I came to the realization recently that I never really had a proper teen-hood.
As I moved through college into early adulthood, I felt an immense amount of tension between my desire to openly emote and express and create without boundaries and my fear of failure and instability. College gave me a pretty good channel to explore this tension: I could go to class for several hours, then go to work, then go to rehearsal at night. My life was a swirl of professionalism, partying, making theatre, and exploring concepts I had never encountered before; I truly felt like I was doing it all. And I never remember a period of my life when I was happier.
I've been feeling quite incomplete and discontented lately, and I automatically assumed I was missing my college years. I dwelled on it a bit and talked it over with my therapist and realized I really didn't miss college--those years had been fulfilling and exciting but I didn't find myself necessarily wanting to return to them. I was feeling tugs from somewhere even more distant than my college years, and it was confusing the hell out of me. All of my friends who are in their mid twenties and a couple years into their careers continually lament the loss of the college years over happy hour, so what was different for me?
My revelation came when I was watching Carly Rae Jepsen music videos (yes, I had a major life revelation while bopping along to Boy Problems, come at me, bro). As I was watching Carly and the other girls in the music videos moodily lounge around their dark pastel bedrooms and pout at the camera, I realized that was it. That's what I was missing. The same tug that drew me to listening to Emotion on repeat at work, the desire to watch Adore Delano's obnoxious ratchet teen couture drag on RuPaul and obsess over her lingo (Party!), and the obsession with adorable K-pop girl groups (Blackpink in your area, RIP 2NE1) were coming from a void inside me that should have been occupied by a bubblegum-pink, boy-crazy, self-obsessed, relentlessly creative and emotive Teen Girl.
For those of you who knew me in high school, you know I was not at all like the Teen Girl described above. I was responsible, level-headed, mature, well-spoken, and accomplished. I was dedicated to sports, youth group, school, and choir--pretty much the only teen thing I indulged in much was being rather truly boy-crazy. Most people read me as much older than I was: when I was in sixth grade volunteering at the library, a woman asked me if I was enjoying college because I was wearing an Aggies shirt. I was the president of the Archdiocesan Youth Council, Girl's State staff pick, and a top 10% graduate. My mother and I got along really well. I never once snuck out, drank, or tried drugs. I think I only missed curfew once.
However, the people who really knew me in high school knew I was exactly like the stereotypical Teen Girl: I just never let anyone see it. I kept SO MANY diaries. I wrote love letters. I doodled in the margins with sparkly pink and purple gel pens. I obsessively collected every Jesse McCartney poster I could get my grubby little hands on. I wrote pages of angsty poetry and shared it on deviantART, or hid it away in notebooks that I left at home. I sang soulful pop ballads and cried in the shower. I secretly bought thong underwear and hid it from my mom until she independently said it was okay to wear (hi mom, now you know). I really did feel and act like a teen girl, but I felt an immense sense of shame about every single one of these thoughts and actions. I very rarely let these parts of my personality see the light, unless I stayed up too late a sleepover and exhaustion turned me into a giggly mess. Anytime my Teen Girl would slip out around my youth ministers, my teachers, or my friend's parents, I would get reprimands, disapproving looks, or laughter, sometimes accompanied by being pulled aside and reminded that I was a "role model for my peers."
It. Was. Bullshit.
The shame I felt about being a teen girl was partly of my own making, but was heavily reinforced by our social devaluing of teen girls and young women. The recent craziness and disbelief surrounding the Teen Vogue op-ed about Donald Trump is a prime example. People genuinely don't think that teen girls can like makeup tutorials and One Direction while simultaneously being concerned about the state of our political atmosphere. Hello, the two are not mutually exclusive.
My teen girlhood was not 100% oppressed, but it was limited to a great enough degree that it feels like a part of me is missing. Now, as I'm looking at turning 25 in a couple weeks, I feel an indescribable aching for my teenage self. She's come to mind almost every time I meditate; all of my spells that I've cast lately have been her. It feels like mourning, like I'm grieving something that never was. I'm not okay with this sense of grief; to me, grief is never ending if we can't quite define what we are mourning.
So, instead of mourning her death, I'm going to celebrate her second adolescence.
My 25th year is going to be the year of Teen Emily. I would already be a witch twice as powerful if I had celebrated my practice as a teen, because Teen Emily was brimming with untapped power. She was a quiet force with immense talent and energy for creating, and she would have spent years building her first grimoires, spell work, and magical tools. I've been feeling stunted in my practice lately, like my potential has hit a wall, and now it is clear to me that the way to unblock that energy is to unblock Teen Emily and let her live unashamedly out in the open.
Living in honor of my Teen Self means I'll spend the next year welcoming emotion and fully embracing it, rather than trying to override it with intellect. Emotion is an intelligence of its own, and allowing each emotion to grow and balloon and recede naturally is an imperative part of growing my strength as an intuitive empath. I'll expect good things to come to me, not because I've earned them but because I can manifest them. I'll be celebrating teen rituals like sleepovers and dance parties and diary keeping and makeovers. And most of all, I'm going to revel in being young.
I'll be posting my Year of the Ritual Teen Self manifesto soon, and I would love for anyone else who feels called to reconnect their teen selves to join me on this path. I'm kicking around the idea of adding a new vertical for this project, and maybe starting a newsletter to talk about rituals, events, and thoughts I'm experiencing that month--whatcha think?
xoxo Blessed Be xoxo