How I learned to embrace the teenage dream

I never intended, as I suppose most don’t, to be solely defined by the suffix of my age, but when you turn thirteen, a funny thing happens. Suddenly, regardless of your interests, social standings, or intellect, you are defined by your status as a teen.

For some reason, I always hated the term “teen” and furthermore, what it entails. Many adults picture “teen” meaning either a pimply brace face or something along the lines of a punk/rebel figure or a valley girl. When you’re a teenager, it’s like you have to be classified as something other than just a person. And it is not just adults who do this; other teenagers seem to really enjoy classifying each other (maybe because it makes them seem more adult?). But in any case, teenagers cannot be just people; they have to be some teen stereotype. This seems pretty harmless, but I think it could be damaging. It gives older people more of a reason to invalidate younger people’s work and opinions. “Teenager” is seldom used as a positive term.

But what irks me more than petty stereotyping and validation is, perhaps ironically, given that I’m writing this, that when you are a teenager everything is about being a teenager. From motivational posters in my guidance counselor’s office to the Google-powered ads surrounding my YouTube videos, my age trails behind every action I make, like an uninvited guest. One could argue that it is like this for 5 and 40 year olds alike, but I feel that the connotations with any other age aren’t as strongly ingrained in our society as the teens are.

I guess I spent most of my early teens trying to undo the damage that the last for letters of my age had created. I’d always preferred Wes Anderson to John Hughes. I skipped dances and homecoming games to go to science seminars. I didn’t get to present my 8th grade graduation speech because it was “too philosophical.” Being a teen was never my thing, but it haunted me, lingering on my peers’ lip-smacker-coated lips, and at fifteen, it seems harder and harder to avoid being a teenager.

So, I decided I will start embracing the teenage aesthetic. A few months ago, I put pen to Hello Kitty binder paper and made a Teen Awkwardness Bucket List of all the things I want to do as a teen that I probably couldn’t get away with as an adult, to remind myself that not ALL of being a teenager is bad.

In fact, there are plenty of teenagers, fictional and real, that I quite like. Some of my favorite movies are Rushmore and Rocket Science, both of which have teen heroes. I like Freaks and Geeks as much as the next guy, and My So Called Life is good, too. There are more and more influential teens that are restoring hope to the elderly about the future of America and whatnot.

There’s a passage from I Love Dick, that, though I’ve never read the book, sums up teen-dom pretty well: “When you’re living so intensely in your head when something happens you’ve imagined, that you’ve caused it…When you’re living so intensely in your head that there isn’t any difference between what you imagine and what actually takes place. Therefore, you’re both omnipotent and powerless…[Teenagers are] so far in [themselves] that there’s no difference between the insides of their heads and the world.” After all, being a teen is a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

Hannah May is a fifteen-year-old who enjoys cats, twee pop, Wes Anderson movies, and rainy days. You can catch up with her adventures on her blog (which you should definitely follow) and her online museum.

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