I spent a good deal of last Sunday and most of this past weekend watching all 19 episodes of My So-Called Life. It’s been probably 12 or 13 years since I last watched an episode, but as I watched, I remembered what was coming before it happened. I remembered specific lines and storylines. It was kind of surreal.
But what hit me most profoundly was how intense it all was. For a long time, I have said that I enjoyed high school, but I wouldn’t want to go back and relive it. After watching this show again, I have to say I’ve changed my mind.
At this time in my life, I identify most with the adults on the show because that is the stage of life I’m in now. But I remember being 15, 16, 17, 18. I remember all of it. Not just what I did, but how I felt. And I realized this weekend that I will probably never again feel things as intensely as I felt them then.
At that age, it seems, everything is just waking up inside a person’s head and heart. Everything is new, and it’s as if your entire body and all your emotions grow incredibly sensitive nerve endings and so everything that happens in your life increases 100-fold in how you experience it. As an adult those senses dull from overuse and while you still feel things, the intensity is much less.
And this is why I want to go back. I would probably do a lot of things differently. I would definitely appreciate my body more. I had a good one, but I was always self-conscious about the size of my breasts and I thought I was fat and gross, so I hid behind oversized shirts, I guess to keep anyone else from noticing me.
So, yeah, I want my almost-perfect teenage body back, but without the insecurities I had when I was a teenager. More than that, though, I want to feel again. I want the intensity and the excitement and the stomach butterflies I no longer feel. About anything. Ever. I want the possibility of the rest of my life in front of me again. I want to have crushes on boys I’m too afraid to talk to. I want new friends without the adult walls in the way of becoming truly close.
I have made a lot of new friends over the past year here in Tallahassee and before that, in St. Marys. But since I lived in Amherst, I haven’t made new friends to whom I’m comfortable saying, “I love you.” I moved away when I was 28. I met those people when I was 26. I’m not sure at what age we start closing ourselves off, but it must happen as we approach 30. Perhaps it’s life that gets in the way. Perhaps it’s all the lessons we learned growing up, when we felt too strongly and therefore hurt more when life went awry.
We close off because we’re afraid and busy. It takes longer to get to know people and trust them with your deepest thoughts, good or bad.
I think we all need to step back and revisit our old selves. We need to remember and relive it as adults. We need to open ourselves up to the possibility of pain in order to experience the pleasures of life to their fullest. We should all watch Angela Chase and her merry band of adolescent angsters at least once every year. So we can remember.