Add this to the list of “Things I Ought To Regret Doing But Strangely Don’t.”
There’s this enormous stash of old home movies on mini-DVD that’s been sitting in my family’s living room since forever, and my parents have been prodding me to do something about it for a while. Thus, the past two weekends have been spent ripping videos from one obsolete form of media and burning them onto another obsolete form of media. I’m not someone who finds organizing and cataloguing stuff particularly relaxing, and the amount of $$$ I’ve dropped in the past month on pre-2010s equipment (external disc drives! blank DVDs! A VCR to USB converter!) is laughable. But I’m also an old lady who likes having hard copies of things, so…
Digging up old videos of your awkward teenage self is probably one of those things that most normal people actively avoid doing. To date, I still find myself carrying this visceral embarrassment and shame for my cringey high school self, and I often catch myself doing certain things or acting a certain way in front of people just to prove that I’m no longer the awkward turtle that I was ten years ago. As if anyone actually cares, right? Like a lot of other anxious, perfectionistic people, I tend to self-evaluate in strict, black-and-white terms of good/not good, and there tends to be a lot more not good than good…to the point where everything about me up until, say, a year ago, is “good,” and everything before that is “not good.” Which makes sense, to a point (is this what the internet people mean by “real life character development“?) but I’ve come to realize that simply writing off old, embarrassing versions of yourself as “not good” is really just an act of mental expediency. It allows you to escape the labor of identifying and learning from your mistakes. It’s lazy thinking, really, and I need to stop doing it.
But anyway. Looking back at these videos from middle and high school has helped me gain a whole new appreciation for my students. I’m coming to the point where my default mode as a teacher is dangerously veering towards impatience and cynicism, and things like messy notebooks, unread emails, and general whining have actually started to trigger contempt in me. Not good. What’s worse is that, upon encountering situations like these, my first instinct is to think that *I* wasn’t nearly as incompetent, or disorganized, or whiny when *I* was their age. Which is completely untrue, because I, too, was a complete mess as a teenager! I was always losing things, forgot to do homework, had really lousy opinions, complained about literally everything, and I still thought that I was the best thing ever! Truly detestable, ugh.
Rewatching some of these old home movies made me realize how, er, average I was as a teenager. Teenagers are supposed to be cringey and messy and embarrassing, and I’m not sure why Adult Me continues to be so disappointed in Teenage Me for being a cringey, messy, embarrassing, completely normal teenager. I think it’s because a big part of me still believes that the ideal teenager ought to act more like an adult than a teenager. But I’m starting to accept the fact that teenagers can be awesome because of the fact that they are teenagers, not in spite of it.
Case in point: this performance from my senior concert in 2010, where I thought it would be a great idea to sing and rap in Japanese in front of a whole bunch of people solely because two members from my fave K-pop group did a cover of the same song around the same time. CRINGE CITY. But imagine what Adult Me would’ve sung instead. Something really boring, probably. So thank you, Universe, for allowing cringey teenage Patricia to have existed in all her embarrassing glory. 🙂