Weekenders, COVID-19 has reverted me to someone I once was but never thought I would be again: an antsy, angsty, angrily hormonal 13year-old. Before I detail this transformation I want to stress that this is a privileged position to be in. For some, the pandemic has expedited the process of adulthood, asking college students to live on their own for the first time, be separated from loved ones or carry the weight of a multi-person household. Therefore, before I descend into a melodramatic description about what it’s like to be able to live in a state of greater immaturity than already inhabit, I want to sincerely recognize how lucky I am to be able to bicker with my family, slam the door to my childhood bedroom and blast my middle school playlists.
However, as promised, I will now chronicle how quarantine has morphed me into a 13-year-old trapped in an 18year-old’s body — one which has gained 15 pounds since the eighth grade but not lost any of the acne.
It starts when my parents tell me that I can’t go out and see my highschool friends after coming home from school or that I can’t drive or even ride my bike to the park because it isn’t safe. Immediately, I feel the sweet, sweet autonomy I only recently grasped in my first-year of college seep out of my body and puddle onto the floor. To replace it, the more familiar feeling of a temper tantrum simmers into a full boil inside of me. I have years of limited freedom under my belt to show me exactly how to handle parental boundaries as a perfectly immature pre-teen: silent treatment and a well deserved pity party. So I promise myself that I won’t talk to anyone all day and instead carve out multiple hours of my schedule for crying to Lana Del Ray’s “Born to Die.”
But then I hear a knock on my door. It’s my mom telling me that she ordered my favorite soy coffee creamer from the online grocery delivery service and to come downstairs to watch Gilmore Girls. A classic move. Now if I keep throwing my tantrum, I will look like more of a selfish brat than I already do. Damn, even the right to theatrically express my frustration has been stripped from me. This triggers even more tears before I mope to the kitchen to make a latte with the creamer I had been craving for days.
My mom and I both cry during the title sequence of Gilmore Girls. It’s awkward, but now I think we’ve made up. But as the mother-daughter moments build up one part of my life, the concentration of headbands, cable-knit sweaters and boyfriends tear down another: my self esteem. Why does my life lack the perfectly preppy fashion choices, witty dialogue and consistent romantic subplot of an early 2000s sitcom? At this moment, I realize that I have two options: either eat my feelings or use this quarantine to perfect my “Gilmore-girl-next-door.” I choose the latter.
But operation look-like-Rory-Gilmore doesn’t go too well. All I do is eat in two-hour increments. This makes me feel like shit so I comfort myself by grabbing another plain tortilla out of the fridge. Once again I feel like shit. It’s a vicious cycle. So I decide to turn to the most credible sources on how to build healthy mental habits and achieve my goals: lifestyle vloggers on YouTube.
They tell me that meditating or manifesting or whatever every morning for 30 minutes will make quarantine a time for personal growth. It will force me to really visualize what I want in life. But I realized I really don’t know what I would like my life to look like. Having downloaded TikTok, I can’t decide if I still want to look like Rory or go for something blonder, sexier and a little trashier like Addison Rae. Makeupbarbie29 on YouTube suggests that I go on Pinterest to make a vision board to help me through this.
I browse the web for nine hours and finally decide that I actually want to look like a young Brooke Shields. So I commit to working out every day. But I can’t go to the gym or run outside, so in classic middle school style I turn to YouTube fitness instructors, Just Dance and Wii Fit. Every night my room is filled with the same smell of sweat and ambition it did when I was a pre-teen.
The thrill of having the dream of looking like a supermodel keeps me in high spirits for a couple of days but working out and eating healthy is hard. Slowly I lose sight of one of the main reasons I even cared about looking like Brooke Shields in the first place: romance. To keep my head in the game I redownload an old comfort, Wattpad, and dedicate hours of my day to reading One Direction fan fiction. I also rewatch Twilight for the fifth time this academic year to keep my romantic fantasies alive and well. But slowly, these stories stop becoming a form of escapism and start to seem repetitive and obnoxiously unrealistic. When my parents argue about whether we should get take out delivered, I conclude romance is dead and once again resort to eating tortillas in two-hour increments.
This lull in motivation comes just as the dread of school also sets in. When I get a B- on a paper that I had worked on for a couple of days, everything becomes unbearable. My parents’ voices sound like condescending nails on a chalkboard and the way my siblings chew their food gets under my skin. I throw another tantrum but this time it is less angry and more hopeless. I am almost certain that the world is going to end and that when it does I’ll be a fat, stupid, failure who will never experience love because it doesn’t exist.
I cry in my room about this for a while but then my mom comes in and sits with me until I feel better. My dad bakes vegan pie while Dean Martin plays on the speaker and then we decide to watch a family movie. The feeling of an existential crisis almost immediately turns into the feeling of Christmas morning, where boys, beauty standards and school dissipate into a warm sense of childhood.
What this quarantine has made me realize is that feeling thirteen again is absolutely horrible. It is being a perfectly capable, rational, autonomous human being while also being bound by abstract rules imposed by authority. It is the feeling of wanting to do a million things you are theoretically capable of, but being told to wait because there is a high probability you’ll majorly fuck up.
And maybe this authority has got a point. Because feeling thirteen is also the feeling of being completely out of control of your feelings, of riding out the unpredictable highs and lows of each day. And maybe this means that the world would go to shit if we didn’t set boundaries for our pre-teen minds. So maybe it is good to be tied down a little bit. To find a place where we can have two feet flat on the ground and stand and rub our toes into the grass. Maybe it’s good to have an excuse to be bound by circumstance so that our movement is limited and we can sit still to feel, panic, think, relax and then repeat.
And when we really think about it, the world has gone to shit. The fact of the matter is that this feeling of being an angsty, angry, hormonal pre-teen is not an illusion. At
18 years old I have truly rediscovered the rocky road of someone who still has some maturing to do. And I doubt that the growing pains I’ve found in quarantine are limited to 18year-olds or 20year-olds or 35year-olds or 53year-olds.
What quarantine teaches us is that the world is 13 again. We are hormonal, changing, selfish, emotional and completely human. We crave autonomy but also sometimes need an authority to check our worst impulses. This pandemic has taught us that we’re capable of making disastrous mistakes and that sometimes we need to sit in our rooms and feel real growing pains before we go out and start affecting the earth and the lives of others. So to all of us who are lucky enough to be thirteen again, I urge that we embrace it. Because all that we feel now will make us better equipped to deal with the feelings of tomorrow.
Maya Weldon-Lagrimas | Maya.firstname.lastname@example.org