I’ve been reading Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume lately. I started a reading challenge with my best friend and her husband at the beginning of the year. One of the requirements is a middle grade novel. I read those all the time as a YA lover, but have never read a single Judy Blume book in my life. One of my favorite podcasts (who I’ve talked about before on my blog), Stuff Mom Never Told You, did a whole episode on Judy Blume last year. It stuck with me. She had a very interesting life. I loved the fact that young girls used to pass around Judy Blume in secret because it was often banned from the school library. How scandalous, Ms. Blume! I figured it was time to read the book that is on a lot of “must read” book lists.
While I didn’t read this book at the quintessential age it was written for (preteens), I’m reading it now at 27 and I’m having some interesting thoughts. I am 100% relating to the diary point of view, the fascination with boys, and starting puberty. I remember my first kiss and getting my period for the first time quite vividly. I think most women remember these things. I always had a journal, even during high school and parts of college. This resonates with me deeply.
I started thinking, though, about who I was when I was 12 years old. Or 16. Or even 21. There’s a scene in the book where Margaret is mean to another character, and I thought “man, I think I did similar things when I was around that age.” I’ve heard from a few people in my life that I was somewhat mean in high school. If I ever was, I don’t think I did it to intentionally hurt other people’s feelings. I’m sure I wanted to fit in and be accepted in a certain crowd. I wanted to make people laugh. I wanted what every one else wants – to be liked.
Still, making fun of other people is not a good way to go about that. I’m at a point in my life where I don’t care what others think of me. I’m going to live my life the way I live it. End of story. If I’m happy, at the end of the day, that’s what matters the most. I like myself the way I am. But I’m sure at 14, I didn’t quite know who I was yet or like myself that much. I remember a girl in my class, who is the daughter of a preacher, calling me a b****. I remember being shocked but thinking it was funny. I remember when Mean Girls came out and I used lines from that movie towards other people in school. Was I the “mean girl”? I didn’t feel like it at the time, but looking back … maybe I was.
I hope people don’t remember me in that way.
I don’t even recognize that girl. There are parts of me that I look back on and reminisce on experiences and I think “Wait, that happened to me?” It seems like a completely different person, like I’m separate from that experience. Yes, I remember being in 6th grade (the same grade Margaret is in) and having my first kiss. But it also feels like I’m remembering it from a third person perspective, not a first person view. I’m not experiencing those emotions again like I would with a fresh memory. Instead, I’m recalling what I think I may have felt during that experience.
I’m not that same person.
Thinking in this way is hard for me. It’s hard to look back and cringe and see how ignorant or naive I once was. I feel like everything I have done in my life has been done with good intentions. I’ve screwed up things in my lifetime. But that doesn’t make me a bad person. That makes me human.
All those experiences – holding grudges in middle school, skipping classes, being somewhat a bully to my peers, trying to fit a mold – they made me who I am today. I don’t regret any single thing I have done or tried in my life. Without that, I wouldn’t be the me that I am right now. I’ve taken my experiences, learned from them, and adapted from there.
It’s been weird going back in time to my own life through a book about a fictional character. I guess that’s the charm of the book. I guess that’s why it is on all those “must read” book lists.
I’m glad I’m not that girl anymore. I don’t see where she fits in to the present me, but she’s in there, somewhere. She is a part of me. She will always be a part of me. Because she is me. She’s just younger and not as physically or emotionally developed as I am now. And I know that in 15 more years I may reflect back on this moment and think “Man, I don’t recognize that girl.”
But you know what? That’s ok, too. Because life is all about growing and changing and evolving. I’m proud of the woman that I have become. I’m proud of the mistakes I’ve made and the path that I have taken. I hope I can continue on this path and not veer down a dark one. But even if I do, I know I have the skills to detour back to this road. It will be ok, because I’ll always have me. The past, the present, and the future me.