“It is the teenage feelings that are the most intoxicating, the ones that have the power to render you helpless.” – Maybe in Another Life, Taylor Jenkins Reid
~ There will always be that person who has the power, inevitably and after all, to make you feel warm. ~
It’s time to start talking about another novel on the blog, don’t you think? As much as I can gush about the Victorian era and its literature all day, every day, I have now read two Victorian novels in a row (Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters and Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd), so I’m ready to delve into something a bit more contemporary. And what better than a piece of romantic fiction (chick lit, as some call it, although I think that term can be a bit offensive) to fulfill my need for a narrative about True Love?
I’ve started reading Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel Maybe in Another Life and I’m quite enjoying it so far. The structure of the novel (this information is all provided in the blurb on the back of the book, so I’m not spoiling anything) is very unique: the main character, Hannah Martin, lives two lives in this novel, as two different storylines emerge out of two choices she could’ve made on one night. It’s kind of like the movie Sliding Doors, which I actually used to love and watch over and over, but in book form! I find it pretty enjoyable to try to draw the threads between the stories and to see what huge events are altered by Hannah’s choice, and I’m getting through the novel rather quickly.
Although the writing style and voice is simple and not altogether groundbreaking in any way, I do like Hannah enough, and I am rooting for her to succeed and find happiness. Sometimes she says the most poignant things, without even realizing it, and she easily makes me feel as though we could be girlfriends. She also seems to feel a lot of the same things most women in their twenties have felt – including a nostalgic connection to her high school sweetheart.
We don’t all marry our high school sweethearts, and in fact, some of us don’t even date them. That would be my case right there: I never dated the guy I had eyes on for my entire adolescence, and I never will. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t an emotion there, a profound feeling, that can’t be easily shaken. I may’ve never called this person my boyfriend, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t get that warm and excited feeling in my chest whenever he walked in the room, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a tiny bit of that, a fraction of it, even now, whenever I chance to encounter him.
~ Maybe, despite years and distance, the person who made you feel warm, will always make you feel that way. ~
This is what Hannah seems to hit at in the quote cited above. “Teenage feelings”, those emotions that appear all of a sudden when we turn 13 (as if!) and last well into adulthood, are hard to shake. Even if you don’t regret the past, don’t long to go back and do things differently, don’t feel like you wish you were living a different life now, it is still possible to reminisce on those past, teenage days and miss them and certain people more than you may care to admit.
And isn’t that okay? It doesn’t take anything away from the present to hold onto a little piece of the past. Just because I feel warm when I happen to think about those moments in high school that made me smile and brightened my days, does not mean I don’t feel warmer in the present when my boyfriend holds me tight. Just because there are people who our hearts latched onto in the past, and maybe hold onto in some way forever, does not mean we can’t make room and give bigger, more significant space to people we meet in the future. Maybe Hannah’s “teenage feelings” are meant to last forever, are meant to be formative and shape the people we will become. Without them, we aren’t us, we’re only a fraction of the people we are capable of being.
I hang onto my own teenage feelings, and I don’t mind doing it. I don’t by any means let them control me, and I don’t ever actually let them “render [me] helpless” like Hannah talks about. But I give them their right to exist because they are a part of me, a vital part that makes me exactly who I am. And I don’t want to lose them or give them up – they’re something to be prized and appreciated, not shaken.
Girl with a Green Heart