The other night I watched 10 things I hate about you, a pretty anonymous 90’s high school movie with Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger. It wasn’t great, it wasn’t bad, but it did get me thinking. A few years ago someone asked me if I would’ve liked to go back to high school, be 16 again, and I said yes, but only if I could go back with my current knowledge, my current “wisdom”, so I wouldn’t make the same mistakes again.
Last night as I was watching this movie, I realized that going to high school with a thirty-year-old’s knowledge and wisdom would be insane. The great and terrible thing about the teen years (at least for my generation) was how intensely we experienced life. An unexpected good grade, a phone call from a friend, the right look across the hall from that guy incited a joy so profound, so boundless that we couldn’t help but squeal it out it was too grand to contain, by the same token, a teacher’s reprimand, a nasty note from a classmate, or a snubbing look from that guy were enough to plunge us into a pit of darkness and depression so vast that all the might of the heavens didn’t seem like enough to dig us out. And yet we all survived.
Now that I’m in my thirties I look back on that time in my life with a certain fondness, I think of the girl that I was with a very mild regret. I miss the unadulterated enthusiasm; I miss the larger than life feelings for trivial things. I wish I could go back and relive the excitement of that first kiss, my first love, my first broken heart because as we get older we inevitably lose the intensity and the stamina for drama.
Now I realize that the problems I face are infinitely larger than they were and yet as a mother, as a wife, as an adult, my reaction has to inevitably be more composed. I simply cannot indulge myself with a flood of tears for a pimple on prom night when the challenges become birthing, raising, and generally keeping alive two small people. As an adult when I heard that my husband had leukemia I burst into tears for a good ten minutes, I called my mom (waking her up in the middle of the night due to the time difference) for comfort, and then I composed myself cause I had to go in and see him, I had to handle the children, I had to spare his parents any unnecessary pain, in short, I had to be an adult about it; in high school when “the love of my life” broke up with me, I cried for six months (an eternity), I listened to “our song” on repeat every day in the car, in my room in the dark, on my headphones at night, I effectively ruined half of my own senior year (and quite probably bored my friends to tears as well), and I never, not once, saw him again after graduating.
So now when I watch teen movies, especially the ones that came out at or around the time that I actually was a teen, I think back and pine for those carefree days, the days of huge victories and of great disappointments, the days were tiny problems warranted grand reactions because that is all we knew. The days when a kiss was monumental, a look, a touch, were memorable, important, worthy of being talked about, dissected and analyzed for hours on end. The days when “do you think he likes me” garnered our collective attention just as much as poopy diapers elicit now. I pine for those days, when I think about it, not because I really want to go back, not because they were “the best days of our lives”, they were pretty crappy too, but because, let’s be honest, it was fun. The teen years are so much fun compared to what comes next. So, I would go back and relive that time, not with my current maturity but with the appropriate immaturity to actually enjoy all the craziness.
All this because Heath Ledger was really hot in that movie. ;-)