Tuesday, November 25, 2008

i must be myself

photo thanks to chrissy white

re-read a chunk of ralph waldo emerson's self-reliance right now, riddled with pen marks from my high school career, like asterisks and haphazard underlining.

i found this quote marked:

"i must be myself. i cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. if you can love me for what i am, we shall be the happier. if you cannot, i will still seek to deserve that you should. i must be myself. i will not hide my tastes or aversions. i will so trust that what is deep is holy, that i will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever inly rejoices me, and the heart appoints."

it reminded me of this little anecdote found in sunday's nytimes magazine :

It was my daughter’s birthday, and she was turning 14 — an age everyone was warning me about. On Facebook, I noticed that a friend had recommended a music video on YouTube, so I clicked on it. The video is basically a compilation of clips from other YouTube videos that kids have made of themselves dancing in their basements. It’s all set to a song by a band called Tomboyfriend.

In one clip, a boy wearing a toque and enormous sunglasses waves his arms around seductively. In another, a kid dressed in a motorcycle helmet kicks his legs up to the side in a sort of hoedown move. Each time you watch it, you have a different favorite kid. They flail their arms around and gyrate their hips and completely, completely let themselves go.

It’s pretty clear in each clip that there is either no one behind the camera or another teenager holding it. Each scene captures teenagers experiencing joy utterly un-self-consciously, acting in ways that would make any adult who walked in say, “What the . . . ?”

As I watched, I suddenly remembered this part of being a teenager. Half the time they’re doing something incredibly bad — tying another kid to a pole with the belt from their school uniform or smoking pot in the alley. That’s what teenagers are famous for. But you forget the side of them that just lives in the moment and laughs all afternoon and feels a rock song the way adults never can and spends all day looking for the most original way to shout out: “I am here! I am me!”

It made me profoundly happy that Arizona was turning 14. I knew the year was going to be full of moments of happy absurdity.

by HEATHER O’NEILL (author of “Lullabies for Little Criminals”)

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