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  • Writer's pictureMathilde Fongen

What I've Learned from High School Movies

Updated: Aug 18, 2021

High School movies are a guilty pleasure of mine. Or maybe just a pleasure, as I'm not sure I feel all that guilty about it. I especially love the ones where you know the whole story within five minutes or, even better, just by looking at the poster. There is one thing that always crosses my mind when I watch these films, and that is what I would do, who I would be, if I were a character in one of them.

My teens were like many people's teens, coloured by wanting to fit in, wanting to be cool, or wanting people to think you're cool because you don't try to be cool. That teenage need to be yourself when you have no idea who you are. The feeling that life will be over once you exit that building for the last time with grades you worried about too much and great expectations of what is to come.

I was a poet and a song writer, but unlike that main character in that teen drama, I was no protege. I didn't spend every waking moment writing and reading. I actually didn't enjoy reading that much until I was 13 and after that I read, and still read, very slowly. The books I read at that time, I hardly remember, because I was so distracted when I read them. I was more concerned with wanting to have read the book, rather than enjoying the experience of reading it.

What that quirky, nerdy girl in the movies always has is dedication. She's all consumed with whatever it is she is passionate about. As much as I think it's unhealthy to be all consumed by one thing, I do catch myself wondering what I could have achieved, if I had that dedication. What could I have experienced during my university years, had I been a more dedicated student? What could I have gone on to do? You never see the quirky lead girl binging four hours of Netflix or scrolling mindlessly for hours on end. Of course that's mainly because it would make for a very dull movie.

"Why not run into the sea with your clothes on?"

So the thought I was left with after this evening's teen flick watch, was what makes me think I'm too old for that now? Why can't I find that dedication ten years later? After all, I know much more about who I am, what I want and what brings me joy now. So it urged me to start those quirky teen flick lead habits. Dancing on my own, when no one (not even a camera crew and a director) is watching, wearing what I like, dedicating my time to the things that truly matter to me. Expressing myself and carrying myself with the confidence that was nowhere to be found in 2010 and the fearlessness I had in 2001. All the while still scrolling and binging because let's not kid ourselves.

I was a songwriter who couldn't sing. I couldn't even tell if my guitar was in tune or not. And according to the teen flick character description, that quirky girl secretly has an amazing voice that she was naturally born with. I've found my voice later on, and who says that's too late? No one. Too late for what exactly? In our teens we think life ends at 25. Everything seems like the end of the world. I'm 28 now and feeling like I'm just now getting to know myself, while also knowing very well that that will be a life long process. (Also aware of how young 28 is).

I made a list when I was 25 of 30 things I'd like to do before I turn 30. They are mainly travel ideas, learning goals and goals around music and writing. I've achieved some of them, and some I've yet to get around to. It doesn't matter to me if I never finish the list, or if I do so when I'm 37. I love writing things down and making lists, so I'll probably write a 40 before 40, and a 70 before 70 too. We live with ourselves our whole lives, so why do we feel nostalgic over time past? Who we were some number of years ago? (That could be a whole other post.) Why do we feel we're too old for some things or like we need to get certain things done by some arbitrary age?

I often get stressed after watching one of these films, or a TV show where someone younger than me has achieved so much more than I. The stress manifests in this idea that I haven't done enough yet, and that I'm not doing enough now, when in fact I am exactly where I need to be. I am growing at my own pace. We all are. So let's give ourselves the space and love and patience to do just that.

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