So, Kyle and I are lying in bed last night. Kyle’s dicking around on his computer, (and ignoring me,) so I decide to do a bit of coloring. (Don’t fucking judge; it’s soothing and it’s a hell of a lot less destructive than porn or Etsy.) So I go to the office and grab the necessary supplies: coloring page I printed off the internet,* two packages of Crayola markers, and a large, hardcover book to use as a lap desk. The most suitable candidate for this last position seems to be one of my old high school yearbooks, so I grab one at random and return to the bedroom.
As I’m settling myself, Kyle notices my yearbook and grabs it from me. This one happens to be from my sophomore year. Kyle flips through the pages, looking for pictures of me and making judgements about people pictured. (Such as, “He was a huge douche, wasn’t he?” and, “Oh, she looks like she sucked a lot of cock.”) I confirmed and disputed his judgements, and periodically pointed out people of special interest, like my best friend at the time and guys on which I’d had various crushes. I hadn’t looked at my yearbooks since, well, probably since I’d packed them up before college. It was interesting to look at my sophomore year self because while I knew that girl to be me, that girl resembles my current self in so few ways. Even though that was less than a decade ago, she’s practically a stranger to me.
Kyle quickly grew bored with my sophomore musings and gave me my yearbook back. I went back to coloring, and we shared a peaceful evening. But I couldn’t help but think about that 16 year old girl. And later that night, while up trying to pace the insomnia away, I took another look at not only her, but her 15, 17, and 18 year old sisters. Looking back for the first time, I found some of my reminiscents made me smile. Remembering things like that “LYLAS” stood for “Love ya like a sister,” and that apparently Jr year not only was I interviewed for the Serenade! choir, but there was an entire feature on my dancing. (And the truly surprising part? That I was eloquent.) That in sophomore year I was an entire head taller than everyone in both of my choirs. But it was also fascinating to look at many of the young faces of my friends an classmates and know the twists that many of their stories would eventually take. It was like watching a movie when you know how it ends but the character still has no clue.
But surprisingly, flipping through my high school years also made me surprisingly uncomfortable, like I very much wanted to flip to the next page and forget what I’d seen on the first page. I think a large part of that has to do with the confrontation of some of the less pleasant details of high school, things we all wish we could forget. Seeing myself through the lens of others, instead of how I like to remember things. Things like the fact that I apparently didn’t figure out until sophomore year that I look ridiculous when pictured with my hair in a ponytail, and didn’t figure out until senior year that I look only slightly less ridiculous with my hair pulled half up. That Senior year I wasn’t mentioned or included in the photos for the Christian club**, (of which I was the secretary,) the dance team, (of which I was co-captain,) Serenade! choir, and Women’s choir. That Freshman year the “well wishes” one of my “best friends” wrote in the back of my yearbook actually more closely resemble “passive-aggressive backhanded bitch slap in the face.” And no one likes to be forced to see the reality of our past. It’s much safer to think about the happy memories of best friends and accomplishments instead of frenemies who made you cry and embarrassing rejections that prevented you from ever asking a guy out again.
But a lot of my discomfort came from looking at that teenage girl and knowing just how very little she knew. She’s pretty and thin and so full of hope and dreams. She knows where her life is going, what her goals are, and knows that all she has to do is want it more than anyone else and she will one day arrive at those dreams. She is filled with light and air. But that’s not how the world works. That’s not how life works. Life is not a perfectly straight line from Point A to Point B. There are twists and turns and challenges that never entire your mental realm of possibilities, that you can never foresee. But she doesn’t know that. She doesn’t know any of the challenges that we as adults in the world have to face. She’s sitting in a little town in Michigan, dreaming of leaving this little box, when the reality is that she can’t even begin to imagine outside her box. Her dreams are clichéd and one dimensional; she’s decided what she wants from life without even considering what fulfillment would require and what that kind of life would entail. “I’m going to be on Broadway!” It’s not that she didn’t dream big enough; shit, she dreamed bigger than she had any business doing so, as most teenagers tend to do. But she didn’t dream deep or full enough. She didn’t even know to want anything fuller than she could. She and all her dreams are so fucking shallow and she doesn’t fucking know any better. And I look at that teenage girl, and I feel sorry for her, because she just doesn’t know shit. She just doesn’t know. None of us did.
And yet, we all owe our teenage selves a little credit for getting us where they did. For as naive and naive and clueless as that teenage girl was, she somehow managed to accidentally stumble her way into a great life. At several critical points, she managed to show up at exactly the right place at exactly the right time and say exactly the right thing, and for that I’m incredibly grateful. I wish I could go back in time and give her some advice, (like, “Tell more people to fuck off,” and, “Wearing clear heels to Jr Prom is not advisable,”) but truth be told, she probably wouldn’t listen to me even if I could. Nor would she believe me if I told her about all the ridiculousness to come and where she would eventually end up. I suppose I just have to be thankful that she did what she did and got me where I did.
So thank you. (You skinny little retard.)
*Believe it or not, googling “adult coloring page” brings up some disappointingly benign results. Seriously, not one link for nude coloring pages. Sad.
**Oh, how my membership makes me laugh…