This is me. Teenage me.
Or at least how my mother, for one, would like to remember me. She did, after all, select the outfit, the hair, the pose. Oh, that pose.
To be clear, this photo still takes center stage in her living room, flanked by matching depictions of my brother and sister. The glory days, right?
Representation isn’t reality. Not even close.
If it were, it wouldn’t be black and white and glossy.
Instead, it would be messy and uncomfortable. It would be hurried and far from static. A frantic chase to move through those years. To climb out of my skin, out of my own head, and into someone else’s.
What I see in that photo—purportedly capturing glorious youth—is in fact remarkably unremarkable. It’s a snapshot of years I have no desire to revisit. The years in which I preferred hunkering down with some homework on a Friday night over going out with friends; or holing up in the library to study instead of socializing at lunch or free periods; or sipping water at parties (yes, parties!) to guzzling wine coolers and pilfered vodka.
That was me in a nutshell. Or a box—a three dimensional square—of boring.
But boring was my comfort zone. And the more challenging the teenage experience would become, the more boring I would become. I threw myself into school and sports. Practices and papers; tournaments and tests. Those made sense to me. They were the rungs on the ladder, and I knew how to propel myself upward and onward.
Socially? That’s a completely different story. A much less straightforward one. And way outside my comfort zone. It was easier to live vicariously through the fascinating people around me. After all, I was born and raised in New York City, a supposed epicenter of urban, sophisticated and edgy young people. All of whom had to have lived more vibrantly than I did, cozy in my box.
Instead of climbing out, I turned inward, watching. I became an observer. A keen one:
Of situations. Of exchanges. Of characters.
From within my box, I conjured up bubbles—like thought bubbles mapping a graphic novel—that hovered above the heads of these various personalities. To reveal feelings felt, words said, choices faced, mistakes made. All these characters who captivated me:
The leader, the loud-mouthed, the larger than life; the risky, the reckless, the downright rebellious; the type un-A, the type more Z, the ones refusing at all to be typed; the jackass, the dumbass, the pain in the ass; the capricious, the cool, the totally cold; the unfiltered, the unruly, the wholly undone; the bold, the rash, the unabashed and brash; the cunning, the crafty, the uniquely unique; the flirty, the flighty, the high-and-mighty; the indomitable, the incorrigible, the enviably insane; and others—so many others—who lived fearless and free.
Or so that’s how I perceived life beyond my box.
Perhaps I still do.
This could be why I write.
To re-imagine what might have been.
To see from different eyes; to walk in different shoes; to dwell within a different mind.
To blend on paper through written word life’s truth with untruth.
And maybe, just maybe, to render the unremarkable as ever so slightly more remarkable.
Now, your turn. Tell me: what’s your story?
Better yet: what’s the tale you might have retold?