I was staring off into space today while heating my lunch up in the office kitchen, and my cute new aluminum water bottle caught my eye (as show in the picture). And I realized in sudden amazement that I’d changed so much from when I was a teenager. (And how fundamentally different Young Adults and Adults are/can be).
Some background: In high school I was a nerd. Shy, awkward, braces, frizzy hair. I’d spent my first eight grades in private school with the same 10 classmates. Freshman year I was thrust painfully into a huge public high school where I knew 2 people. It was not a good fit.
But, eventually I learned to cope – by becoming invisible.
I watched, I listened, I paid attention to things that would help me stay unnoticed (and unpicked on). I didn’t want to become the smart girl everyone bullied, and I didn’t think I was cool enough to become part of the “In” Crowd (it didn’t even occur to me to try!). I didn’t raise my hand to answer questions, I didn’t go out of my way to become friends with people. I actually started to become friends with someone my freshman year and cut her off when we started to get too friendly. It was too far out of my comfort zone. Looking back, oh how I wish I’d done things differently.
This desire for invisibility also carried over to the clothes I wore and the choices I made. I dressed in nondescript jeans and flannels (Thanks, Curt Cobain). I wore my hair average length. I bought only the plainest backpacks and folders. No fluffy kittens for me. No screaming patterns on my things. No red shoes or frilly jackets. Being plain was my camouflage. And for the most part it worked.
But looking back, it was absolutely no fun.
Eventually I found a group of friends I could be my weird self with (we spent time in cemeteries, for god’s sake!). But I still held back.And those friendships dissolved over time because I never really let them see the real me. I don’t think I knew how.
Fast forward to today.
I still struggle with wanting to stay invisible and protecting myself from ridicule or putting myself out there too much. HA! Good choice for someone who wants to be a published author, right? I sweat and bumble through parties and events. I clam up when meeting new people. I worry that I’ll say the wrong thing or sound stupid (even with you, dear blogging friends).
What does this have to do with a water bottle you might ask? Well, looking at it, I noticed it had a cute pattern. It had personality! Glancing at it, a stranger might be able to tell something about me, about who I am. As a YA, I would have *never* bought something like that. I would have been terrified of being exposed. But now that I’ve matured a bit, that doesn’t scare me any more. I actually want people to know who I am and what I like.
For me, being a young adult was all about blending in and not feeling out of place. But as I’ve gotten older, it’s become less and less important to “fit in” to who’s ever ideas are popular at the time and more important to do the things *I* want to do and enjoy.
And I think that’s a huge piece of what makes YA so popular. In some ways, reading a book about that age group can be a way to relive a time where you weren’t necessarily yourself and see a character who isn’t afraid of being “strange” (or if the opposite is true, relive the time when you were most yourself and see how you’ve changed). It brings out those *feelings* and lets you play with them again, experience something different. It can let you decide to go off with the bad boy instead of staying home on a Saturday night. It can show you how much worse off you could have been. (I’m looking at you 13 Reasons Why)
YA is all about possibilities. The future is wide open. Anything can happen. All you have to do is choose.
And I chose the colorful water bottle. Finally.