So you can’t see your friends. Maybe it’s time to hang out with your younger self.
For many of us, this is a time of sitting in our childhood bedrooms, surrounded by the decorations and books we left behind after high school, while desperately trying to maintain who we are as adults. We have the setting of a school break with none of the substance, trying to keep up the priorities we left behind, cope with a global pandemic, and still use this as an opportunity for personal improvement. We are meant to see our houses as cocoons that we can emerge from post-quarantine, completely in shape and with freshly baked bread in hand.
For the more pop-culture minded, this mindset often extends to media consumption. Listicles tell you what shows to finally binge, what books you should be reading, and what movies are worth renting. I knew I wanted to spend my own quarantine improvement to finally get into all of the nerdy classics I had neglected. Maybe if I didn’t bring some of my favorite books back home with me, I would finally get around to reading my dad’s old copies of “Lord of the Rings.” Maybe I would finally watch “Star Trek” instead of moving straight to rewatching “New Girl.”
But in this uncomfortable, uncertain time, there’s also something to be said for looking at what surrounds you. When I moved back home, I didn’t finish any of the bucket list items that I was certain I would finally have time to check off. Instead, I found myself reflecting on the strangeness and bitter nostalgia of being in my old hometown with most of my favorite childhood spots still beyond my reach, with my high school friends seemingly just as separated from me now as they were miles away. So without really thinking about it, in looking for something familiar, I returned to some even older friends: my childhood bookshelf.
I started with the “Hunger Games,” and I was amazed with it. Despite having read the series countless times as a kid, I was still continually impressed by what it had to offer. If anything, reading this series from an adult perspective made me fully appreciate how well thought out and just plain smart the books were. As a tween, I loved the fast-paced action, the romance, the flash and lights of the story. But it also made me reflect on heavy topics I never would have otherwise as a child — the role of propaganda, the value of a human life, and how I would react if I was ever put into Katniss’ position. Returning to it as an adult, I was pleasantly surprised by how nuanced each of these points remained from an adult perspective, and how these perspectives only grow when looking at them with a more mature point of view. I was impressed; this was a series I had started reading at 12 — an entire decade ago — and I was just as enraptured reading at 22.
This isn’t to necessarily tell you to reread “The Hunger Games,” although I do recommend it, but to return to the pieces of media that defined your own childhood. Replay the video game you loved, go back to the “Vampire Diaries” or “Doctor Who” or “Naruto.” Pull your old favorites from your childhood bookshelves. Find the book you tried to write at 13 and see if any of the ideas still work. It may be easy to write off what we loved in middle school and high school as “immature,” but a lot of what we read as children wasn’t necessarily childish — we liked it for a reason. There’s something to be said for trusting the tastes of your younger self, and a return to something you’ve stepped away from for so many years can often be just as valuable as consuming something new for the first time. Noting the things you loved, and if time and experience have made you love them more or less, allows you to explore the person you were then, and the person you’ve become.
Art by Angela Liang for the UCSD Guardian.