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Pen15 Saved My Past Life

by Ariel Joseph 4 months ago in humanity
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I spent too much of my time trying to forget my adolescence.

The several hours long phone calls with friends. The heart wrenching crushes. The adolescent traumas that would give us our first terrifying look into the future and the truth about adulthood.

The cringe.

These are the things that shape us and never have I ever seen a show that managed to capture these experiences as purely and as delicately as Pen15.

It sounds dramatic, but I mean it when I say this show saved my past life. It saved it from fading into oblivion, because despite being generally comfortable with my life now, my past life is one I desperately wanted to forget.

It didn't feel like it represented me as I am. I looked back and saw a scared, insecure girl. A girl who devalued herself. A girl who lied about her own intelligence in an attempt to make other people like her more. A girl who seldom felt comfortable putting herself into any situation where she might be left vulnerable, and ended up missing out on so many opportunities because of it.

I left this girl behind. I know a part of her still lives on in me, but I've spent so much of my adulthood trying to forget she ever existed. I was ashamed of her. I was angry that I let her get the best of me.

How much of my personality was completely fabricated? How many of my friendships were ultimately based on a version of me that didn't really exist? Back then, at the end of the day, coming home from school felt like shedding a second skin and it was only a matter of hours I had to relax before I had to put it on again.

I left her behind. For so many years I couldn't face her.

I was embarrassed. Thinking about the way I used to let certain people treat me. Or thinking about how I too, like Maya, waited what felt like forever for my first kiss. It felt like the biggest embarrassment of my life and not only was I ashamed of it, but I tried to keep it hidden like some dirty little secret which inevitably just led to more problems.

There was of course, a boy who found out after already getting to know me and then deciding he wasn't interested because my inexperience was "weird". Or those "friends" who would use my little secret as a weapon against me, releasing the information when it served them to do so.

I left home for the first time at 17, right after graduating high school and I was determined to find myself in a place where no one knew me and I could reinvent myself and this time actually be who I wanted to be.

I'm a person who values privacy, maybe to an extreme. There's not a single person in my life who knows everything there is to know about me. No one who has all the pieces, and now I realize it's because of her.

It's because of that girl who I was so ashamed of. I still live in the constant fear that the more I give, the more can be used against me, so if I just give pieces of myself and never the entirety, I can keep my secrets and I can keep her locked away and I'll never have to worry about being hurt.

I only keep a few close friends. One of them I met in my sophomore year of high school. Meeting her felt like a godsend. At a time where I was uncomfortable around most people, here was someone who finally I didn't feel like I had to act like anything around. We are still friends, all these years later.

She's the one who begged me to watch Pen15 because according to her we were just like Maya and Anna, except, as she pointed out, "that was us in high school instead of middle school, which is really embarrassing."

It is embarrassing, but almost two decades later I'm finally okay with that.

Pen15 saved my past life, because in the stories of Maya and Anna I found that girl I tried to forget. I saw clearly, somehow for the first time, that I wasn't alone. That my experiences that made me so uncomfortable and so ashamed, they were much more universal than I ever could've accepted at the time.

Growing up in the late 90s/early 2000s, feeling ready to sell my soul just to fit in, it turns out this was a well known experience. It had to be, because right here, in front of me, these two women just a couple years older than me, are reliving it for me.

Pen15 ends simply with Maya and Anna on the phone talking about how their lives will stay interconnected forever and that's the part where I knew, that girl I hid away, she's still in me and the closest people to me, they know it. They see her and they still love me and that's enough.

The best of us have parts of our past selves we'd probably like to forget, but it's doing a disservice to our current selves to let them be forgotten. After all, that girl and those true friends who stayed with me all this time, they made me who I am today.


About the author

Ariel Joseph

I love to write pretty much everything and anything, except profile page bio's.

You can check out more of what I'm doing on my website 👇🏼

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insights

  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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