Brenna Haithcock quoted a line from a Man Repeller article back to me when I asked her about the stress of college applications: “Teenagers are always balancing not caring and caring so, so much.” We were talking about those agonizing few months (oh, I remember them well) where kids start getting accepted to their dream schools and you’re convinced you’ll never get accepted anywhere.
“That line is so true,” she told me. “I’m hoping to go to school for journalism, but I might end up switching majors. I want to do something with fashion, and I’m interested in social issues. But it’s really hard to say at 17 what I want to do for the rest of my life. ”
We spoke about everything from New Year’s resolutions to fashion to mental health, and as with the rest of our MR Ask a Teens, I have no doubt that this global-change-seeking, self-searching 17-year-old is well on her way to making important footprints in this world. Meet Brenna.
Do you have a New Year’s resolution?
No, because I get disappointed when I don’t live up to them. I think they can work. I’m not against them. It’s just that personally, I never stick to them. This year I’m going to try to grow as a person and not limit myself to a specific thing. I want to develop in my own journey.
A lot of high school is about interacting with other people, learning about others, developing social relationships. When you apply to college, you have to get introspective and write your personal narrative. It’s the first time where I’m really evaluating my goals. I want to get to know myself better.
What do you and your friends do for fun?
My friend experience is kind of unique. I transferred to a college prep program from a public middle school. I get tutored two times a week and the rest of the time I work off a syllabi. Legally, I’m homeschooled, but it doesn’t feel like that. It is hard to establish relationships, though.The other kids and I don’t have a lot of common interests.
One of my best friends goes to public school near me and the other goes to a performing arts school. We like to visit the museum, go downtown. There’s not a whole lot to do. We live by the beach but it’s not my cup of tea. I’m five minutes away from the beach and I probably go four times a year. Even as a kid I’d sit in a chair and pull my feet up to my chin because I hated the sand and the uncertainty of what was in the water.
You mentioned social justice earlier. It has been so cool to hear you and the other young women from our Ask a Teen series all bring this up.
It’s a common theme among millennials. I know in middle school, when I was depressed about being at this private school, I was on the internet a lot, on Tumblr. It’s a cliche answer: “Tumblr taught me about social justice,” but it did. I read a lot of Sylvia Plath and bell hooks and got into it. It made a lot of sense. Something clicked.
Feminism is something I’m passionate about, too. If the time is right, I’m more than willing to stand up for what I believe in despite my anxieties. When I care about something, I’m able to compromise my discomfort to try and make someone see something else differently.
You mentioned having social anxiety earlier. Are you open about that?
I’d like to be more open about it. I talk about it with friends but it’s not something that I feel people know about me or attribute to my personality. As much as I’d like to be the one to open that conversation up, it’s hard.
I went through a depressed period last year. I couldn’t leave the bed and daily life seemed really difficult. I saw a doctor who diagnosed me and put me on medicine, then I worked through therapy. Anxiety is a really REAL experience. Navigating anxiety when it’s also used as an adjective to describe nervousness creates confusion around what it is and the truth behind it.
Being open and having conversations about it is important because it can feel so alienating. Getting over the feeling that I was bizarre or weird for having anxiety was a huge obstacle for me. There’s a stigma associated with mental illness. Or the feelings are seen as invalid. Maybe it’s hard to recognize within teenagers because the teenage years are such a volatile time.
I’m glad this happened to me. I’m more of an individual because of it.
What’s your escape from it? What calms you down?
Music and art are releases for me. Any creative expression calms me down. I can easily ball up and block myself off, so to be doing something or creating something manifests the better aspects of myself.
I remember your entry video had such a good song that I Shazaamed it.
It was Big Sis by Sales! There’s something very calming and stress-relieving about music. I love alternative, low-beat, relaxing songs.
What else do you like?
I’m currently very into Bane’s World. It’s dreamy and calming. I’d also recommend Tame Impala’s Currents album. I’ve probably listened to it a hundred times. Fleetwood Mac used to be my absolute favorite. It reminds me of a phase in my life when I was content and happy. Every time I listen to it, those same feelings come back.
You’re into fashion — let’s talk about that.
I really care about fashion. I love to keep up with runways. I am currently very obsessed with Gucci’s Pre-Fall collection. I’m definitely into the maximalist thing, patterns and embellishments.
I don’t think I dress in the same style that I appreciate from designer collections. It’s hard being a teenager without a job. I see designers with all these amazing clothes I can’t afford. For me, style is mimicking things that I enjoy. I love thrifting.
My style is always changing. This summer I was into baggy jeans and tees, really casual. Now I’m a confused, time-traveling colonial woman trying to overthrow patriarchal systems.
…But maintaining the status as a colonial woman can be exhausting, so I still find myself reaching for tees and sweatshirts.
What would your ideal outfit be if money were of no object?
The inner 35-year-old businesswoman in me loves trousers. I’m trouser-fluid when it comes to shapes. I love all kinds of pants. My ideal outfit would be…a patterned trouser with an embellished shoe, preferably Miu Miu. Some sort of pussy-bow blouse, or a collared one, in a wild color or pattern, maybe with a vest over it. I don’t get to experience winter in Florida, but I’d love a big, obnoxious coat.
What do you wish people would ask you about?
I wish people would ask me what I care about. It can be so easy to slip into meaningless conversation. I love deep conversation, getting to know people, what makes them tick. I want to be asked what I’m passionate about. I also wish people would recognize the validity of teenagers’ emotions. Everything is interpreted as a phase, which is true, but doesn’t lesson the validity of what you’re participating in.
What annoying things do “adults” or “grown ups” do that you wish they would stop?
When adults say the whole “when I was a kid” spiel to detract from young people’s problems today. I know that things were different decades ago, but millennials have all kinds of obstacles and stresses. I hate it when adults only ask me about where I’m going to college! There’s a lot of pressure around choosing schools, and I have so much more to talk about than where I’ll be next fall.
Update me on the slang.
People say “RIP” a lot. It means “I’m so done” or “I’m dead.”
People don’t really say “v” anymore. It means very, to say things like “I’m v tired” or “I’m v hungry.”
What, in terms of pop culture, is defining your generation?
I don’t think this defines our generation in any way, but people were very obsessed with Bee Movie in 2016. I think this love is satirical, but there are so many Bee Movie memes and videos circulating.
What are your hopes and dreams?
When I look to the future, I hope to be content in whatever I end up doing. I don’t have any substantial goals right now other than my immediate goal to get into college and do well in school. In my life, I want to be creatively fulfilled and able to put energy into things that I enjoy. I love art and writing, and I don’t want those things to be lost when I age and become a serious businessperson. Essentially, I just want to be satisfied in whatever the future holds, even if I don’t achieve my childhood dreams of becoming the world’s best author/artist/celebrity extraordinaire.
Follow Brenna on Instagram @brennugh.