On being a teenage girl in her twenties

TikTok’s newest catchphrases explore reverting back to girlhood as a form of escapism from adult responsibilities

Courtesy Serenity Melvin

All over the internet, women are posting videos of themselves indulging in their childhood favourites whilst refusing to partake in all traditional adult responsibilities.

With nostalgia being one of the biggest selling points of the moment, I get to experience seeing many of the pop-culture phenomenons I grew up with beat the height of their popularity. From Taylor Swift and Beyoncé’s sold-out tours, to the return of the Tumblr aesthetic and the Hunger Games being back in theatres—which is a big one for me—I get to experience all the things I loved as a kid, this time with a little bit more money and a lot more freedom.

I often feel my teens passed me by, marked only by the lowest moments of my life and by a desperate scramble for the approval of others that I couldn’t give myself. My teen years were largely spent between the four dirty white walls of my therapist’s office and struggling with an anxiety disorder. When my friends went out, I stayed cooped-up inside with the lights off and the curtains closed, listening to sad music, and doom-scrolling endlessly. 

Due to this, it does strike me as bizarre how much I yearn for that time. Despite the fact that I am now struggling with bills and adult responsibilities, I can confidently say that I am much happier than I was back then. 

I have noticed my  uniquely pointed ability to put on my rose-coloured glasses when looking back at my life. But then again, finding joy in the things that were once my only source of light isn't entirely out of the ordinary. 

Besides, the traditional post-university path of financial stability, marriage, kids, and property ownership is becoming increasingly less plausible and looking to the future can be quite terrifying. 

The odds that I get a stable job right out of university like my parents did are slim, and following in their footsteps feels more like a hazy dream than a tangible reality. Why not fully embrace this time of uncertainty by unabashedly relishing in the things that bring me joy? Not doing so won’t bring me any closer to a 401k.   

The yearning for a time past is made ever so easier by the constant rebooting, repackaging and republicizing of every semi-profitable piece of media of the past decade. Staying up until midnight waiting for the re-release of 1989, the album that got me through high school, and watching the Barbie movie dressed in pink surrounded by my closest girlfriends felt healing to a part of my girlhood I didn’t know I needed. 

This is not to say that there is no valid criticism of the lazy and overdone nostalgia marketing that led to countless lazy live-action remakes of classic movies and one too many superhero blockbusters. There is undoubtedly a lack of willingness to invest in young and diverse talent and creativity and an overreliance on a dated formula, leading to unoriginal films with an overall lower quality. 

However, seeing Greta Gerwig being embraced when I grew up seeing other talented female directors, like Sophia Coppola, be berated for their unapologetic femininity gives me hope for the future of storytelling and women’s place in it.

There is still so much further to go, especially in terms of diversity, and I hope that the media’s depiction of girlhood steps away from how overwhelmingly white it has been and continues to be. Everyone deserves to feel their girlhood represented and heal the part of themselves they believed they left behind when they walked at their high school graduation.

This article originally appeared in Volume 44, Issue 7, published November 28, 2023.