The last thing I was a a teenager was self secure. Even now I struggle with that. I’m crazy awkward (which is why, when my sister shared The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl with me, it really resonated), I’ve spent most of my life knowing who I am but trying to be something else, and I’m just generally uneasy at how I appear to other people.
I’ve gotten a lot better. For the most part, I don’t care what people think, and I’m finally old enough that I know who I am, I’ve accepted it, and I deal with it. I have embarrassing moments that I’d rather not think about, but that doesn’t mean I regret things. I don’t bother with regret. There are maybe three things from the last few years that I regret. The rest were experiences. If I appear awkward or nerdy, I’m fine with that. It pains me to sound so cheesy, but it’s really about just being true to yourself and happy with who you are.
I’m always really impressed when I meet teenagers now who are totally secure with being silly, nerdy, or otherwise not totally on par with the status quo. Some of my students this summer reminded me of who I was before I cared about who I was. I know a few high schoolers who are totally fine with having blue hair or whose friends are in college or who would rather focus on writing music than going to the mall, and I wish that I had spent more time in high school doing the things I really wanted to, rather than stress about the things that weren’t me but I wished were, like going to parties and acting slutty.
And then the other night when I went to the 12:01am showing of the final Harry Potter movie, I was in line next to two girls (14 or 15, about to be high school freshmen), and I was so impressed with how content they were just to be the two of them, in public, with all their silliness out in the open.
It’s not like dressing up for a Harry Potter movie premiere isn’t something that nearly everyone does, regardless of age. But these girls were not just dressed up. The mother of one of them left to buy snacks at Target, so my friend and I were kind of babysitting their stuff while the girls came back and forth, using the line as a home base and getting up every time they saw a new character costume so that they could pose with the person. Like posing with princesses at Disneyland. It reminded me of freshman year of high school, when I went to Disneyland with one of my best friends and we spent one of our three days there looking for as many characters as possible.
These girls were so much like me when I get excited and manic, it was crazy. Except that they were really sweet, and when I get manic, sometimes I scare myself because I’m incapable of shutting up. “Did you see the Snitch girl? We have to find her. Can you watch our Red Vines?” Then later, one of the girls came back from the bathroom. “Mrs. Weasley is peeing. We have to go take a picture with her right now.” I advised that they make sure it wasn’t just a regular woman who didn’t know she looked costumed, but she assured me that the woman was wearing an apron, so that made it okay.
One of the girls’ mother had refused to buy her a bunch of overpriced franchised material, so she made her own broomstick out of bamboo and dead cactus. Aside from missing varnish, it looked pretty much exactly like the ones in the films. When they took breaks from running around, they talked with me and my friend about characters they’d seen, other movie premiere experiences, and how excited they were for the movie. It reminded me why I’ve chosen library science in general, and why I’ve more specifically chosen youth services. I want every teenager I meet to be as vivacious, self assured, fun loving, and into books and movies and games as these girls. I want to be everybody’s teacher, big sister, and best friend. Well, kind of. More I just want to watch and guide and mentor, I guess. It was so much fun getting to know them, and because they reminded me of myself, when I used to sing songs from “My Fair Lady” at the top of my lungs, complete with perfect pitch and decent Cockney accent, not at all worried about who was listening. Some self assured teenagers scare me, as they do everyone, because teenagers aren’t supposed to know who they are unless who they are is a nerd. Teenagers who are already who they will be as adults are threatening, if also fascinating, and I won’t lie and say they don’t make me a little jealous. But these girls were perfect.
My favorite part was when they started using their homemade wands and battling with them, almost as if they were playing Rock, Paper, Scissors or Dungeons & Dragons (I’m just guessing about the second one, because I’ve never played or watched a game of D&D, but as far as I know, this is how it’s played). They threw curses at each other, standing properly the way Snape might tell them to in a Wizard Dueling seminar. And as each one cursed the other, they would qualify or modify the game. “Okay, that’s just a serpent spell, so I can’t really do anything, because now there’s a snake crawling everywhere.” Or, “How do I know when you’ve stopped the Cruciatus curse and I can stand up again and curse you back?”
We were finally let inside the theatre, and I sort of forgot about them as my friend and I started gossiping and chatting with the girls sitting next to us. Then I heard applause, and I wondered what it was. Everyone was looking down at the floor of the theatre, where the same two girls were still dueling. One had just fallen to the floor, “dead,” and the other was victorious.
They continued dueling, searching for photo ops, and eating sugary snacks until the movie began.
As soon as the screen darkened, I was over the whole thing. I’m relieved it’s all over. But I’m so happy that those two girls were in the same line as me. I hope high school changes them and grows them up in all the good ways, but I really hope that it doesn’t kill or edit the personalities that I saw the other night.