On Regressing to my Thirteen-Year-Old-Self

Like many upperclassmen, midterms are back in my life again with a vengeance. The constant essay writing, studying, project-finishing and reading has got me a more stressed out than ever and combining all of this grade-defining work with a full social calendar and a desire to remain (somewhat) well-rested and healthy has made it almost impossible for me to relax. I don’t really have the energy to sink my teeth into a new hobby, read a new book, or even binge a new tv show, all of which, even when they’re relaxing, require my full attention to truly enjoy. So, amid my stress, I’ve found myself reaching for those things that I loved in middle school and early high school--namely, cartoons, the Jonas Brothers’ entire discography, and Disney movies. I’ve even caught myself reaching for those old floral prints and heavy Doc Martens that I used to love so much, and have (more than once) painted my nails a grey-black color that middle-school me would have oohed and ahhed over in the store, until she ultimately decided it was “too edgy” and went away with a nice soft pink.

Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

    I know so many people who hate their younger selves. They cringe when they see photos or hear a song they used to love, they can’t bear to watch reruns of their favorite shows from seventh grade, and they loathe going back to their hometowns, where they have to be surrounded by memories of a darker (and probably much more acne-filled) time in their lives. I really do get the urge to write off middle school entirely--being a teenager for the first time is a really hard (and desperately, deliciously awkward) phase in everyone’s life, and remembering how lonely or geeky or preppy or sporty you were then can feel like taking a step backward, instead of a step forward. 

    But here’s the thing: the middle-school version of me, who loved Doctor Who and dreamed of going to Disneyland, who spent all of her free time drawing anime eyes and re-reading Percy Jackson? That girl deserves better than my hatred. Even if I’m embarrassed by the memory of her, I truly wouldn’t be where I am today, studying what I love and pursuing the life she dreamed of, without her enthusiasm-soaked love for life. It was her incessant reading that pushed me to pursue English and her obsession with Tangled concept art that sat me in my first ever official college art class. Her deep-seated love for red lipstick still holds true for me today (even if I know now that red-orange isn’t entirely my shade), and her do-or-die study habits have helped me stay positive and determined, even when the school year begins to look like it’s dropping out from under me.

Credit to Claire Keane http://www.claireonacloud.com/all

    Who I was when I was thirteen was a  different girl. But her passions, ambitions, and dramatic, enormous dreams still echo in everything I do today--so why would I ever be ashamed of rediscovering the things that she loved back then? I have found that returning to the familiar--be it a Sara Bareilles CD, drawing in my old sketchbooks, or the fierce return of the side pony--isn’t evidence of my personal regression, but of my personal growth. If I’m not ashamed of who I used to be, then I can unironically embrace all the things that made me happy, and dip my toes in nostalgia without completely giving into the desire to go back in time. 

    So, if you’re anything like me and you’re struggling to get through the semester, I would encourage you to dust off your old passions and see what treasures still lie within them. It’s a good way to de-stress, while also allowing you to look back and see your progress--and maybe, if you’re lucky, begin to appreciate the person you were back then. You might find that you werent’ so cringey after all.