Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Formerly known as Me: The Millennium Throwback

A very good place to start:

Some of us manage to move smoothly and effortlessly through each of life’s unique chapters. For these individuals, the transition from adolescence to adulthood is seamless, and the course of life predictable. These might be the people doing the exact job they said they wanted to do while they were in the fifth grade. Or maybe, they are the ones who don’t look a day older than their high school photo, despite the fact they’re now in their mid-thirties.

To be honest, I find such kinds of people very intriguing. I am both envious and suspicious of those whom exhibit such an unquestioned sense of identity and self. Those of who seem to have ‘gotten it right’ the first time around, so to speak.

Like many people my age, I have trouble defining who I am and who/what I want to be. When I think back to my teenage years, a cartoon-like depiction comes to mind. I was a dramatic individual with many faces-some confident, others more shy.While I feel I’ve changed quite a bit in the last ten or so years, certain personality traits remain the same.

I’ve always had an insatiable appetite for change. Changes in routine, structure, and even appearance have been inextricably linked to my life thus far, and while there’s something to be said for those whom are unafraid to commit to routines, I feel that my desire and, ultimately, need for change has encouraged me to take risks, accept challenges, and has enriched my experiences.


I can’t count on one hand the number of ‘phases’ I went through in high school, but I can tell you that most were erratic, and more often than not, just plain embarrassing! Take my sophomore year for example…

Homecoming Queen and Lip Liner (My Diva Debut):

The year of my Diva Debut, I spent at least an hour each morning before school prepping and primping (waking up extra-early for this superficial regime speaks volumes, as high school already began at an ungodly hour). I was dedicated to primping, because in high school, the six hours in the school day represented anything and everything that could ever matter to a 15-year old prima-donna. I was popular that year—or at least I remember being so—and the importance of maintaining ‘hotness’ and ‘cool’ could not be overly-emphasized.

Each morning, my eyes were rimmed with charcoal liner and my lips stained with a juicy, cherry-flavored gloss. My wardrobe represented trendiness at its core, for which, of course, I felt proud. I sat at lunch with the Jenny's, Jessica's and Ashley’s of the class, girls whom were equally noted for their cool prestige and hot factor. My attitude never felt overly obnoxious, but let the truth be known: I was a materialistic, self-indulgent wannabe.

Green Granola (flirting with patchouli):

Something happened during the summer between sophomore and junior year. To this day, I can’t remember what sparked the sudden, summer makeover. Whatever it was, it left my attitude and physical appearance significantly altered. That summer, I put all of my makeup away. I shoved my black spandex pants and halter tops to the back of my closet and went on a different kind of shopping spree. That summer, used clothing was the name of the game, and I scoured through the racks of Salvation Army and other local thrift stores like I had gone mad. Desperately, I searched for the rattiest threads on the block.

I went to school that year looking like a second-hand flower child. I alternated between paisley skirts, corduroy overalls, and sported the hippie equivalent of the do rag around my head. I got my nose pierced a week before my 17th birthday at Amber Moon, a lavender-scented jewelry shop owned by America’s finest Draft Dodger. Free Tibet stickers adorned my binders, and I even remember trying to dread my hair while waiting in the grocery store check-out line. The dreadlocks were a failed attempt, thank God.

That year, I was exposed to a completely new group of friends. I met a group of kids who read the news, wore flannel, and were determined to save the Earth, one Go Green bumper sticker at a time. Junior year was, indeed, a fun and complicating time.

All good things come to an end, as they say, and I should have known that by the time summer arrived, another change would creep my way. I must have become bored with my inner Mother-Earth, as I became interested in an entirely new scene my senior year.

My Inner Misfit (a slice of punk)

The kids I met my senior year were even more different than the ones I had made during junior year. This new group was comprised of spiky, mo-hawked, self-described ‘punks.’ Together, they owned every Clash album to date…on vinyl! They were awesome because they just didn’t give a hoot n’ holler what anyone thought of them. Not to mention, each punk’s bicep displayed a freshly-inked anarchy symbol! Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating. Regardless, these kids epitomized cool.

Mid-way through senior year, I cut off all my hair. Before you think, “Short hair cuts can be cute,” I urge you to think again. There was absolutely nothing cute about my new do. The $13 haircut left me looking more like a boy than I did at my one day old birthday party. Imagine that! In retrospect, it probably would have been a better idea to have my father go at my head with a lawn mower…while blindfolded.

Nevertheless, after the initial hour of sobbing, I knew I had to rock this new haircut, and rock it hard. So, what did I do? Like any wannabe punk-rocker, I dyed it black.

Naturally, my Mother hated it. I, on the other hand, tried desperately to embrace it. Something about the way it appeared neon blue under fluorescent lights, though, made me a real sight for sore eyes. Another “M to the E” re-branding attempt gone awry.

So, What gives?

There are a couple of different reasons I’ve chosen to tell these stories. Firstly, rehashing such amusing, and at times, painful memories of my past allows me greater insight into the person I am today (True, this is an exercise in cheese, but at least it’s an honest one). While the majority of people my age may not have experimented to the degree I chose to as a teenager, the questions of identity and self-awareness are themes we carry with us throughout our entire lives.

There are still so many things I am uncertain about, but if my teenage angst left me with anything, it was a familiarity, and perhaps even appreciation for uncertainty and change.

One last thing…

I am happy to report that I no longer own those hideous caramel-colored, corduroy overalls, nor do I try to squeeze into that sequined halter.

Though admittedly, I haven’t actually thrown that halter away.


Britt said...

i LOVED reading this. knowing you later in your life it's funny and interesting to learn more about you in your high school years. :)

Jens said...


this was great stuff. My thoughts go back to your poetry slam in Mahabs your b-day weekend, where you revealed some of your turbulent teens in your poem.

Part of me can really identify with your story - although I didn't really start to critically analyze who I were in relation to others until I was 19 and moved away from home. But the process since then has been painful and beautiful at the same time. Just think of how I drowned you in talk the first time we met and went to the beach in Chennai - it's a classic example of how my insecurities colored our time together that day. The struggle of becoming who you are - and for me - accepting myself as 'good enough' is really one of the big battles of life. Many never win it.

Just want to say that following you this last year has been awesome.Hope our wanderings cross again soon! I'm planning a move to Mexico in the fall, so who knows??