Over the past day and a half, I’ve been unable to get the December Editor’s Letter from Rookie out of my head. In classic Gevinson style, Tavi writes about “Forever,” the precarious time between the ages of thirteen and seventeen, “in which one feels eternally invincible and permanently trapped.” The letter itself is an introduction to the month’s theme, but deals with the feelings of aging out of such a weird stage of life. Out of all of the editor’s letters on Rookie, this is the first one to really get to me.
On a superficial level, I draw a lot of parallels between myself and Tavi, which is partly why the letter grabbed me so much. We’re close in age and up until recently, I also lived in northern Illinois. I’m interested in feminism, 80s high school movies, and I’m very much in tune with the self-indulgent urge to emote loudly and publicly. At the same time, I feel like she’s in Bizarro World; here’s this girl, who’s very normal and tuned into a lot of the same feelings that I am, and she’s got this career editing Rookie. When I’m feeling insecure and jealous, I look at her like I look at accomplished young musicians. (I’m an oboist. While I was in high school and still playing in orchestras and festivals, I would occasionally run into a musician who was, no questions asked, Talented. It plays tricks on your ego, even if, like me, you have no aspirations to live the life that they are.)
I turned eighteen in November, but I feel like my “Forever” ended in August. I mentioned earlier that I lived in northern Illinois. I’m currently living in Indiana; my parents moved us here the summer after my junior year. Around the same time, without really carefully thinking things through, I decided not to start over my senior year at a new high school. A local university offered a dual-credit program for high school seniors, and I persuaded the program’s administrator to let me attend full-time, under the condition that I fulfill my few remaining graduation requirements. Now, I’m approaching the end of my first semester, and the experience has had a major impact on my worldview: it changed my career goals and made me reconsider the way I handled myself in high school. I took everything so seriously, keeping a 4.0 in an all-honors courseload and taking on a mountain of extracurricular activities. I struggle with anxiety, especially regarding social situations, and I can’t help but think that if I had just relaxed a little bit that I would have been happier, even if I hadn’t achieved as much. If I hadn’t been so concerned with being somebody impressive, I might have been more honest, maybe even come out while I was still in high school. My parents were concerned that I would regret not having a senior prom or a traditional graduation, so it’s interesting to me the things that I did end up regretting were the things that allowed me to start college early.
The letter also brings up the end of “Forever” and the importance of properly “mourning” the end of that stage of your life. I jumped into my university without the anticipation of senior year, and up until recently was trying to make long-distance work with my high school boyfriend. It was like I didn’t finish high school, I just stopped. I also tried to quit music during the move, but after my anxiety reached the point where I would find almost any excuse not to talk to people, music ended up being the only way for me to find a group where I felt a little bit comfortable. During the worst month or so, I got incredibly caught up with what was going on back home, visiting as often as possible and enjoying my old classmates surprise when they saw me in town. I was nostalgic for my chemistry partner, tech week, even relationship gossip that I’d found boring at the time. Case in point: moving on is hard, but I think the most important thing I took away from the letter was that it was time to do so. Or, like Gevinson writes, “Forever is not about being the best years of your life, just the most Forever-y.”