Movies + TV

Freak Like Me

What I learned from Lindsay Weir.

In the show Freaks and Geeks, it’s never clearly explained why the main character, Lindsay Weir, my personal hero, traded in her cardigan for an army jacket and started ditching class to hang out with stoners. At one point, her little brother Sam comes into her room and asks, abruptly but not out of nowhere, “Why are you throwing your life away?” Lindsay pauses before telling Sam that she was alone with their grandma when she died and had asked her if she saw anything right before it happened, “a light or anything,” and her grandma, someone who’d been “a good person all her life,” said no.

Maybe Lindsay, a star student and lifelong rule-abider, figured then that all of her efforts to do right by her family and her teachers had been for nothing, that if there was no reward at the end like she’d thought, she might as well try to have fun. Or maybe she was just exploring.

These here precious (groan) teenage years are meant for change and for testing out being a human in the microcosm that is school and your friends and your house before you have to go be a human in the world outside. It’s natural and healthy to try out different identities and go through phases. What worries me is the resentment with which I look back on the person I used to be. These multiple versions of myself, they’re everywhere. They’re at family gatherings and the houses of old friends, in photos on our fridge and online, in my closet and in my now-embarrassing collections of books and movies and music.

And at school. Oh, god, school. As you navigate the halls during those first days of a new school year, eager to adopt a new identity, you’re instead met with sad, bitter reminders of your old one, and as you recognize people who knew you at a time when you were less nice/cool/interesting/smart/attractive, you panic a little bit. They do the same, and so an unspoken pact is made through uncomfortable glances and half-smiling nods. It is understood by the time October rolls around: we will never talk about who we used to be.

Which is kind of sad, and scary. None of those versions of myself, when I really think about it, were nearly as mortifying as I make them out to be, and I’m sure my classmates’ weren’t, either. But it terrifies me to think that if I felt as sure in who I was a year ago as I do about who I am now, it means that, in another year, I’ll be sure about some new version of myself, and everything I’m currently latching on to—all of the songs that I think I could listen to forever and all of the friends whom I deeply trust—could mean nothing.

“It all comes back. Perhaps it is difficult to see the value in having one’s self back in that kind of mood, but I do see it; I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 AM of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.”
—Joan Didion, “On Keeping a Notebook”

Lindsay Weir’s geek hammers on her mind’s door multiple times throughout the rest of the series, but the finale (SPOILER ALERT!) is so good because Lindsay doesn’t end up fully falling into the freak role or going back to the geek role, but instead gets into a painted van to follow the Grateful Dead with a group of friends, most of whom she’s just met for the first time. And for a moment you’re like, “DID THE PAST 18 EPISODES NOT MEAN ANYTHING TO YOU?!” And then you recognize the maturity with which she says goodbye to her family and Sam’s friends, and you realize that she’s shaken hands with her former geek self. And you see her approach the van with the same uncertainty that she had when she started hanging out with troublemakers Kim Kelly and Daniel Desario, but also with a confidence that took her the whole series to find. And you realize that this show wasn’t about a good-girl-gone-bad either losing or finding her true identity. It was about a girl realizing that she could give herself permission to explore and change, and as the van drives away and the show’s credits start to roll for the very last time (tear), you know that this was only the beginning.

“You know, Lindsay, when you started hanging out with them, I felt kinda bad for you, because I thought you were gonna turn into a dirtbag. But then I realized that you were just exploring, and now I guess I’m kind of exploring, too.”
—Millie Kentner, Freaks and Geeks

That’s what it is. It’s just exploring. Hanging out with different friends, taking different classes, joining different clubs, getting into different music or wearing different clothes: the important thing isn’t figuring out who exactly you are and your sole purpose in life THIS VERY INSTANT. It’s just knowing that it’s up to you the same way it was up to Lindsay Weir. In the meantime, all you can really do is find the things and people you relate to at the moment and hold them close. Somewhere, among the hair dye bottles and sleepover souvenirs and doodled-on paperbacks, you’ll find parts of yourself that you know will be sticking around. ♦

50 Comments

  • Emilie March 14th, 2012 11:14 PM

    Freeaaakkkkksss annndd geeekkksss. Only my favorite show ever, for all of those who havent seen it: GO SEE IT. I personally reccomend just going out and buying the whole season (the one and only :’( ) Also, thanks Tavi for this awesome article, this whole month’s theme has been really speaking to me, for lack of an uncheesy phrase

