Photo: Via The Awkward Years Project
In middle school I straightened my hair with one of those combination hair dryer/combs. I regarded it as my ticket to glamorousness (and someone to hold hands with in the hallways) but I realize now it was a rudimentary tool meant to turn me into a pre-pubescent lioness (and not in a good way). When I started at a new, private school for freshman year I was so riddled with nerves and so confused by the dress code that I wore double popped colors (that's two polo shirts with both collars up), and ate lunch in the phone booths by the school's admissions office. I was never really bullied but, as I can see now from my attempts to fit the traveling tropes of tweens and lax stars, I was sure as hell awkward.
Indeed, it seems that at each stage of life there are some growing pains, and along with them, a strange beauty choice, talisman, or turtleneck, (or several). But the best part about the awkward years is undoubtedly getting out of them, looking back on them, and laughing. And that's why we're writing an ode to the Awkward Years Project and its under-the-radar founder, Merilee.
The submissions-based tumblr collective is an online forum for celebrating self discovery and the sometimes painful times along the way. It pairs images of individuals now with their "awkward years" selves then. It's a beautiful and empowering way to show the natural progression from feeling puny to feeling proud. Sure, on the outside, but, most importantly, internally. We love the idea of shining a light on the universal experience of growing up — of growing into one's self — and think this blog is one of the most straight-forward expressions of "I've been there" that we've seen in a while.
As Merilee herself puts it, "this isn’t a 'Look how I got cute' blog, nor am I saying that people’s awkward years are ugly. Not at all! Braces, glasses, or unfashionable clothing do not make anyone less attractive. This blog is more than about appearances. This blog is about self-discovery and surviving our awkward years...I want those struggling to know that there is nothing wrong with who they are now. I just want them to know their worth as soon as possible." Of course, we agree. What we love about this blog isn't the fashion choices of yore, it's that hit-you-in-the-gut kind of feeling you get from just knowing what it's like to have been or have felt like the most awkward version of yourself. The best part is? It will get better. And with the Awkward Project in circulation, it already has.