My daughter turns 13 today. I remember 13 so well. It was fun and traumatizing all at the same time. As a teenager, you view the world honestly – you see what’s happening for what it is. Maybe that’s the “traumatizing” part. You haven’t learned to sugar coat anything yet. It all is…what it is. It’s a small period of time in the grand scheme of things in between the joys of being a child and the harsh reality of being an adult. Teenagers get a bad rap for being negative or weird. The truth is, they’re just being honest and expressing themselves. And as adults, we’ve somehow become accustomed to masking life with a rose-colored glasses. We call it things like emotional intelligence (of which I’m both a fan and a hater – that’s a whole other post).
Teenagers use their emotions to express themselves – whether good, bad, or indifferent. In your teens, you learn how to cope with people. You learn what you can handle and what you can’t. You determine how to navigate certain situations – what works and what doesn’t. And so it begins — you form the patterns and habits that “help” you and carry those mechanisms with you into adulthood.
I’m watching my daughter now and it’s so interesting to see her patterns. She’s very honest with herself. When she’s uncomfortable, she hides in her room and confides in her friends. She comes out when she’s ready. When she’s feeling happy and free, she gets loud and silly. She goes with the flow of her feelings. She can be chatty or sulky – it just is what it is and she’s okay with it. She is as authentic as she’ll ever be. It’s how I used to be.
After getting divorced and moving back to my hometown, I started to do what I wanted to do with my life – in my career, my daily tasks, my hobbies, and how I expressed myself. I started to feel like me again. I didn’t have this overwhelming cloud of doubt over my head anymore – I was just being me. I remember saying to one of my friends that I felt like I was getting back to my old self, “like I was 13 again”. I didn’t put much thought into that statement at the time, but now that I have a daughter that age, it’s very eye-opening.
When I was 13, I used to feel my feelings and let them guide me. I didn’t care if someone else didn’t like what I was feeling – I didn’t even think about that. I just felt my feelings and dealt with them and managed my way through each day. Then I got into my 20s and 30s and let other people’s motives override my true feelings. And I learned the worst habit of all — I learned to “adjust” to others. I adjusted, they didn’t. And so that was my demise. I see this as a pattern in others as well and I want to smack them silly and scream “Go back to being 13-year old you!”
I know she will be okay. She is a wonderful person at 13 right now. I hope she can hang on to her authenticity more than I did. If she ends up back at her 13 year old self in 30 years, she will be so lucky.
Stifle Me (Her) Not