maura @ 8:49 pm
The thing about adolescence is you go through it and it kind of sucks, sometimes more, sometimes less. Then the suckiness fades and you go through your 20s thinking “wow, that was intermittently sucky!” and then you get even older and think “man, I’m glad I never have to do that again.” Then maybe you have a kid, and if so you’re probably pretty excited about that, and also probably sleep-deprived. Probably so excited and sleep-deprived that you completely forget that at some point in the future you’ll have to go through adolescence again, except this time from the other side.
This is not a post about my kid becoming an adolescent. As he gets older I feel less and less comfortable blagging about him, and I’ve started to ask before I tweet something funny that he said or a photo. It seems like the right time to do that, to start letting him decide how much or how little of his life is online. And really, his adolescence so far has been nothing out of the ordinary.
Instead, this is a post about my adolescence. Even the ordinary with proto-teens can sometimes be trying, and I’ve been working to remember what it felt like on that side now that I’m on this side.
We lived in and around Philadelphia when I was little — both my parents were from around there, and we had some family nearby when I was growing up. From what I remember I was a pretty shy kid and didn’t like talking to new people for most of my childhood, though I was more vocal at home. For a variety of reasons we moved houses and schools a bunch during elementary school, and it was challenging to have to meet new kids when I moved schools. Still, by the end of elementary school we’d lived in the same house for a few years in a suburb with walkable access to parks, stores, and a movie theater. I knew the neighborhood kids as well as had some close school friends despite having gone to different schools in 4th, 5th, and 6th grades.
And then during the summer between 6th and 7th grades we moved to Columbia, Missouri, for my dad’s job. It was starkly, starkly different: we lived on a cul-de-sac at the bottom of a big hill in a development that I remember being sort of on the outskirts of town. There was nowhere to walk or ride bikes to, and my parents had to drive us everywhere. My junior high was huge: I spent most lunchtimes in 7th grade in the library after eating in the cafeteria as quickly as I could. I got glasses, my hair got curly, my parents wouldn’t buy me the izod shirts that all the cool kids had. We got cable for the first time when we moved which coincided with the debut of MTV, and I watched lots and lots of cable. It took me a long, long time to make friends, though I did end up making a few friends that I missed terribly after we moved to Delaware after 8th grade.
High school was hard in the beginning — repeat moving, meeting new people, needing to be driven everywhere — but it got easier as time went on and I made friends and learned how to drive. The older you get, the less it matters what other people think, and that helped too.
It wasn’t universally awful, so few things ever are. I have fond memories of playing Tempest at the arcade and buying jelly bellies at the candy store, or seeing Raiders at the movie theater in the mall. But I also remember that for much of adolescence I was angry. Angry that we moved, angry not to have friends, angry that there wasn’t anything to do. Pretty typical stuff, but thinking back on it now I realize I was probably pretty horrible to be around at home, probably pretty mean to my parents and siblings. And I remember the crazy emotions, sometimes flying off the handle for something seemingly minor even while a little glimmer of reason meant that I kind of understood that I was freaking out needlessly, but being unable to pull out of it. It felt like I had lots and lots of reasons to be angry, really good reasons, but now that I’m a grown lady it’s clear that my parents were not actually trying to ruin my life, as much as it might have seemed so at the time.
Damn, I’m glad that’s over. The thing about getting older is that so much gets easier — I’m still more on the introvert than extrovert side of the world, but I’m much much closer to the middle than I once was (and being an introvert is perhaps somewhat easier in academia and librarianship than in other professions). And I’m old enough that there’s no way I’m even a little bit cool, anyway, so that’s a huge relief.