  • Tara March 14th, 2012 11:14 PM

    aw tavi, this is a beautiful post. I always loved lindsay weir and how she evolved throughout the season. I admired the grace with which she could accept herself and what SHE wanted to do (not what people expected of her!). she’s a total role model because of that, because she explored and was finding herself. I think that’s what being a teenager is all about. it’s really really hard but the exploration is so worth it. (weird to think that I only have two years left to ‘be a teen’)

  • missblack March 14th, 2012 11:17 PM

    Oh yes. Ohh yes.
    Freaks and Geeks has taught me so much. (Mostly, I admit, that James Franco has been cool and amazing and awesome pretty much since the day he was born and also that he looks good even when he looks stoned out of his mind and also that I am strangely attracted to young-Jason-Segel.)
    Also it seems like Tavi is reading my mind whenever she writes her articles because, like, I totally get her feeling scared of changing into another person and not caring about the same stuff anymore and…stuff.

    Little&Trivial

  • stephanie4786 March 14th, 2012 11:20 PM

    great post

  • Annie March 14th, 2012 11:30 PM

    this makes me all smiley

  • Kristen March 14th, 2012 11:34 PM

    This article is EVERYTHING.

    I love that passage from Joan Didion… its so true. One of my favorite things to do when I want to procrastinate homework is read my diary. I’ll read entries from a few years ago and marvel at how different my attitudes and worries and heartbreaks were from the ones I have now. Or I remember how much fun that one day was, or how I used to be super into a certain book and have now completely forgotten it.

    What I wonder is, who will MY SELF be eventually? Like, when I’m an old lady, will I look back to who I was at 25 and be like THATS ME, THATS MY IDEAL. Or will I never really know…

  • bedazzledbandannas March 14th, 2012 11:37 PM

    everything Tavi writes is so perfect….

  • Torrie March 14th, 2012 11:56 PM

    I had to stop reading at the SPOILER ALERT (I’m not completely through with the series, college and homework and stuff, ya know) but everything before that rang so completely true.

    Today I was hit by a random wave of what wasn’t quite nostalgia and began to look through my high school yearbook. The thing is, I hated high school. Hate probably is not a strong enough word — I despise that place, and I hold great contempt for it within my heart. I think that part of the reason is because it didn’t allow me to explore. Or, I wanted to but that attitude didn’t exactly fit with the atmosphere. We’re talking four years of private Catholic college preparatory school. Uniforms. 90% of the school was well off and Christian (there’s nothing wrong with that, but I thrive on diversity) and I had gone to school with most of them since pre-school. That’s FOURTEEN years total with the same people and the same mindset (and uniforms).

    That made it impossible to adopt a new identity, not only because everyone around you knew the ‘you’ of 4th grade, but because there were a lot of restrictions put on what we could think, aka what was ‘right’ by Catholic standards versus our own views. I once wrote a paper on the value of marriage equality and my teacher gave me a bad grade because it wasn’t what he had taught us hahaha. BUT ANYWAY you can bet that as soon as I left that place I bleached and dyed my hair and reveled in the ability to develop my own opinion on things. I’m feel I’m still working on doing that, definitely. This was my life story. Only for you, Rookie!!

  • Yellie March 14th, 2012 11:59 PM

    Very lovely, Tavi. Teenagers are too often shamed for being confused and trying to work things out through exploration. You should never be ashamed of the pieces that fall together and in time make you. What else are these years of growing pains for? :)

  • MichyMich March 15th, 2012 12:18 AM

    Being a teenager isn’t easy at all and I’m glad that you wrote this, Tavi. Going through high school, I always feel like I need to strive better. Not just academically, but socially. I have to admit that dealing with changes is what makes me tick about my social life (I only have 1 best friend and a few close ones) and whether I should break out of my shell.

    I experimented myself by hanging out with different people (e.g. photo kids – kids who like to spend their day 24/7 photographing random stuff), but I didn’t really have much in common with them. I was just exploring who I should befriend.

    In the long run, exploration really taught me to be comfortable with myself and with the people who share common interests.

  • eeEmilyee March 15th, 2012 12:54 AM

    you are a wonderful human being for writing this
    but you are also a wonderful human being anyway

  • talia anais March 15th, 2012 12:58 AM

    This really resonated with me. (I may have teared up a bit, actually…) Great article.
    Also, it’s insane how much I relate to Lindsay Weir. Our situations and the phases we go through may be different, but she gives fictional oice to a lot of the emotions and insecurities and ideas I’ve experienced. Freaks and Geeks is a treasure of a show.

