I look back on my teenage years with the same mixed feelings as everyone else does – some wonderful, toe curling embarrassment (largely hair related), some minor shame (social faux pas and spats with my fellow teenaged friends) and mostly just relief that I got through my teen years relatively unscathed (and with better hair).
I have to say, I do miss the utter certainty of being a teenager. You know, that certainty that you absolutely know how the universe works and that you can navigate through it like a pro.
Somewhere between 20-22, you learn that this is complete bullshit and that neither you or anyone around you has any idea what’s going on. Don’t get me wrong, there are perks to this, you’ll never stop learning new life skills or learning the depths of failure to which you can sink or the heights of success (though you’ll never be quite sure how you got to the successful part).
Teenage me had some very clear ideas about life. Most of them have already disintegrated but there was one that I stuck to relentlessly, that caused many a dispute in my household but that I finally won. That was:
‘Fuck you, I’m keeping all my favourite books forever. Who cares if there are dozens of them?’ *
* This has now had to be revised to hundreds. Oops.
This weekend I’ve reread a book that I loved as a teen (The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud) and I’ve discovered that thanks to having a rubbish memory, the story was only dimly familiar to me and I’d forgotten the main plot so it’s like reading it for the first time all over again.
I’ve also learnt something that I couldn’t have conceived of back aa tt he all-knowing age of 16; I have changed and I know more now than I did back then.
This comes across more as I read and take different messages from stories that I’ve already read several times, I can see characters in new lights and pick up on things that I wouldn’t have understood before.
I’m so glad that I kept all of my best loved books, I can go back to them all now I’m a little older and get even more from them than I did the first time round. Ten years ahead, I can do the same thing and laugh at the blog post I wrote, thinking that I was any wiser at 25 than I was at 15.
“Growing up is losing some illusions, in order to acquire others.” – Virginia Woolf