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When I was 15

At ReachOut.com, as we prepare for our 15th birthday,we’re talking/thinking/reminiscing about what it’s like to be 15 years old. This week, ReachOut.com intern extraordinaire, Sharon Lum, talks about what being 15 was like for her, and why turning 15 can be an important life milestone. 

To think back to when I was 15 feels like it may as well be the crustaceous period. MySpace had just launched, everyone carried a Nokia 3310 and YouTube wouldn’t be invented for another 2 years. Unlike some of my favourite fictional characters, my 15th year wasn’t spent creating a resistance group against an evil regime or suddenly developing magical powers, instead it meant reading Girlfriend magazine, listening to So Fresh CD's and finally being able to go to M15+ movies.

If you had a choice about what age you got to be again, what age would it be? For me, it’s unlikely that 15 would even make the trials, let alone be in contention to win. Not to say that being 15 was completely horrible, but it was confusing age where I stood on the cusp of many life milestones but was not quite able to take that next step. It was a time when I felt like I knew everything but wasn’t allowed to drive; a time when I had figured out most of the high school but still didn’t know where I fit into it.

It’s this undeniable confusion that exists when we’re 15 that makes it irresistible to authors and TV producers. From the argumentative romance of Seth and Summer from the OC, to the tortured glances of Dawson from Dawson’s Creek, the creative industry had embraced this year of life because its importance in figuring out who we are as individuals. It is an ideal setting point for conflict in a story because at least for me, despite being at the peak of my social, physical and emotional awkwardness, I believed that that I knew everything and consequences only applied to other people. In this perfect storm of hormones, changes and peer pressure, it is often when we start to push the boundaries of what is considered being a “child”. Sex ed suddenly becomes something more than an embarrassing video that you had to watch in class and alcohol transforms from a disgusting liquid in your parents cupboards into a prized possession. Decisions are made rashly, often to defy parents or to fit in with friends. What makes this period even more difficult is that in a time when there is so much potential danger that I needed a parent to guide me through it, is the exact time when I wanted to ask for their help the least. 

Though the world is continually changing along technological, social and geographical lines, being 15 has remained fairly similar over the past few decades. The new desire for independence and to establish a unique identity; is vital as part of this life stage. Samantha Baker in 16 Candles could probably empathise with the reminder of 15 year old innocence in the lyrics of 15 by Taylor Swift. This innocence and desire for independence is what for me, would make being 15 a year worth reliving. Though I didn’t appreciate it at the time, it is the thing that allows us to take chances and make choices that start shaping as people. Being 15 for many of us was and is difficult, but it is these times that are essential for teaching us the basic lessons that we need to prepare us for the real world.