’m sure I could have ditched that class, or gone to that party if I really had wanted to. But in truth, the thought of a crowd of jostling people gives me anxiety, and nothing makes me happier than curling up with a good book. Like most things, this teenage experience I’ve conjured up is no more than an ideal in my wispy imagination, nourished by images of quaint coming-of-age movies.
Still, I wouldn’t mind going on a road trip every once in a while, or skipping school to go to the beach, just to say I did. But I’m still young. I have time yet.