When I was seventeen, I wasn't afraid to be myself. I was a flat-chested, gangly teenage girl with crazy eyes. I was infatuated with indie music and films, and found that DIY subculture to be both inspiring and satisfying, as a form of expressing my creativity and individuality. I enjoyed being different and not liking the same things as my friends. However, I was always self-conscious of my eyes and body, so I lacked confidence. In high school, I felt like I had reasonably intelligent ideas to contribute, but I generally didn't ask many questions or speak my mind in class. So, I was seen as shy, quiet and introverted. A non-threatening weirdo, if you will.
Although in my mind, I was constantly questioning, examining and observing things. I would spend as much time as I could devouring as much information as I could about everything that I was into at the time. Discovering what influenced a band or film I liked, and what influenced that. Tracing it back as far as I could. It was a world in which I could daydream, and try to figure out who I was and where I belonged, without being pressured by peers or parents.
Tavi Gevinson is a 17 year old wunderkind, who lives with her parents in Oak Park, Chicago and attends a large public high school. She started a fashion blog, Style Rookie at age 11, and now in her spare time, curates her own online magazine for teenage girls called, Rookie, which covers everything from fashion to feminism in an honest, intelligent and insightful way. She was recently in Australia speaking at the Sydney Opera House and presented a keynote address at the Melbourne Writers Festival.
There is so much about Tavi that I revere, and although I wish Rookie existed when I was growing up, I think perhaps the crux of my admiration for her stems from a few things I've realised about myself, which she has inadvertently helped me to understand, through listening to her in interviews and the topics she articulately discusses in these videos.
Now in my thirties, I like my crazy eyes, and many friends are envious of my long skinny limbs. But, I think somewhere along the way, I subconsciously stopped questioning, examining and observing things, and had been limiting myself to arbitrarily conceived ideas of what I was and wasn't allowed to do or like. I had started accepting certain things in life as gospel and I wasn't questioning them in order to draw my own conclusions. I would feel guilty about liking particular things, instead of understanding what makes them specific to me.
And like Tavi, I sometimes get worried about not being original and authentic. Not only in my work, but also the kind of person I am. But, I've realised that being passionate, and obsessing over things that I love, and the refusal to try and act cool, the same as I did when I was a teenager, makes me happy. Things that I love are a reflection of oneself and not necessarily about the object of the affection. Learning to be open and to ask questions and finding a connectedness in the world is what adds value to life. It's good to shift and change, because I'm still discovering who I am. I want to continue to grow and learn and discover until I die.
Influences to trace back....
Here are some other talks Tavi has mentioned, which I've enjoyed particularly David Foster Wallace's commencement speech.
Emma Simons-Araya: Pressure, Power, Punk Rock
David Foster Wallace: This Is Water
Elizabeth Gilbert: Your Elusive Creative Genius ♦