When I was younger, I marveled at movies like Clueless, High School Musical, and The Breakfast Club (my parents inspired the 80’s lover in me). I wasn’t as enthralled with the plots as I was with the characters themselves: real live teenagers.
Ten-year-old me was awestruck. I imagined teenage-hood at some sort of 5-year long party. I envisioned myself at beach bonfires drinking strange liquids and hooking up with boys and going to movies with my friends every weekend. I would daydream up countless situations that would inevitably occur to me as a teenager. I would be cool, pretty, emotional, all grown up. Driving into the night with my lover beside me, not giving a… not giving an anything (ten-year-old me was very clean).
And now I’m fifteen, and none of those images have come true. My best friend and I often sit in my room, reminiscing about all the experiences we wish we could have. Sure, I’ve dated, but that’t about it. I imagined the world of teenager-hood like the movies, covered in lip gloss and kisses and rebellious feelings. I craved the late night movie dates and the independence and the craziness so inherent in being a teenager. My best friend and I often sit in my room, reminiscing about all the experiences we wish we could have. Now I watch my movies on Netflix, I have to be driven everywhere, and I haven’t done anything more rebellious than saying the f-word a few times in front of my mom.
Sure, I’ve had amazing times with my friends. We’ve stayed up till all hours of the night, talking about people and love and doing ridiculous makeup. I’ve been on all sorts of dates, ranging from the county fair to a fancy Italian restaurant to watching the New Year’s Eve special in bed just two nights ago. I’ve bicycled six miles to get burgers with my best friend, and I’ve been to several beach parties (perks of San Diego), and I had a date to formal last year. I get hormonal and angry. I have gotten prettier and more fashionable, and I get dressed up for things.
Really, I have lived the moments I wanted to. I have been a teenager. The experiences I’ve had have been incredible, but I still don’t feel like I’ve lived the teenage dream I used to have.
I’m beginning to realize life simply doesn’t work that way. Obviously, the movies are glorified and touched up and sugar coated. They are not dependable for any walk of life. But I’ve also learned that expectations will never quite be met. All of the images of the future spawned in your head will never look the way they do in your mind. Imagination gives everything a special glow, a halo of sorts. Nothing will be as glorious or cool or crazy as you imagine it.
But that doesn’t mean life can’t be beautiful and amazing. The lighted tunnel of your imagination is just that: imagination. Daydreams are fantastic at times, but there are occasions when you must remind yourself that it’s in your head. The things that count are the things occurring around you in the present, the things you can see and hear and touch. The people you connect with and the things you experience in the flesh. It’s far more important to pay attention to the present moment than to daydream about a glorified one. As one of the most unrealistic, rebellious, ideal teenage figures of the 80’s, Ferris Bueller, says: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t look around every once in a while, you could miss it”.
This is my teenage angst, but it can extend to any age. People will always anticipate the future, and it’s what makes us special: our ability to imagine the future and all its manifestations. But it can also harm us by taking away from way life truly is: beautiful, but not always shiny and golden like our dreams.
Maybe I’m not gallivanting poignantly through teenage-hood like Molly Ringwald, but I’m happy and I have beautiful moments too. And that’s what matters and deserves my attention.