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My So Called Better Life

I read an article yesterday about the creator of the It Gets Better campaign.  While I understand the purpose of targeting this campaign towards the LGBT community, it struck me that this is a message that could have an impact on teenagers from all backgrounds, races, and sexual orientations.  I think that, at times, almost all teenagers need assurance that life does get better, perhaps some more than others.  I know that I did and, to be honest, even in my 30s I still need that assurance more often than I like to admit.  There’s a reason why some of the best movies of all times revolve around teen angst.  It’s a topic that almost everyone can relate to because we’ve all been there.

A couple of months ago, I rewatched all nineteen episodes of My So Called Life.  What drew me to this show seventeen years ago was that the main character, Angela Chase, was me… and I was her.  I wasn’t Kelly Taylor or Brenda Walsh or even Donna Martin.  I was Angela Chase.  I was the slightly awkward teenager who felt 1000 times more awkward than I actually was.  I was surrounded by friends and family who wanted the best for me but I refused to believe that I was good enough to deserve their love and support.  I was the girl who played the under the radar sidekick to her drama queen best friends.  I even rocked the oversized flannel shirts, just like Angela.

Rewatching Angela Chase in all of her glory – uncomfortably interacting with her family, trying to establish herself within the pecking order of her circle of friends and pining after the unattainable Jordan Catalano – made me wish that I could jump into a time machine to 1994, knock on the door of Patty and Graham’s rancher and just tell Angela that she’s so much better than she realizes and that life does get better.

“But when does it get better?” she will ask.  The tricky thing is, it’s all about perception.  It gets better when your own outlook changes.  Fifteen plus years after Angela Chase, there are still times when I feel like an awkward teenager.  A lot.  The difference now is that I love that about myself.  I think that everyone feels that way more than they would like to admit and that’s what makes a person relatable.  Nobody wants to be around someone who is flawless or who thinks they’re flawless.  There are people who you meet who come across as intimidatingly confident.  You have to realize that even they have insecurities.  I’m not talking about supermodels who claim that they were awkward dorks with no friends growing up and now look at them.  I’m talking about the people who you meet in every day life and think to yourself, “My life would be so much better if I had his or her confidence.”  I can almost promise that nobody is really as confident as you think they are.  No human being lives without insecurities.

So maybe life never gets to its “best” point but it does get better.  There comes a point when you learn to accept and be comfortable with who you really are.  You learn to surround yourself with people who encourage you to be yourself and who bring out the best in you.  As you become an adult, you are no longer friends with someone just because your parents are friends with their parents or because you wait together for the school bus.  As you move through life, your friends become the people with whom you choose to surround yourself.  They are the people who understand you, who care about you, who help you through life and who make the awkward teenager inside of you feel like she couldn’t be more perfect.  They’re your comfort zone.  Life gets better when you learn how to weed out the people who make you cry and rely on the people who make you laugh.  In the end, that is what’s going to make it better.  If I had the opportunity to go back to 1994 and give Angela Chase one piece of advice, that’s what I would tell her.  Then I would tell her to jump on the Brian Krakow train now because, in fifteen years, he’ll be the millionaire internet tycoon with the flock of girls chasing after him and you already sent that ship sailing.

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by Jenni King

Visit Jenni’s blog at

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