Too often I find myself thinking about the word 'awkward' and all its versatile uses. Who decided that certain situations, actions, and interactions are not deemed "normal," but rather labeled an uncomfortable, awkward, or cringy experience that we either laugh about later or feel self-conscious about years later. After we saw Olivia Wilde's new movie "Booksmart" (as a side note I 12 out of 10 recommend this movie), one of my best friends and I looked back and simultaneously laughed and cringed about how awkward our high school freshmen-selves were. How we talked almost exclusively to each other, had uncomfortable conversations with our peers, and how being called on by a teacher to read anything aloud to the class was just about the worst thing we could ever imagine happening. We had a great time freshmen year, and because of our co-dependency that year, I can't imagine a day when she won't be one of my best friends. However, while so many memories from that year are priceless, some I would gladly erase given the opportunity.
We might have laughed at how awkward we were, but it also left us feeling extremely uncomfortable in our skin, terrified of what other people thought of us, and we walked around like cartoon characters with clouds parked over our heads. I think a lot of us feel this way, personifying and vilifying the word "awkward," granting the interpretation of that word the power of a defining label. Therefore, both of us were sufficiently happy when we felt like we finally outgrew our 'awkward' phase, and grew into confident — slightly more confident — college grown-ups. However, although we've mostly outgrown that phase, memories from those years that are hard to remember, but even harder to forget. Bad feelings, impossible to shake, find their roots in those awkward years of high school and refuse to vacate.
The word awkward has a weird power because sometimes it can make someone feel bad about themselves, but at other times it can make someone appear quirky and charming. However, despite how it may feel in a specific moment, "Awkwardness" has always felt like something I've had to strive to overcome. I've always thought I could just grow out of it, and train myself to not be awkward. Today, as a twenty-year-old college student, I sometimes feel like the new and improved me, but other times I still feel like an uncomfortable, tentative fifteen-year-old dying to be comfortable. However, the other when that same freshmen friend and I walked out of the movie theater, laughing about the similarities between the characters of "Booksmart," and how we acted all those years ago, I had a thought. What if there is no outgrowing our scared, "awkward" parts? What if being comfortable and happy comes from accepting that being awkward doesn't have to be a bad thing, and that being awkward may be a small part of my personality. Maybe it's something I don't need to and shouldn't change.
After all, we all can't help being a bit awkward sometimes. In fact, I think awkwardness may be part of what makes life so unexpected and fun. If it wasn't, why would people make a movie about it?