read time: 5 min
As a woman who is currently 20, I am beginning to realize things about adulthood that I never even realized were things adults had to do. One of those depressing realizations was that the books adults are expected to read are completely and totally terrible. They are either self-help books, depressing books about tragic things, or really boring books about ‘real people’ doing ‘real things’. So as I was placed in three back to back quarantines over the month of November, I decided that not only am I done with the depressing reality of life in a pandemic, but I am also done with reading about it. So I checked out some books from my library (in a safe and socially distanced way) that were all from the children’s section and were about middle schoolers doing middle schooler things, a boy who believed in aliens, a middle school ghost story, and a really bad book about a girl who tried to write a blog for her school.
It was glorious! These books were goofy and lighthearted, even when they dealt with some of the darker themes of life. I didn’t walk away from a single one feeling the crushing despair of existence, but rather I felt uplifted and inspired of how the simple things in life really can be the most exciting and important. Above all, they reminded me of middle school, which gave me a strange sense of comfort. I know for most of us our middle school years are hardly ones we ever want to relive, but as my quarantine carried on and on, I found myself returning to the things I enjoyed in middle school.
I played through the entire game of My Sims Kingdom on my Wii, a game I haven’t seriously considered since 2013. I also played on my 2DS, another game console that has been sentenced to the distant corners of my mind since I beat the Elite Four in Pokémon when I was an 8th grader. I downloaded Tik Tok and followed a bunch of pretty teenage girls that try on clothes and do their makeup. It’s a media form that is very reminiscent of the beauty bloggers I would watch do their makeup for hours on end when I was in the 7th grade. I’ve also spent an absurd amount of cash on a new wardrobe over these past 3 months, a shopping move that once again, I have not engaged in since the distant days of high school.
But why is this? Why am I finding so much joy in middle school hobbies?
Because quarantine is a lot like middle school.
During the pandemic we as individuals, as well as a society, were not allowed to see certain people, go certain places, and do certain things. For some of us, we were strictly isolated to our homes for weeks on end.
This sounds very familiar to my personal middle school experience. I couldn’t hang out with people unless I asked my Mom, and while she typically said yes there were times when we had familial obligations, or it was too late in the day, or she simply wanted me to stay home that afternoon. When I was allowed to hang out with a friend my Mom had to drive me over to their house, and from there my friend’s parents had to bring us everywhere. Naturally, there were places we couldn’t go, because we were being chaperoned and ultimately it was the adult driver that determined if we could stop at McDonalds on the way home or stay at the mall for an extra 2 hours. And of course, part of growing up is getting in trouble, and for me my big punishment was being grounded.
Horrifyingly, all of these things are once again happening to me. And I feel the same way as I did in middle school. As an 11 to 13-year-old I longed for independence and freedom that I simply could not have because I was too young to drive, and too young to do anything. I remember being particularly angsty about this; feeling like I want to change the world and live my life, and yet feeling trapped by being too young.
In quarantine I long for the freedom to do the things I once enjoyed without a feeling of guilt or anxiety. I want to see my friends and go to concerts and enjoy long hours of shopping at the mall, and yet I am stopped by the invisible, controlling hand of the CDC - an organization that day by day is starting to feel more like a strict parent.
So I return to these adolescent pleasures of playing Wii games, reading goofy books, and watching beautiful people on the internet because I have found myself feeling the same way I did in middle school. What all these pleasures have in common is that they provide a much needed escape from the dismal and boring reality I’ve found myself in. In middle school I was bored with being young and feeling controlled, and now in 2020, 8 years later, I find myself bored with a life that is lonely and predictable day after day.
Am I alone on this? I understand we’ve all had different middle school experiences, but is anyone returning to childhood nostalgia during quarantine? Are you also seeking out the escapist pleasures you once enjoyed in the past? Let me know.
written controversially by
grace and hannah