After a brief hiatus, I have resumed my regular voracious reading schedule. One of my recent reads was the young adult novel Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. While the romance between two teenage misfits is targeted to teens, I enjoyed it and breezed through it in a couple reading sessions.
The book immediately appealed to me because the protagonists are fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds in Omaha in 1986. In 1986, I was a fifteen-year-old in Ohio, so all the music, pop culture, and fashion references--Walkmans, punk music, Chuck Taylors, Vans--resonated with me and caused some serious nostalgia. Once the teenagers' romance began in earnest, I suffered more flashbacks, and these were not period-specific.
As I rapidly flipped pages, zipping between Eleanor's and Park's view of the world and their relationship, my initial reaction was that everything seemed so over the top. Every hand hold, every smile, and every perceived slight were melodramatic. Every feeling was elation or despair. Yet I couldn't stop reading.
Then I remembered--that's what being a teenager was like. Life was melodrama. Everything was the best ever or the end of the world, especially if it involved relationships. I began dating my first love when I was sixteen, and those memories remain vivid because everything that happened was tremendously important to me when those memories were made. I often was over the moon, but when I wasn't, I was beside myself.
As an adult, I suffer very few highs or lows. Not much gets me worked up one way or the other. I'm rarely quick to anger (my kids' behavior is the exception) and generally have a positive outlook on life. I'm pretty middle-of-the-road emotionally, but that wasn't the case when I was a teenager. I was a rule-following, straight-A-getting kid, yet I'm certain my parents will attest that I was still an emotional pain in the ass.
All this makes me nervous for my daughter's teenage years. She's only six now, but I can see the sixteen in her. While she's bright and funny and sweet, she always has been willful and independent. Neither incentives nor consequences matter much to her. She's her own person. These traits will help her to be a successful adult, but it made her a real pain as a toddler. I foresee that it will make her an unbearable teenager.
When my daughter's teenage volatility begins--and I predict it will be well before sixteen--I hope I remember what Eleanor and Park reminded me. The teen years are a time of great feeling. Everything that happens is important. Everything seems life-altering. When it comes to relationships, every hand hold and every smile can send you over the moon, and every perceived slight is the end of the world.
I just hope I have the wisdom and the patience to endure the melodrama as a bystander.