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Opinion: Maintaining a maternal relationship is crucial amid challenges of adolescence

(Helen Juwon Park/Daily Bruin)

By Miu Kikuchi

May 24, 2024 12:10 a.m.

Contrary to common misconceptions, Taylor Swift’s songs encompass more than love stories or high infidelity, and “marjorie” is a remarkable testament.

As one of the nonromantic songs on her indie album, “evermore,” Swift dedicates “marjorie” to her grandmother Marjorie Finlay, a renowned 20th-century American opera singer who died when Swift was 13 years old.

Through the elegy, Swift expresses remorse and laments for not cherishing the few moments she had with her grandmother and her evermore presence that grows in significance as time passes.

Even as a Swift devotee, the most her songs have provoked in me is half-hearted anger for a heartbreak I’ve never experienced.

But “marjorie” makes my tears stream down like hot lava, which happened at Levi’s Stadium for The Eras Tour in Section 235, row seven. And it happened again in row three at the Regency Village Theater for the tour’s concert film. The song gives me chills and pinches my heart until my stomach drops every time I press play.

The relationship I have with my mother draws strong parallels to “marjorie.” Though my mother is still alive, my memories of the rooms of our Bay Area home are tainted by foolish rough patches in our relationship.

I bickered when my mother would try to fix my problems instead of just listening. I bickered when she would make comments that unintentionally targeted my insecurity. I bickered when she wouldn’t reaffirm my emotions.

In these moments of loud yelling and louder silences, I was frustrated and desperate for her to see my pain and pity me. However, these incidents would also follow with an insuppressible prophetic suspicion that I will one day regret my reckless behavior, even though it always felt justified at the time.

I’m afraid this has now manifested. It has been almost two years since the last quarrel I remember, and yet these past two years have been equally, if not more, emotionally taxing. When I go back to my home, I find myself trying to overcompensate for the lost time and recover the damage.

I try too hard to live in the present to the point where I’m not. I try too hard to make activities more fun to the point where they’re no longer enjoyable. It’s a seesaw of zoning in and out of conversations, a back-and-forth of putting on an extra wide smile and getting upset at myself for not having as much fun as I feel like I should be.

Newfound conversations and moments of stability and peacefulness only make me realize that lost time is lost and trying to compensate is fruitless.

With this realization, I’m afraid to confront the actions I could have, should have and would have taken when I was still living with her.

I’m afraid that this regret will exacerbate when, just like Marjorie’s did, my mother’s time comes. Though guilt is a common symptom of grief regardless of the state of one’s relationship with their parent, I don’t trust that I will be able to handle its magnitude.

However, while it is easier to descend into a spiral of self-blame, I find it worthwhile to understand that my experiences with teenage angst and emotional instability are not uncommon. As an adolescent, there always seems to be something on the line, whether that may be friendships, a future or a reputation.

Emotional turbulence is also intensified during adolescence, which is a precarious period. Teenagers and young adults are constantly in a limbo. Although we’re encouraged to be independent by making our own decisions and taking responsibility for them, material and financial restraints don’t let us be fully free. This dichotomy is confusing to reconcile and creates a sense of incessant uncertainty.

This exposes a critical dilemma adolescents face. Balancing and navigating the emotional volatility that comes with being a youth while trying to maintain relationships is challenging.

While there seems to be one too many factors that constantly put you in a situation where one straw can end it all, it is essential to take full advantage of arguably one of the most significant relationships in your life: the bond with your mother.

After ruminating, I’ve learned that while it could create once-in-a-lifetime songs, regret is just as futile as an attempt for compensation, and a bit of grace for yourself can help alleviate the ache.

So start now. It’s not too late.

Give her a call and get ready. Your mother will pick up in a heartbeat.

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Miu Kikuchi
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