Friday, June 13, 2014

That Girl: Sometimes Words Are Just Words

If you've ever watched "Awkward" then you should understand the "That Girl" reference. Watching "Awkward" is the closest thing to re-living my high school years. You couldn't pay me to actually re-live my adolescence. There is no sum of money large enough for me to agree to it. (If you threatened me with the life of a loved one, then yeah, I guess I'd have no choice, but since that's not a realistic scenario, we'll just move on.) If Jenna were a real person, odds are she would grow up and feel the same. In fact, I think Jenna and I could be pretty good friends. But since she's not real, I'm thankful that I'm lucky enough to have some good friends already. Friends who were never ashamed of me, who would stand up for me, who were (and are) there for me whenever I needed them. 

If you haven't seen it, here's a brief summary:

Jenna, the main character, is a 15 year old girl who loses her virginity to a guy that is ashamed to be seen with her in public. Later that same day, she's blogging about how sometimes being a teenager makes you feel like dying (haven't we all been there?). She attempts to grab some aspirin and manages to trip, break the bottle so pills spill everywhere, bumps the hair dryer into the (full) tub, and busts herself up. Result: Everyone thinks she tried to kill herself and they keep referring to her as "that girl" who did this or that.

I can definitely draw some parallels between myself and Jenna. OK, so I didn't have sex until I was 18, and I wasn't the result of a teenage pregnancy (although my parents have been together since they were in high school). But I had some wacky friends, was less than popular, might've been a bit awkward here and there, wrote/typed up my every thought like it was my job (though I'm not nearly as witty as she is), and I was known as suicidal even though I wasn't. 

As you might know, in middle school, I wrote some kinda scary poems. Morbid? Maybe. But just words.

Then I tried to help out some friends starting an advice column and, in my infinite stupidity, wrote as if I were a girl contemplating suicide.

Again, it was a heavy topic, but it was just words.

I never had any serious suicidal thoughts until late high school, but from about age 13 on, I could just as easily have been "that girl" like Jenna. Maybe I even was. The only thing I ever remember people calling me was "the biggest crybaby at East" (I think I would rather have been "that girl"), but who knows what people said about me? 

Reality: Probably not much. 

In psychology, there are these two concepts known as the personal fable and the imaginary audience that sort of work together during adolescence to make us believe that everyone is paying attention to us and that everything we do is being scrutinized by our peers. But they're not and it's not. Most teens are too wrapped up in their own lives to give a damn about someone outside of their immediate world. There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part it's in your head. Unfortunately, that's where teenagers live: in their heads. So it's hard to get away from all those thoughts. Really, really hard.

Jenna actually manages to turn her imaginary audience into a real audience when she lets her private blog go public, which is not a move I would advise unless you're comfortable with people knowing all of your business. I only divulge here what I'm willing for the world to know about me, and while some of it is pretty personal, I'm at a point in my life where I really don't care of strangers or even acquaintances want to judge me for my thoughts or actions. And I know that my real friends won't judge me. Mock me? Maybe. But not judge me.  

So who cares what random people say about me? Or what someone might have said? Words are just word, especially when they come from someone with no real connection to your life. What someone else thinks of me doesn't have to change what I think of myself. It has taken a long time to understand that, and sometimes I still wrestle with my own opinion of myself, but in the long run it's my words that mean the most to me.

15 years old is now half of my lifetime ago. And it definitely feels like it! Well, most of the time. Sometimes I still feel that insecurity trying to creep into my brain, knocking on doors that have been closed and locked for years to keep the darkness away. I still struggle not to answer, even though I know that nothing good would come from it. Sometimes I wonder if I would be brave enough to face what's hiding in those rooms, and I wonder if I should just open the door and let the battle begin. But the real courage lies in walking past the door without even a glance, leaving the past exactly where it belongs. I might not be strong enough to fight my demons, but I'm smart enough not to let them back in.   

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