As a teenager, my friends and I would regularly spend the majority of our weekend evenings visiting the mall, sleeping over each others’ houses and seeing the newest releases in the movie theatre. As a 30-year-old, I’m from the era of many beloved teen and young adult films, such as Never Been Kissed, She’s All That, Now & Then and a host of others, including 13 Going on 30, a 2004 movie starring Jennifer Garner, as an up and coming magazine editor who wakes up one day 17 years older. That movie, in itself, always particularly resonated with me, for no other reason then it was the life I THOUGHT I’d be leading, or sought to lead, rather. From a tender age, magazines were always fascinating to me and even as a kindergartner, I recall cradling my sister’s magazine in my hands, intrigued to look at the photos and layouts, hoping to someday read/comprehend all the words spilling across the pages.
Though I’ve seen 13 Going on 30 countless times, it was numerous years since the most recent occasion, but last night, as my mom and I sat down to dinner, I began channel surfing and landed on a showing of it and decided to catch the last 30 minutes. As Jennifer Garner and her fellow co-stars (Mark Ruffalo and a host of others) filled the screen, a moment of realization sunk in. The movie, from 2004, which premiered in late April, just days leading to my 16th birthday, now depicted adults the same age I currently am. It was eye-opening at that moment, watching a film I first watched and enjoyed as a teen believing I’d eventually be leading the “cosmopolitan” life I thought I coveted. Watching the movie became difficult for me and I found it nearly excruciating to get through; an instance completely the contrary to how I’d felt as a teen. After my 19th birthday, I all but abandoned my goals and dreams of one day becoming a magazine editor or journalist, switching my major halfway through college, realizing that maybe my original dreams no longer suited me and what I felt my calling was. Still though, watching the last parts of 13 Going on 30 was a reminder of everything I left behind and how my teenage and high school years came to an abrupt end at the beginning of my senior year in high school. Often times, as I’ve said to close family members, I feel as though I closed my eyes as a 17-year-old in early September, leaving behind friendships and goals and woke up much older, needing to readjust my dreams; similar, in a way, to Jenna, the title character in 13 Going on 30.
One thing about the movie though, still stands as true to me as it ever was. During one of the last scenes of the movie, Jenna, as a magazine editor, presents her “vision board,” to other magazine staffers and her boss, emphasizing the need to see REAL women in ads and magazine profiles. In this presentation, she states, “I want to see…real women who are smart and pretty and happy to be who they are… I think all of us want to feel something that we’ve forgotten or turned our backs on because maybe we didn’t realize how much we were leaving behind. We need to remember what used to be good. If we don’t, we won’t recognize it even if it hits us between the eyes.”
The perspective of Jenna is one I’ve always maintained, no matter the changes or shifts I’ve undergone in my life and in the 14 years since the movie’s premiere. Looking back on my difficulties in watching the film last night, I realize that even though my dreams of being a magazine editor living a sophisticated life may have shifted, I can see look that life and appreciate it, recognizing it as a beautiful one, but perhaps not for me. It’s the way I’ve started to look at other things in my life, simultaneously – seeing clothing or accessories on someone and appreciating how it looks on them, but realizing it isn’t right for me. Simply because we admire or think something or someone, for that matter, is beautiful does not mean or have to be right for me or us.
It’s true evidence of the quote, “The way we are looking at things changes the way we see them.”