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I saw the Edge of Seventeen this weekend, a coming of age story following Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) as she navigates her disastrous junior year.
From fights with her horribly perfect twin brother to a falling out with her best friend to a fantasy sext accidentally sent to the guy of her dreams, junior year, in fact, most of life, has just been difficult for poor Nadine.
And she is insufferable. Oh man, you guys, she is THE WORST.
In most coming of age stories, you can at least relate to the protagonist a little bit. You see yourself in them; you remember their pain as your own. While you’re ages from that place in your successful adult life, you can remember back to your first awkward kiss, your first love, and your first heartbreak. And a coming of age film solidifies those memories of what brought you to the place you are today.
Not this movie. Nadine is just so unlikeable that it almost ruined the movie for me. But eventually she comes around and the film actually ended up being quite good, if not a tad bit cliche. But aren’t all coming of age stories?
As I reflected on the movie and my own high school experience, I was grateful that I was no Nadine. I had a pretty picture-perfect childhood, but things got tough for me in high school. Yet, I never thought the world was out to get me. I never let my situation give me the excuse to act like a petulant child. And I never thought the world revolved around me and began and ended with my problems.
And then I found my journals.
I spent my holiday weekend cleaning my basement, and I came across “the box.” You know the one. You have it tucked in the back of a closet behind that one bridesmaid dress you thought you might wear again. Or it’s deep under your bed behind shoes you spent too much on to admit they were only fashionable for one season. Or maybe, you put it in the basement when you moved in 5 years ago under a box of cookbooks, an old air mattress you saved in case you ever got around to repairing the hole or, like me, under a box of way too many novelty cat coffee table books.
I found the box, and inside, I found my journals from 1999-2002 (ages 16-19).
I.Was.Insufferable. I wasn’t Nadine-insufferable, oh no, I was way too goody-two-shoes for that. I was Christian Teen insufferable.
We start out in 1999 with some drama with my best friend because she wasn’t “coming to me” anymore about Boy J. Spoiler Alert: I was acting like her mom, so no wonder she didn’t want to talk to me about him. (Fun Fact: we worked it out- she’s still my bff). Quickly we move into my on and off again feelings with Boy S. Boy S and I spent a LOT of time together in high school. But I didn’t feel like “God” wanted us to date. So when he tried to tell me his feelings, I would run away. Or there was that time he held my hand and I laughed it off. Or that kiss we had that I made awkward by kissing another friend just so it seemed like a “fun game.” The honest truth: God didn’t care if we dated. I was only attracted to him when he wore a hat and when he wasn’t sweaty. That’s why I didn’t want to date him.
I was so convinced all my decisions were being made for *INSERT SUPER SPIRITUAL REASON*. I dumped my early college school boyfriend because I thought I was supposed to since we were getting too physically intimate (and I was quite passionate about the book “The Bride Wore White”), but in reality, I liked someone else. And nothing makes it clearer that I was the Christian-girl version of Nadine than when I expressed my concern about my Christian friend who was having sex in 2000. I actually wrote the words “I’m concerned for her health” in my journal. Her HEALTH? I should have been more concerned with my own health as every day when I got home from school I ate a pork roll sandwich with cheese and mustard on a potato roll and chased it down with some birch beer.
I thought I was better than the people around me (Especially those of the non-churched vein) yet, I had no idea I thought that. I truly believed I was doing the right thing by praying for my “friend’s” souls instead of, you know, just being a friend to them.
Reading through my journals was enlightening because as I got into the college years, I start to see myself shift. My thoughts are deeper, my decision making is not so black and white. I started to see the world in a different way- in all it’s complications. It took me a long time to get from there to where I am today, but I did. Somehow. And, seemingly, in one piece.
Watching Nadine’s high school story the day before I re-lived my own, was eye-opening. We all come from somewhere. And we’re all going somewhere. Just because I’m 33, doesn’t mean I’m done evolving. So if I’m still on my “Coming of Age” saga, am I going to look back on the things I write here on That’s Normal in 15 years with judgment? Will I be laughing at the absurdity of my Instagram comments? Will I look at how I’m living now and it seem so obvious how deluded I am about my own importance in the world?
I hope not. I hope I look back on this stage of my life with more fondness and joy for the woman I am and who she helped me become. I also hope to have significantly less feline coffee table keepsakes.