By Mila Koljensic
All of us can relate to Olivia Rodrigo – maybe not through her fame and fortune – but definitely through her feelings of being gutted by heartbreak and the stages of growing up. Rodrigo was only 17 when she wrote lyrics to extremely heartbreaking songs. Inspired by Taylor Swift, she uses her emotional turmoil and damage as fuel to write lyrics for her groundbreaking songs. Diving into the mind of a 17-year-old is like entering every high school student’s daily struggle, placing Rodrigo in the unique position to speak about teenage issues and toxic relationships.
I’ve listened to GUTS, Olivia Rodrigo’s latest album, in its entirety. If you haven’t had the pleasure, let me summarize for you: GUTS is about the everyday pains of growing up – from dating older guys, to facing unrealistic beauty standards, to having more responsibility for self. While listening to the album, I was able to identify with this teenage girl through my 30-year-old eyes. More importantly, I was able to acknowledge a part of myself that I’ve been shoving aside for years that needs healing: my inner teen.
The album GUTS highlights a wide range of emotions from jealousy, embarrassment, grudge-holding, and resentment – all of which are uncomfortable. It’s no wonder Olivia Rodrigo has become popular, not only among ‘tweens and teens, but also with older audiences – everyone can relate! Listening to her amazing album has given me the chance to have a deep conversation with my inner teen – arriving at the following conclusions:
It’s okay to be jealous sometimes, but self-love is key to happiness – not things or looks.
Olivia addressed the very common emotion of jealousy through “Lacy” and “Grudge.” While we’ve all felt jealousy at some point in our lives, women tend to be more jealous than men – especially when they’re younger and have more insecurity about their looks. I’ve been there – I was a jealous teen – but with age, the jealousy faded. The more I practiced self-love, the less I was comparing myself to others. Today, ‘tweens and teens have it harder – social media outlets tend to cater to people who set unrealistic body image and lifestyle expectations. It’s important to educate our ‘tweens and teens that no one outside of themselves and their families should dictate or impose their standards of beauty or success on anyone. Cyberbullying has prompted many young people to sacrifice their self-esteem for acceptance – leading towards a desire to become “influencers” rather than scientists or teachers. As influencers, they can become the bullies who impose these unreasonable standards, keeping jealousy alive.
It’s important that parents and educators inform children of dangers related to the internet, and promote values that come with education, family support, and that aren’t necessarily associated with branded stuff or good looks. The internet has been filled with jealousy, resentment, grudge, and shame – it’s time to promote mental health, and use these mediums for good – to help our kids feel good about themselves just the way they are!
It’s okay to have bad moments – we all have them!
In “Ballad of a Homeschooled Girl” Rodrigo details some of the worst parts of being a teenage girl rarely addressed in our culture. She tells us that awkward moments will happen, but also that it’s okay to be frustrated that they happen in the first place. Being pissed off is normal sometimes, and we can all relate to this feeling – especially when the body changes – especially the unpleasant ones – kick in during puberty. I am 30 years old and pregnant for the first time and in some sense, I feel like a teenager again –my face is oily, I have lots of acne, and I am bloated. The last time I felt this way was when I was coming of age as an adolescent. The clothes I used to wear either don’t fit or I feel uncomfortable in them. The only solace I have is that this too shall pass, and the reminder that this is all normal and part of a life cycle and I should try to enjoy/endure it. We can’t feel great all the time – it’s okay to have bad days or feel under the weather. Sometimes we feel awkward, or like we don’t fit, and that’s normal too. We have to learn to surf this wave of uncomfortable feelings and learn to hug and love ourselves no matter how bad we feel.
We all make mistakes – it’s part of growing up.
I used to feel upset for months after making decisions that turned out bad for me in the long run – trusting people that I shouldn’t have, giving people more than they deserved, taking job offers I should have rejected, and being rude to my family and friends when I was in the wrong. These decisions haunted me in my 20s, and some of them even just recently.
Today, I know this: If I hadn’t dated a certain man, I never would have learned how I deserved to be treated by the people I’m dating. If I hadn’t accepted the less-than-desirable job offer, I wouldn’t know what I love to do the most and where I should invest my energy. If I didn’t trust certain people, I would not know the red flags and learn to avoid bigger issues. If I didn’t argue with my family and friends, I wouldn’t know how important it is to take responsibility, to apologize, and to value your closest loved ones. Each bad decision I made led me to make better decisions in the future, which is why the question mark at the end of “Bad idea right?” is there in the first place. Through her GUTS album, Olivia reminds us of how our younger selves are there to show our older versions how much we’ve grown in life.
Finding self-worth – the evergreen journey.
Throughout the GUTS album, Olivia describes feeling inadequate, trying, and failing to fit in – a struggle many young adult listeners know all too well. In various life stages, we can all feel somewhat lost, and if we don’t have strong values, we can easily make bad mistakes and fall for the wrong people. She emphasizes – through her music – how important it is to find self-love and self-worth which will help us avoid toxic abusive relationships in life on all fronts – family, friends, or workplace.
Even though she is quite young, Olivia shares her wisdom in a very down-to-earth, brutal fashion. While many older singers lack may lack this ability to speak of uncomfortable topics, Olivia is right to tell things that many avoid speaking about because they are harsh, embarrassing and painful. For this, she has earned my immense respect. I encourage listeners of all ages to hear her out and implement new discoveries for themselves. We need more singers and role models like Olivia for all generations. Kudos, Olivia!