Deadened nerve endings

Thirteen-year-old girls live in two different worlds…Partly, a thirteen-year-old is still a child…Everything is drama to her. She feels things ten times more than a fifteen-year-old girl, or a ten-year-old…The knowledge thirteen-year-old girls carry comes from a whole different galaxy: from other sense besides the accustomed five, or maybe the heightened acuity of those five combined, but not yet numbed or deadened as they so often become later. (When the business of daily life catches up with her. When she learns to tamp down all the big feelings, deaden her nerve endings, just to get through the day.)  
~After Her by Joyce Maynard

Do you remember being an adolescent and certain things being a big deal? I mean, The Biggest Moment of Your Life? There are a few memories I can recount from my teenage years that to me, were humongous moments that dwarfed everything around them. I can still remember the intensity with which I felt my emotions back then. Like getting my driver’s license. I remember driving to the DMV with my mom in the passenger seat, thinking to myself how everyone driving around me has passed this test and moved on into their adult lives, and that I could, too.

I remember sitting in the waiting room, about to get my first ultrasound because I was a senior in high school and still hadn’t started my period. I had just drank 32 ounces of water and I really couldn’t hold it until after the ultrasound. I thought this waiting was bigger torture than still being a girl, not yet a woman. I didn’t really care about my period. And then, I remember getting it a few weeks later and not feeling relieved or like a woman, just slightly disgusted.

I remember clothes being of utmost importance. What someone wore described who they were. I remember the day a popular girl at camp said she liked my Old Navy T-shirt (I know, I know, but the company was new back then) and asked to borrow it. Then she returned it to me all stained on the back (hair dye, perhaps). I remember self-consciousness and blushing and crushes that were never acted upon. I remember thinking everything was a big deal. And as weird as it sounds, I kind of miss that intensity of emotions.

We tell people to calm down and worry about anyone who gets worked up. We’re expected to live life flatly, most of the time. Anyone with ups and downs of any magnitude is deemed “bipolar,” “out there,” or “unstable.” Adults aren’t supposed to feel things and even discourage children from those thoughts and emotions, too. We are past the age of getting excited about anything. If someone gets angry, they have anger management issues. If someone is grieving, they’re depressed. If someone is happy, they’re high.

So fuck it. I dance around with my boys. When I am sad or touched, I cry. When I am angry, I acknowledge it. When I love someone, I tell them. I know that I’ve deadened my nerves to be an adult accepted by society. But I don’t have to all the time anymore. I don’t have a job or people to impress. I am free to be me. And sure, people will judge me. I know they already do, because I have never stifled myself as much as was expected. People always say they don’t care what people think, but they really do. I do, of course, or I wouldn’t have gone all these years stifling my true self. But I guess you just get to the point of caring less and less as you get pushed farther and farther from yourself. At some point, you’re ready to go back to where you once were – when you were happy and you knew it.

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