Commentary: A teenage dream


Photo credit: Sarah Rafferty

My father and I celebrate my second birthday in 2009. In my family, birthdays are heavily celebrated and many memories of wishing to be older come from these parties. 

By Oona Seppala, Senior Reporter

I sat in front of a pink birthday cake, topped with six flaming candles, and wished to be 10. Then, four years later, as the tune of “Happy Birthday” floated around the room, I squeezed my eyes shut and wished to be a teenager. This past October, I turned 15, and I wished to be six, 10 and 18 simultaneously.

It is contradictory to wish to travel both into the past and future, but I have never been more confused about how to feel. Apparently, I was supposed to cherish the years when I was younger, the “good ol’ days,” but how can someone cherish something when it feels like something better is on the way? Being older meant my life would finally begin.

When did I start feeling like this? Christmas circa 2015.

The holidays would roll around, and I would see extended family. My mother is the youngest of four sisters, making me the youngest of nine first cousins. As a child, I would observe and dissect each action and phrase spoken by my older (my synonym for cooler) cousins. I imitated their personalities because I wanted them to believe that I was just like them. In the height of and fluffy pajama pants, I watched them talk about pop culture, boy drama and, of course, how much they disliked school. Watching and listening to my cousins further fueled my desire to be a teenager.

But these family members weren’t the only ones making me envy the life that seemed so far away. I spent my time immersed in the world of Disney Channel, yearning for the teenage experience that was a continual presence on screen. When was it my turn to drive, go to parties and do the things I saw my favorite characters doing? I would lie awake at night envisioning the responsibilities, independence and “coolness” that came packaged as my teenage years. 

Each milestone, birthday and Moving Up Day was a goal that had been achieved. One step closer to being older. I remember walking 20 steps ahead of my parents or babysitter because I wanted people to see me and think, “Wow, she is so cool for walking alone.” Yes, my thinking was silly, but this is what mattered to me most: being perceived as cool and older than I was. 

I have talked to my friends about their memories of being younger and wishing to be older. It seems like at one point or another we all felt this way. We all had people in our lives that made being a teenager seem like the end-all, be-all. 

I spent all of this time waiting for my moment, and in some ways it’s arrived, and I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I should be waiting for the future or if I should dwell on missing the past. “Stay in the moment” is what everyone advises, but how can I be expected to do that when the present feels so much less than the past or future? What if I am missing being 15 by worrying about missing the past? What if this cycle continues, and when I am 20, I miss being 15? 

If you ever find yourself dreaming about what is to come and wishing to be older, I was right there with you. In fact, I am still right there with you. I dream about my drivers license and college and my first apartment. But, take a moment to look at the now — the small or large moments that make you happy or sad or all of the above. And still take time to reflect on the memories that make you laugh or cry because someday you will want it all to come back.