13 Going On 30

A Personal Essay: On embracing yourself and your life

My mom used to call me ’13 going on 30′ when I was younger because I was (yes, mature) but also worried, and concerningly aware of the world. Of course no matter how mature we are, certain things can only be learned with experience.

You know the movie 13 going on 30 with Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo- on her 30th birthday she wishes that she was 30 (‘thirty, flirty, and thriving’) as per a headline she reads in her favourite magazine. The next morning, she wakes up as a big time magazine editor of that magazine, with no recollection of her life since her 13th birthday and tracks down the last person she remembers- the boy she was best friends with at 13 (Mark Ruffalo). He makes her realize that the present moment is the most important, and that being cool as a teenager is much less important than embracing what you have. In the end she resumes to her 13th birthday party and sets herself on the life she should have had all along- one full of love, laughter and happiness with her best friend. (Yes, they fall in love).

I’ve seen the movie just about several times.
But the last time I watched it sat with me for a moment longer. In the end, all we want is love and happiness (and hopefully laughter). So it scares us that we can’t rewind time. What if we missed our chance to meet our one true love or chose the wrong education/ career path?

At 13, I was just entering high school. Which is terribly pressuring, and all I wanted was to start a whole new life of excitement and popularity. Much like the movie, I was constantly wishing to be older and had the bad habit of saying I was an age before I actually was- so that by the time my birthday rolled around I felt like I was supposed to be another year older. I can say that I was mature, but not in aspects of self assuredness. I wanted to be attractive more than anything else and I cared to death what people thought of me. And then there’s love- a value I didn’t yet understand enough to actualize in my life.

At 13, I had been dating a boy for over a year and a half (mature in that aspect because I pursued love early in my life). We went to school together and in a lot of ways he was my best friend. We talked for hours about the things we cared about- one being my brief obsession with Greek mythology. We used to have email threads. He called me. Walked to my house, an hour way from his. We wrestled, played sports together, laughed constantly. I got butterflies when he touched me for the longest time. He’d rap his arms around me to keep me warm in the winter. Lean down to kiss my forehead before running off to play football with the boys. I think he loved me, at least for what a young boy is capable of love for someone who isn’t his family. To that degree, I loved him too. I loved his presence and I imagine that should we have stayed together; we still might be. It’s something that I think about a lot actually- what our life would have been like. Maybe I wouldn’t have hated high school, and maybe I could have been there for him when nobody else was. What if we were there for each other, and helped each other, travelled with each other, went to university together, lived together…got married. I know he thought about it too.


13 year old me with 13 year old boy

But again much like the young girl in the movie, I hadn’t enough life experience to understand the measures of caring about another person besides my family.

I didn’t fully know that I loved him and his friendship seemed less important than the potential for a high school experience from the movies. I wanted to know what it was like to be single and feel wanted. I wanted a cute boy to invite me to a house party or to a dance, and to sit with a whole group of people at lunch. I wanted to be popular. So the summer before high school, I broke up with him. Without discussing it with him, or for any real reason at all. I did it over the phone so that it would be easier (for me) and ended up in tears when I heard the hurt in his voice. But I pushed it out of my mind and dreamt about my movie life. I avoided him in the halls. First year passed and he lost someone close to him. I didn’t reach out. Second year passed and he sent me a message. I told him I didn’t know him anymore, and made no further effort to do so. Third year passed and I didn’t hear from him at all. We both had new friends. By the time we reconnected, we were different people. He was more hurt than he knew and unable to love the way his young self so openly could. I was beyond insecure beyond and needed love more than anything but for all the wrong reasons. Our potential life together was and is no longer possible.

Perhaps I should’ve warned you when I said I was much like the girl from the movie, that in the end I failed to turn back time. At 13 I was overwhelmed by social pressure and insecurity and unable to reconcile those thoughts until much later in my life. So no, I didn’t fall in love with my child hood sweet heart. And sometimes when I imagine what my life with him could have been like, I do regret that fact. But at the end of the day, the life lesson is not to turn back time. That defeats the purpose of the present moment. We are here and now. No younger and no older.

To be able to accept ourselves fully as we are and embrace the affects of our current circumstance is possibly the real and only way to achieve a life of love, happiness (and hopefully laughter).

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