I recently did a pretty significant spring clean-up where I got rid of a whole bunch of clutter out of storage in my basement. Those things that you cling to for no apparent reason thinking you may someday use them again. I can’t help but think that now that I’ve (finally) gotten rid of some of this stuff, I’m all of a sudden going to need it, but alas, there’s not much I can do about that now.
In the process of organizing and purging, I inevitably ended up getting lost in some old photo albums. And here’s what I want to say as a result…
1. I’m sad to have lost touch with some people.
2. I’m okay to have lost touch with some people.
3. I never should have gotten that perm.
While I am going to save the commentary on my university albums for another day, this is what I want to say to all of those awkward, gangly, not-quite-part-of-the-popular-crowd teenaged girls:
It gets better. Some day you are going to look back fondly on your fluorescent jumpsuit and your floral skort and laugh about how knobby your knees were despite being super self-conscious about them at the time. Sure, you were one of three people who chose to join the high school recycling club (and there is a hilariously embarrassing yearbook photo to prove it) but that is simply a funny anecdote that you use now to emphasize just how much of a progressive nerd you were. It was 1996 after all.
The pimples, the lunches where you eat alone in the cafeteria because everyone in your modest group of friends was on a different lunch break, or the mornings when you don’t want to step on the bus for fear of someone mocking you … those feelings, those moments, those unfortunate side effects of growing up simply won’t last.
I didn’t grow up in a world of 24/7 social media where feelings of insecurity stemmed from perceived popularity based on likes, follows or being unfriended. But I know what it feels like to be lonely and feel ‘less than’ because of how others (who were just as insecure as me, by the way) treated me.
I want to tell my nieces that their worth is not based on the length of their online friends list or how many Instagram followers they have. I want them to choose what team they play for or which club they want to join because of their gut feeling or what they believe in, not because of who else is on the team. And if they choose the wrong team (for them), I want them to know that it’s okay to change their minds and choose another path.
I’m not saying any of this is easy. In fact, I’m saying the opposite. It’s hard (and, sadly, adulthood can be too. See several of my previous columns for evidence of this). It’s hard because, in the moment, you can’t see what I can see 20 years later – the resilience, the stamina, the growth. All you can see is what is immediately in front of you – the insecurities, embarrassment, and confusion.
Yes, it feels awful in the moment. Yes, in some cases, there will be residual effects. But you need to know that you have the strength in you to surpass these bumps in the road. And eventually, these moments will be so insignificant to you that you only recall them when you’re sorting through boxes in your basement.
I’ll say it again because it is worth repeating: it gets better… trust me.
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