I subscribe to 17 Magazine, even though I’m almost twice that age. My husband is pretty creeped out by this, he doesn’t even pick it up when the mail comes, he’s scared to be seen anywhere near it. That’s okay.
I got a free subscription by buying cheap clothing from a retailer that is geared towards a younger crowd. Okay, fine, it was Forever 21.
Anyways, 17 Magazine is not so different from any adult woman’s magazine. There’s always a star on the cover that touts self-help stuff like, “Be true to yourself,” and “Hang out with your girlfriends!” There are clothes and makeup suggestions. 17 is different because it is guaranteed to have two pages devoted to stories from readers about humiliations such as, “A tampon was stuck to the back of my shinguard during soccer practice and my crush saw everything!”
The most recent issue has a story about the “Alpha Girl Suicides.” Girls that excelled in everything- school, athletics, looks, friends- and yet killed themselves, supposedly because they were tormented by their pursuit of perfection. There was the Ivy League track star, the young woman who was accepted to 7 law schools, and a 15 year old gymnast that wanted to be a doctor. The track star would text all of her friends before a test, “I’m going to fail!”
In grad school, I would say that to my husband every single time. “You said that last time and then you got an A, remember?” he would nicely point out and yet the anxiety felt so real every single time. “I hardly know any of this stuff,” my friend would say before class and then raise her hand and easily answer everything. “I sound like such an idiot,” she would say to me afterwards. “I almost passed out before my last exam,” my other friend always told me and I would tell her I felt the same way. We kept thinking that if we did poorly, then we would fail the class and then out of school and then lose all that money and never be able to get a job and on and on and on. I downloaded meditation music and listened to the playlist before exams or presentations in my car before class to try to calm my nerves.
“I’m always looking for the next thing,” my art star friend recently told me.
“Yeah, but that’s what makes you excel,” I told her, even though I know what she meant.
She meant that she never felt satisfied or good enough.
When I was the age of the Alpha Girl Suicides, I was not overly ambitious. I didn’t have test anxiety like I ended up having as an adult student. I liked to hang out with my friends and goof around in high school and college. I had recently started to wish that I had been more focused as a young person so that it would have helped my future but I am just glad that I was happy. The only person that can help me now is me now.