The blue cheese cycle: How we force ourselves to “grow”

Image from author.

I don’t like blue cheese. I can’t get over the smell. I physically can’t do it. But every time blue cheese is placed on a charcuterie board or tossed into a salad I order, I force myself to eat it and pretend to like it. I am determined to someday be a person who likes blue cheese. Why? Because adults are supposed to like blue cheese. And I want to be treated with respect, like an adult.

This is a phenomenon that I’m coining the “Blue Cheese Cycle.” The Blue Cheese Cycle, is the process by which younger people force themselves to like certain things and hate other concepts to gain approval and respect from people they look up to or seek validation from. As a result, young people churn through likes and dislikes and can find it extremely difficult to establish their identity. Another way to define this phenomenon is self-inflicted rapid youth detachment. 

As a child (I’m talking 4-8 years old here), my favorite color was pink, Taylor Swift’s Fearless was the only music I knew, and Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse rocked my world. This makes sense. A child likes “childish” things. 

Then I started to get older. And as I grew up, I felt the need to distance myself from these things. Entering middle and high school, I wanted nothing more than to mature and be seen as an intelligent being, aware of her surroundings, understanding the world through older eyes. In order to become this person, I couldn’t possibly like the things I liked when I was young and treated like a child, right? Of course not. If I wanted to be respected by the people around me, I had to leave my childhood behind.

Nothing groundbreaking so far: we grow up, we seemingly age out, and we develop a taste for Brussels sprouts, “high” art, documentaries, and reading the news. Things and activities kids force themselves to like to earn praise and admiration from grown-ups. So what? You have a few preteens running around pretending to understand politics and attempting to have “thought-provoking” conversations about Dostoevsky. No one is harmed, so why bother writing about this? 

Because the other part of the Blue Cheese Cycle, the harmful part, is when these kids now force themselves to hate things about themselves that they still love but don’t think they’re allowed to.

Teenagers have to hate hot pink. And they have to hate hanging out with people younger than themselves and playing with toys and coloring books. God forbid a teenager ever wants to color. But these are all things that many of us once truly loved. Before we were able to comprehend the idea of being perceived and judged by those around us, we freely loved our monster trucks and monkey bars and My Little Pony dolls with brushable tails. It’s not that we developed into completely different people with new brain chemistry that prevented us from deriving joy from these things. It’s that we forced ourselves to leave behind our past because we don’t ever see adults having fun in the ways we did. And remember, all kids in this stage of life want is to be treated and respected like adults. 

And so we bury who we are at our core under layers of fake hobbies and mannerisms. Recall that the Blue Cheese Cycle is, as titled, a cycle. Because after we get through middle and high school, we enter another era of our lives, surrounded by new people who have different interests and preferences. We try our best to distance ourselves from our high school versions and become new people who check these new boxes so we can feel significant and accepted, or even so we can just feel seen. 

The Blue Cheese Cycle, plainly stated, crushes dreams. It results in children destroying their souls to gain validation, leaving them with an unstable understanding of who they are as a person. If kids are changing what they like every few years, how will they know what they actually enjoy? How can they go back to the point in their life where they just lived for themselves and acted to make themselves happy and no one else? Does the Blue Cheese Cycle forever condemn people to live lives full of facades and spark deep resentment for the people whom they feel the need to change for? Possibly. Who am I to say? I still have my own cycles of “reinvention” ahead of me and who knows who I’ll end up being in ten years? I know I don’t. 

But I have realized that the things I think I like today will undoubtedly mean nothing to me on my deathbed. Do I enjoy reading Dickens? Or do I just think I should enjoy reading Dickens? Do I listen to podcasts because I want to be aware of what’s happening in the world, or do I do it to feel better than everyone else because honestly what kind of 16-year-old listens to The Daily? I’ve also realized that I need to invest in more coloring books. Those things are mad fun. But my overall lesson learned is that life is too short. It really is. Live for you. Sure, being respected is great and makes you feel good about yourself, but so does nurturing your inner child. The Blue Cheese Cycle doesn’t have an expiration date. So next time, maybe instead of that moldy, smelly paste, ask for parmesan. Indulge every now and then.

Sarah Hamilton is a junior at Washington High School and has lived in the Bay Area for the majority of her life. This is her first year working on The Hatchet and she hopes to write about her opinions and cover global topics. She is a captain of the girls tennis team and works at the bookshop in town. Sarah is an avid reader of novels by Haruki Murakami and loves going to concerts and exploring San Francisco and Berkeley. She hopes to attend college on the East Coast and major in English with a minor in economics or publishing.

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