I remember hating Jen Lindley watching Dawson’s Creek growing up. I know hate is a strong word, but I hated that girl. I hated her dumb face and her dumb attitude and every dumb thing about her (to such an extent that I still have a hard time watching anything with Michelle Williams in it.)
Jen was this insecure wild-child who acted out for attention and allowed herself to be used. Watching her mess up time and time again was unbearable; that girl never learned. And don’t even get me started on how she seduced Dawson away from the much-more deserving Joey Potter.
Now Joey, on the other hand, was a girl after my own heart. She could do no wrong. The quintessential girl next door, Joey was a naturally, beautiful, down-to-earth tomboy who was artistic and witty and oh so cool.
Lately, I’ve been watching Dawson’s Creek on Netflix (yes, my family has staged an intervention; no, it hasn’t helped.) And watching it now, as an adult, I find my attitudes have changed.
Instead of seeing Dawson as some sort of teenage dream, I now see a whiny, self-absorbed control freak who can’t receive a shred of feedback without taking it personally and allowing it to send him into a tailspin of despair.
Instead of seeing Joey as the type of girl I should aspire to be when I grow up, I now see a brooding, moody grouch who closes herself off and worries way too much about what other people think of her.
Jen Lindley? Well, yeah, she’s a bit of a train-wreck, but at least she’s growing and changing and trying to move forward with her life, despite her mistakes.
And if you didn’t think there was a life lesson to be learned from watching hours and hours of Dawson’s Creek, you’d be wrong. Because I have learned something (aside from how unnatural it is for teenagers to use big words.)
And what I learned is this:
The traits we hate in others are the traits we hate in ourselves.
As a kid, I was a bit of a hot mess, much like Jen Lindley. I think I hated watching her and the constant reminder that I, too, was a complete disappointment to my parents (I *may* have also been a little melodramatic as a teenager. Look at all I have in common with these kids!)
As an adult, I kind of admire the way she worked to overcome her issues. She wanted a fresh start, and she made it happen for herself (with some setbacks along the way.)
But now, as an adult, I’m finding myself in the same boat as Dawson, struggling to accept criticism gracefully. Like Joey, I have built a lot of walls around myself, and I worry that I’ll never fit in.
And I can’t stand watching these kids struggle. I can’t stand watching them express time and time again the problems I’m facing in my own grown-up life. They drive me crazy.
I suppose it’s much easier to be angry at fictional characters than at myself. I suppose it’s much easier to hate those characters and their annoying traits than it is to hate those same traits in myself.
But if there’s something else that Dawson’s Creek has taught me, it’s this: being self-aware about your shortcomings is only half the battle in fixing them. You have to work at it. You have to try and fail and fail some more before you can grow.