Anyone else got that ‘end of term’ feeling right now? A therapist explains why we’re reverting to our teenage selves.
“It’s just not right for a little girl to love a hairless pony.”
This is one of the many iconic Julie Cooper lines I have reacquainted myself with recently. I’ve been re-watching The OC for about a month, trying to limit it to no more than two episodes a day. I passionately sing “Californiaaa!” while the titles play with as much pomp and passion as I did when I first watched the series when it was released way back in 2003.
I am the same 14-year-old teenager who is obsessed with Marissa Cooper’s wardrobe, Sandy Cohen’s eyebrows and Ryan Atwood’s chain (Connell who?). I’ve even started listening to the accompanying podcast, Welcome To The OC, Bitches!, fully immersing myself into this nostalgic world of indie bands, the Crab Shack and Seth Cohen one-liners.
The other day, I even picked up a Juicy Couture velour tracksuit in Urban Outfitters (yes, folks, they’re back), and seriously considered going for it.
This isn’t the only way I’m acting like my teenage self at the moment. I listen to 18-year-old Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour album daily, screaming lyrics that remind me of the Avril Lavigne tunes that guided me through my own rough teenhood. I choose to sit in the park with a bag of tinnies over going to the newly opened pubs and beer gardens. I’m shirking the career and home responsibilities I’ve spent the last 18 months working on. I keep dreaming about the mischief, scandal and fun I want to be part of in the summer months. I’m done with giving myself a hard time about ‘adulting’. I am 17 again, basically, with that ‘end of school term’ feeling.
“I spent so much time and effort focusing on doing a good job at work in lockdown, and I’m just so over it now,” my 29-year-old friend Cleo* tells me. “At the minute, I think I’m pretty much prioritising having fun in the park and I’m going a bit boy mad instead. I guess that’s me acting a bit like a carefree teenager.”
For my fellow 30-something colleague Kayleigh, she’s revisiting the things she loved as a teen: “I’m wearing slogan tees and dungarees on a pretty much permanent basis. I zigzagged my parting the other day, and am even considering buying a pair of jelly shoes. I’ve started craving Sunny D now the weather is warming up, too. What is happening?”
According to Michelle Scott, a psychotherapist from The Recovery Centre Group (TRC), it’s very natural for us to act like this when the weather warms up: “Seasonally, summer is a time when we do feel safer because the days are long and we’re no longer hiding in our caves,” she tells Stylist.
But the easing of lockdown restrictions only bolsters this carefree attitude. Scott says that, after the 18 months we’ve had in the pandemic, this can actually be a good thing: “It’s a sign that you’re feeling hopeful and optimistic after holding your breath all this time. You’re feeling safer and more able to connect. It sounds like you’re no longer in fight or flight mode; your nervous system is returning to its normal state.”
Explaining why people go back to the teenage self, she adds: “It’s connecting back to the last time you felt like you were in a place of safety, and were more protected from adult life. Also, as teenagers, we feel opportunities are endless – we’re super human. You’re revisiting that natural feeling of being able to do anything, and having courage to go out into the world.”
However, Scott warns that it’s important to remain mindful when you take some time out of normal life: “Just be careful. We’ve been sitting in trauma for a long time and people have been feeling guilty, so you do need a way to step out of it. But that’s just as long as you’re not doing it everyday. Mindfully engage with it – use it as a boost rather than something that helps you avoid getting on with life and processing things.”
The reality is that, yes, it’s not OK to walk away from adult responsibilities just because the end of this damn pandemic is in sight and the sun is providing some serious vit D. That said, I’m still going to embrace more of those nostalgic, carefree moments as a little reward for getting through this horror show.
In the words of Julie: “I’ll make the margs. We’ll make a party out of it.”
*Name changed at contributor’s request