Saturday, January 27, 2018

Yes, I Still Love Stuffed Animals: Maturity, Hobbies, and Being Weird

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By: Lime Green Giraffe Photography Editor, Meghan K.


I have some slightly peculiar passions. I make friendship bracelets. I crochet blankets while marathoning Star Trek. I occasionally sit in my room in the dark and write fanfiction. But perhaps the weirdest passion of mine—at least to outsiders—is my love of stuffed animals. 
Ever since I was five or six years old, I’ve been collecting stuffed animals; Webkinz were extremely popular back then and because I was obsessed with the computer, stuffed animals plus the internet equaled a very happy me. And for a while, my friends and I were on the same page about them—whenever we went over to each other’s houses, we would dig out our collections and make them have wacky and exciting adventures. 
But then our lives started to get more serious, dominated by Girl Scout projects, the internet, homework, and trying to deal with the usual stresses of middle school. This would’ve been fine, and at first I didn’t think anything of it. But what made that shift stand out—and what made me stand out—was that while my friends were slowly growing up and getting rid of their stuffed animals, I wasn’t. And that was considered weird. 
I normally don’t mind being considered weird; I will proudly admit that I am 100% national-weirdo-society-certified, unapologetically, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-ly odd. But while that was okay when I was into books or friendship bracelets or Star Trek, somehow it was not okay when what made me odd was stuffed animals; suddenly, I was deemed “immature” by both my peers and by adults who worked with me. “She’d make more friends if she wasn’t so into stuffed animals” became a standard response to my mom’s question of “Why doesn’t Meghan have very many friends?” 
As much as I tried not to let it get to me, it did. I felt like a freak all of a sudden—was it so wrong to maintain a firm grip on my childhood? Was I supposed to want to grow up with the rest of my friends? Was I supposed to abandon the things that I enjoyed just to fit in with other people? I wasn’t sure.  
So I tried it; I stopped talking about my plushies with my friends, I tried to get into the things that they liked, and I tried to convince myself that I was grown up now and that as long as I didn’t think about them, no one else would ever think of me as immature ever again. But that didn’t work; in fact, it just made me feel gross, like I had some sort of secret, especially when I got heavily into stuffed animals again at the end of seventh grade. So pretending I didn’t totally love my plushies wasn’t an option. 
I’m a junior in high school now. I have my learner’s permit. And I openly admit that I love stuffed animals.  
I’m not going to lie and say that it’s not odd anymore; it still gets a few strange looks from time to time, mostly from adults, but I’m surprised how many of my friends (and even my parents’ friends!) can relate; so many of them still keep their stuffed animals around or sleep with the same one they’ve had since they were five and for the first time since fifth grade, nobody judges each other. This may be because my friend group has shifted a bit since I was in middle school; it may be because I’ve stopped noticing. I don’t know, and I don’t really care all that much; it’s my life, my hobbies, and I live by my rules. As long as I’m being me, all is good, and I know it’s cheesy, but it works for me. 
The only thing I still have trouble with is the whole “maturity” thing. In the eyes of many adults and many of my middle school peers, I was immature for not doing the same things as everyone else. Forget who I was as a person—my maturity was based on whether or not I could blend in, and in some circles, it still is. But in the real world, maturity isn’t defined by whether or not you sleep with your stuffed animals at night or are afraid of the dark; it’s more related to carrying through on your promises and treating people with respect and not giving up even when it gets hard. My weird hobbies have no bearing on my maturity, and I think a lot of people tend to miss that. 
If you just skimmed this article (I know some of you do, don’t lie), I’ll sum it up in a few short words for you; you do you. People shouldn’t get to tell you what kind of life you’re supposed to live and whether or not you’re supposed to love stuffed animals as a teenager or an adult and they don’t get to define maturity for you. So you keep doing you, and it’ll be okay. In fact, people tend to respect you for it. And in the end, isn’t that part of what being mature is? 

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