It was a night like any other. I had just finished washing my face and could still taste the mintiness of my toothpaste. I laid my head on my pillows and opened up my new favorite app — TikTok.
Watching the short, comedic videos became a part of my nightly routine when I downloaded the app last semester. I get a sense of peace from ending my days with a lighthearted laugh.
But, as I scrolled through the endless loop of videos on this particular night, I noticed a new trend that didn’t make me laugh.
I watched TikTok after TikTok of teenagers sitting silently in their bedrooms while the song Ribs by Lorde played in the background.
Through overlaid text, people expressed sadness that their youth was fleeting, and regret over not receiving a movie-like experience during their adolescence.
I felt pity for teenagers I’d never met before. Not because they didn’t get their movie-like high school years, but because they thought a “movie” experience was realistic at all.
As teens, we shouldn’t compare our lives to the coming of age movies and TV shows we watch. They’re made to highlight and exaggerate the best parts of being young, so our real lives fall short every time.
I used to think my experiences didn’t hold value because I compared them to the characters in my favorite movies. But an important distinction helped me separate the the imaginary life I saw on screen from the one I was actually living:
Movies and TV shows are works of fiction. No matter how real they’re portrayed to be, fiction is — and always will be — fiction.
And that’s not to say that real life is a bland, dreary nothingness. In fact, making the distinction between fact and fiction made me realize that my life, my real life, is quite the opposite.
I realized that my real life experiences — the late-night drives with no destination and conversations I hoped would never end, Friday night football games that always ended with trips to Applebees, countless nights dancing at bars until they closed — were better than any movie or TV show I could ever see.
Those memories are better than any coming of age film because they’re uniquely real and uniquely mine. No character, no matter how well written, will be able to resonate like the real people who I’ve shared experiences with.
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The feeling I get from watching movies is nothing compared to the feeling I get when I step back and realize I’m making memories that no one else could write.
Being aware of the memories I’m creating as they happen has made each new college experience so much more enriching. As cliché as it sounds, these four years of undergrad are some of the best and should be cherished as such. I hope these young TikTok creators have that realization before it’s too late.
As teenagers and young adults, we think in forevers. We have a sense of immortality that only fades with age. Use that sense of immortality to make the best memories possible because before we all know it, the memories will be the things we hold the tightest.