Reason nr 1000 why I heart Mindy Kaling
I find that my role models have changed a lot with the times. As I have grown up (yes, it's inevitable to admit that I have, in fact, grown up, no matter how much I may want to deny this) I no longer want to be the glossy, impossibly beautiful actress; I now aspire to emulate the spirited, successful businesswoman, the inspirational activist or the really funny writer. Especially the latter appeals to me, as writing is my passion in so many ways. This is why my new idols include fabulous TV writer Tina Fey, brilliant journalist Caitlin Moran and the infinitely genius actress and writer Mindy Kaling. Reading the "Don't Peak in High School" chapter of Mindy's autobiographic book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) on the Tube today, I felt like jumping up and down and yelling, "yeah!". Which would have been a very special treat for the other passengers. But I'm fairly certain that if they knew what I was raving about, most of them would agree with me.
Here's an excerpt (that I've cut-and-pasted a bit - I could hardly put the whole chapter in a post, could I?)
"Teenage girls, please don't worry about being super popular in high school, or being the best actress in high school, or the best athlete. Not only do people not care about any of that the second you graduate, but when you get older, if you reference your successes in high school too much, it actually makes you look kind of pitiful, like some babbling old Tennessee Williams character with nothing else going on in her current life. What I've noticed is that almost no one who was a big star in high school is also a big star later in life. For us overlooked kids, it's so wonderfully fair.
I was never the lead in the play. I don't think I went to a single party with alcohol. No one offered me pot. It wasn't until I was sixteen that I even knew marijuana and pot were the same thing. I didn't even learn this from a cool friend; I gleaned it from an episode of 21 Jump Street.
It is easy to freak out as a sensitive teenager. I always felt I was missing out because of the way the high school experience was dramatized in television and song. For every realistic My So-Called Life, there were ten 90210s or Party of Fives, where a twenty-something Luke Perry was supposed to be a typical guy at your high school. If Luke Perry had gone to my high school, everybody would have thought, "what's the deal with this brooding greaser? Is he a narc?". But that's who Hollywood put forth as 'just a dude at your high school'.
In high school, I had fun in my academic clubs, watching movies with my girlfriends, learning Latin, having long, protracted, unrequited crushes on guys who didn't know me, and yes, hanging out with my family. I liked hanging out with my family! So yeah, it added up to a happy, memorable time. Even though I was never a star.
I just want ambitious teenagers to know it is totally fine to be quiet, observant kids. So many people I work with - famous actors, accomplished writers - were overlooked in high school. Sit next to the class clown and study him. Then grow up, take everything you learned and get paid to be a real-life clown, unlike whatever unexciting thing the actual high school class clown is doing now.
In the genre of "making you feel like you missed out on an awesome high school experience", the worst offender is actually a song: Jack & Diane by John Cougar Mellencamp. The chorus is, "oh yeah, life goes on, after the thrill of living is gone".
Are you kidding me? The thrill of living was high school? Come on, mr. Cougar Mellencamp. Get a life."
I love this so much. I was the nerdy, weirdly-dressed, vegetarian girl in high school. The "school nerd" that never actually studied: I just learned certain things very quickly (not math) and got good grades. Except in PE which I hated with all my power. But I always knew that this, middle school and high school in Stockholm, wasn't my actual life. This wasn't where all my amazing experiences were to happen. This wasn't where my wine drinking, happily stumbling, closed-eyes kissing, carefree dancing and memorable-photo taking would take place. I just had to patiently wait until I was old enough to get the heck out of high school and out of Sweden. When classmates made fun of me, excluded me from their little cliques or failed to invite me to their parties, I was fine with it. I didn't care about being one of them (and I guess it showed) because my true friends, the company I was meant to keep, was elsewhere. And it was true.
I left Sweden at nineteen and went on to do lots of crazy, reckless, immature, irresponsible and awesomely brilliant things. I met so many amazing, quirky, interesting people and I was never treated like a freak or an outsider again. I never became famous. I never became rich. But I discovered so many things about myself and about people and about the world, things I would never have learned if I would have been the pretty, popular, conformist girl in high school. Because I guess my mindset would be different then. I'm happy to see there are people like Mindy who make it big and show teenage girls that it's okay to just be yourself. And that your teenage years aren't the end of everything. Life is out there. It's even more insanely amazing than you dare dream.
Picture from Pinterest.