Diary of a Professional Teen is a weekly column of #deep thoughts by twentysomething teenager and youth expert Taylor Trudon. Every Thursday, she’ll talk about her feelings in relation to what it’s like to be a Young Person in 2016.
I was born a fish. Well, not technically. According to my mother, I was born pink and screaming. “You were pissed off,” she said, describing my reluctant departure from the cocoon of warm liquid that I had occupied for nine months.
A textbook Pisces, I’ve always loved the water. When I was little, my parents would take me to the beach in Rhode Island, the same one that Taylor Swift’s gated summer mansion now looks over. I’d spend hours jumping waves, building dribble sand castles, and saving moon jellies that had washed up onto the sand by throwing them back into the ocean. The sun would set and my mom would call for me to get out of the water, but I’d ignore her, letting the tide pull me a little further in. It would get colder and I’d watch the goosebumps rise on my wet skin. And for a peaceful, brief amount of time, I was alone with my thoughts, floating in an alternate universe where only I existed.
When I got to be a little older, my fascination with astrology coincided with my love of magazines. Starting with Seventeen in middle school, I’d sneak a glossy onto the conveyor belt at the grocery store when my mom wasn’t looking. Once home, I’d flip past the cover story, “embarrassing moments,” and makeup tips, heading straight to the very last page to find my zodiac sign. Would my crush finally notice me? Would something exciting happen to me at school? Today I religiously read Susan Miller. I follow astrologer Danielle Ayoka and parody accounts like the Astro Poets on Twitter. I’ve had my palm read multiple times and once visited a teen medium, who had me place my hand on a giant amethyst crystal as she told me I’d endure three major heartbreaks in my life.
My mom has a faded blue-green koi fish tattoo above her left ankle. It's supposed to represent her three children, who were all born in March. We are each deeply sensitive, almost to a fault — a classic Pisces trait. My mom will occasionally screenshot our horoscope and text it to me and my brothers. “For my three fish,” she’ll say.
We cling to this uniting characteristic because, despite our individual differences, it comforts us; it makes us feel closer. And isn’t that the appeal of astrology? It lets us believe what we want to be true about ourselves. We cherry-pick what we think applies to us and ignore what does not. Its predictions — that you’ll make a big career move or encounter financial hardship — can seem far-fetched, but not so much that they’re entirely impossible. Maybe this will be the month that you find your soulmate or get that promotion. It’s the possibility that is most intriguing. Even if one month is awful or uneventful, it’s all the more reason to return 30 days later, ready to be told that something amazing has the potential to happen. This time, things could get better even when the world feels especially terrible.
“Can you imagine,” my high school English teacher once asked our class, “feeling the weight of everyone’s pain in the world? How heavy that would be?” We had been reading Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and were discussing how the protagonist’s struggles paralleled those of the author’s, whose lifelong battle with mental illness ultimately drove her to suicide at the age of 30. No, I cannot imagine it, I thought. To my teenage self, dealing with my own personal stresses was hard enough without adding everyone else’s on top of them. The world already felt heavy enough. Now that I’m older, I know that it can get heavier than you’d ever think possible.
I’ve thought a lot this year about that day in class. Every day, we’re confronted with a new real-world tragedy, another depressing news report to digest. The struggle to cope with our own private pain can feel insignificant beside the public pain we see on the news — pain that has always been there in one form or another but that recent events have intensified.
Pisces have never been ones for confronting reality. We’d much rather live in our own fantasy worlds. Unfortunately, we can’t afford to live there. None of us can. The stakes are much too high to ignore what is happening. When Hillary Clinton lost last month’s election, it felt like someone had died. I had proudly cast my ballot for her, the letters “NASTY WOMAN” painted on my fingernails, so confident that she would win. In the immediate days following the loss, hours would pass and then, out of nowhere, I'd remember. Oh. Right. That happened. Everything seemed so surreal — like I was floating in cold water. I wasn’t sure what to believe or what I believed in.
But I know I still believe in moving forward, because remaining frozen accomplishes nothing. I believe in finding comfort in things like donating to Planned Parenthood, stringing white twinkly lights on a Christmas tree, FaceTiming with the people I love, and reading made-up prophecies likely written by a recent college grad in her pajamas while wrapped in a dog-hair-covered blanket — someone who could be me.
Like the exchange I had with the barista who smiled and complimented my shirt while he was ringing up my latte, not everything has to mean something, but for a moment, we can pretend that it does. He’s not the love of my life, but for the two seconds it takes for him to hand me back my change, I can imagine he could be. It’s OK to allow ourselves to get lost in the meaningless for a minute, whether it’s taking a “What Your Starbucks Order Says About Your Relationship Status” quiz or watching Rob and Chyna reruns — so long as you are able to come back to actual reality.
I got the new issue of Cosmo in the mail the other day, the last one of the year. Jenna Dewan Tatum is on the cover, wearing a gold sequined two-piece. I flipped to the back of the magazine to skim my horoscope for 2017. It tells me that I should try group fitness classes, to “freshen” my professional social media presence, that “love may strike like lightning this year.” I probably won’t sign up for aerial yoga anytime soon, but I might swap in a new LinkedIn photo one of these days. “Add a little more drive to your dreams and success will be yours!” it tells me. Whether this is true or not, I’d like to think it’s solid advice worth taking. And without further contemplation, I turn to the beginning of the magazine and start reading.
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