I like going back to visit places that I had been when I was younger. I always remember things much bigger and more impressive than they actually are. It helps me put things in perspective and realize how much I've grown.
But relating to people of different ages as you move from one stage of your life to another can be very confusing. Though you are physically bigger than you once were, it's hard to decide who you truly relate to.
While others went home or to the beach, I decided to spend my spring break spending some quality time with my older sister and her family. Living under the assumed name "Uncle Elie", I immensely enjoyed being the fun and silly, if not utterly ridiculous, "kind of a kid and kind of a grownup".
You can cry like a child, and conquer like a grown-up. You can play without worry, and realize what is worth worrying about.
It was my six-year-old nephew who first made this observation. He told me that he knew that I could help him and do things for him that he couldn't do like an adult, but at the same time was still very much a kid at heart. He was right, but I never really gave it much thought. That was until I went to pick him up from kindergarten.
I showed up five minutes early, so I stood at the door and waited for his teacher to finish the story she was telling them. My eyes wandered around the room. Little chairs, little tables, little scissors, little projects and little people filled the room. I felt like a giant. I wondered if I would still be able to fit into one of those little chairs; I still remember that they used to be too heavy for me to carry across the room.
The walls were plastered with shiny posters busy with bright colors and huge, bolded words. I couldn't imagine that there was a time that I couldn't pronounce those words or name those colors. It was unreal.
The story was over and my nephew ran to greet me. His teacher looked up and smiled. "You must be 'Uncle Elie'," she said, "he was talking about you all day long." "Indeed I am," I responded as I returned the smile. And then I noticed that as we were talking, twenty little heads had turned and twenty little pairs of eyes were now focused on me. I felt very weird.
Was I supposed to be standing there looking down at them, or sitting in one of those little chairs? I looked up at the teacher and then down at the kids. I know I'm not a kid, but am I really an adult? I couldn't figure out who I related to more: the teacher or the kids. It made me feel a bit uneasy, but more than anything else, I just wanted an answer.
I think we are called "teens" because there is no real definitive category that we fit into. We aren't the kids we used to be, but we aren't our parents either. It's a complicated middle stage to which no one can really relate. This reality can be very strange. But it doesn't have to be all bad.
You may not realize it, but kids and adults would both kill to be a teenager. Why? You're young and energetic and still very capable. You get to be a childish adult and no one can blame you, because that is what you are. You still get butterflies. You can make mistakes and have plenty of time to figure out how to learn from them. You can cry like a child and conquer like a grown-up. You can play without worry, and realize what is worth worrying about.
My conclusion from all this? Don't look at being a teen as an eight year sentence of being confused and uncomfortable, but rather view it as an opportunity to live a million "do-overs", dream in color, and reflect on where you've been so that you can figure out the best way to get where you're going.