I want to be a teen forever (and Maisie Williams is cool with that)

Me and my best friend, @maisie_williams. (Also one of the smartest women I’ve heard speak, ever.) #LikeAGirl

A photo posted by anne t. donahue (@annetdonahue) on

At least week’s Always #LikeAGirl video launch, ambassador Maisie Williams gave me the ultimate validation: we can be teens for as long as we want.

Of course, this especially means something coming from one television’s most beloved teenagers, who currently plays Arya Stark in HBO’s Game of Thrones, and whose social media presence embodies the best parts of teenhood. (See: everything from fashion posts to hang-outs with pals to social awareness.) In fact, our whole conversation reminded me why I still look back at and aspire to teenhood so fondly — it was a time in our life in which we unequivocally embracing change.

“I think we always make the comparison between girls who have not yet gone through puberty and girls who are at that stage, and how the younger girls are so fierce and so are so capable of everything [and older girls aren’t],” she describes. “But everyone is so capable of everything. But they believe [that] more than older girls. And that’s what I think should resonate with older women as well.”

In this particular case, Williams is referring to the latest #LikeAGirl installment “Unstoppable,” an ad that sees pre-teens and young girls confronting the limitations they feel society has already thrust on them. (By literally writing them on cardboard boxes and kicking them down.)

“You hear all the time in films, ‘I’m so old, I’m going to die alone’ if you haven’t met a man, or ‘I’m going through a midlife crisis,’” Williams remarks. “And you know what? You’re allowed to change all the time. My Mum remarried when she was like, 50, and she just left her job that she’s been at for ten years, and was like, ‘I’m gonna work in a coffee shop.’ And it’s okay! It doesn’t matter!”

“I’m looking at her like, ‘I wanna be like that.’ We should all think [the way] these other girls feel, and think, ‘I can do anything, it doesn’t matter my age.’”

Which is true. But for anyone who’s been a teen girl, you know that this challenging and important time in your life was marketed to then dismissed, as if your feelings and passions were fleeting or unimportant. Even now, the coveted teen girl demographic — a.k.a. the same one responsible for One Direction’s success or for the Twilight movement of the 00s—is laughed at despite its importance. Teens are waved away as fangirls, as if their zest for particular bands or franchises is less valid than a grown man’s penchant for Zeppelin.

In fact, the differentiation between girlhood and womanhood is painful and obvious. Upon legal drinking age (19 in Ontario), being a teen and exuding teen behaviour goes from championed to straight-up wrong. It’s seen as embarrassing. Overt displays of emotion and allegiances to boy bands or certain movies — despite connoting passion — is deemed as “immature.” A girl is suddenly expected to be a woman, but especially a woman who already knows who she is.

“It’s a time where you’re changing, and [everything is ‘it’s just a phase,’” Williams describes. “And the phases are a lot more intense than they are in adulthood or childhood, but that’s all right. You’re allowed to go through ten million different things. I went through about seven million phases during puberty. Like, ‘No I’m like this, no I’m like this — no I want to be this.’ And that was okay. You’re allowed to have that phase of ‘who am I [and] what do I want in life?’”

“And that’s something I really struggled with,” she continued. “So many people would say to me, ‘Don’t change—be who you are and stay true to who you are,’ and I remember getting to a point where I was like, this girl I’d been for 11 years? I don’t want to be her anymore — but everyone’s going to think I’ve changed and that I’m a different person and that fame had changed me, and I was really worried about that. And then, it turned out you find who you are and that’s okay and it’s alright, because you’re never going to be the same person forever.”

Which is a relief — especially because our teen years were less about figuring out the end game, and more about experiencing the joy of change, full stop. There’s a reason a lot of us have returned to the beauty and fashion trends of our youths, and that’s because those years (and the products in them) allowed us a sense of creative freedom. We dove into trends blindly, tested products without shame, and figured out whether or not we could carry off glitter body spray. (We could!) We were excited and passionate about everything and hadn’t developed the cynicism and thick skin that allow us to survive now, but have also made other emotions unreachable. (Honestly unless Beyonce took us into her arms and brushed our hair, few of us could cry over meeting a celebrity now. It’s physically impossible.)

So to see women like Williams tout the importance of being a teen, yes, but also of embracing change as it continues into adult life, it brings that sense of adventure back. Do any of us want to return to spending our $5/week allowance on discount cucumber peel-off facials? I hope not. But those other aspects of teenhood — the joy, the passion, and the courage to openly feel things — are something I’m happy to return to.

Minus, of course those evenings in 1999, weeping to BSB’s “Millennium,” because the boy I liked in grade eight was going to his cottage for the summer. Though that CD is so good.