    • talia anais March 15th, 2012 12:58 AM

      *voice. It’s 1 am, what can I say….

  • Susann March 15th, 2012 2:51 AM

    Tavi, I always love what you write!

    http://fashioninpepperland.blogspot.com

  • Jace March 15th, 2012 4:26 AM

    I’m so high I can barely write this but I’m so high, and Tavi, this article it beautiful. So beautiful. The way you articulate what you’re thinking into words this amazing. I wonder if a high comment willllll get published????

    Haha p.s. dealin with high people while sober sucks. Lookin at you, D.Wilson

  • bridiebird March 15th, 2012 4:27 AM

    tavi, how do you always know exactly what’s on my mind. <3 <3 <3 <3

  • PussyGalore March 15th, 2012 5:37 AM

    It’s kind of like the end of Ghost World where Enid just catches a bus out of town and doesn’t say goodbye to her life. It’s not actually the end as if to say the teenage part is almost just the beginning to the other, bigger part, the part we are just using to explore things/develop identities, even if it doesn’t feel that way…

    • PussyGalore March 15th, 2012 5:40 AM

      Also it’s interesting both of them were written by older men types which is strange because, as a teenage girl, i think they really got it right.

  • sttefaaa March 15th, 2012 8:56 AM

    I`m in love with the way you write, Tavi! You have a true talent.

    xx
    Stefany

    http://stefanystrange.blogspot.com/

  • Pinkovski March 15th, 2012 9:10 AM

    Lovely, insightful, comforting. Thanx.

  • crimsonlips March 15th, 2012 11:23 AM

    I would just like to add that you don’t stop exploring and trying new things when you’re done being a teenager. I’m in my late 20s and I’m still exploring and discovering myself as well. I think this openness to discovering oneself continues for the rest of our lives. And that’s how I intend to live my life.

  • findingmymuse March 15th, 2012 11:38 AM

    If you can believe it, Paul Feig “sent” me here via a link in one of his tweets…that’s definitely saying something about this writer.

    Lindsay Weir has always been my favorite. (Aside from Bill, of course.) You’ve captured her spirit perfectly.

  • Lifeguard of Love March 15th, 2012 11:47 AM

    I was going to write exactly what commenter crimsonlips wrote. I am also in my late 20s and trying new identities, paths, and looks. It’s wonderful.

  • abillionjennifers March 15th, 2012 12:51 PM

    In my mind Lindsay grew up became a non profit lawyer and worked for migrant worker rights….or something as cool as that i suppose.

    I like to imagine an army of girls all over the US wearing their green jackets and living life to the fullest.

    THANK U PAUL FEIG!

  • Margelo March 15th, 2012 1:53 PM

    this is the first article in a while i’ve felt that justifiys the whole situation that kids have been going through. Way to go Tavi! keep up the gooooooood work!!!!

  • Nicole March 15th, 2012 2:16 PM

    god DAMNIT why am i crying

  • Narita March 15th, 2012 2:27 PM

    Tavi. It’s amazing how you put thoughts into words. I was thinking about this lately and this. is. it. You’re so damn right it made me cry.

    Thanks girl. Hope I’ll find myself, or at least pieces of myself, among my poor written stories from seventh grade, posters of obsecure looking singers and cut-up t-shirts.

  • Stephanie March 15th, 2012 2:37 PM

    Brilliant post, Tavi! You summed up the phases and changes we go through better than I ever could. My little brother got me into Freaks and Geeks by saying that he wanted me to watch it because he felt like Lindsay was me and Sam was him and watching it made him understand who I was in high school a lot better. Since my brother is generally more like “You should watch Firefly because it’s really cool!” this was sort of a weighty thing and I was kind of both excited and scared to see myself through his eyes. It’s also scary how well he knew me at a time when I felt like no one got me. Aside from maybe Angela Chase, I’ve never related to a character more than Lindsay Weir. Up until the part with the Grateful Dead just because that’s so not my thing. Maybe if she’d followed Bikini Kill or something instead ;)

  • Juniperbiddy March 15th, 2012 2:44 PM

    I love this showww!! Bill is so awesome I wish I had a friend like him :)

  • rockslita March 15th, 2012 2:46 PM

    Tavi? Is it just my computer and iphone or is your blog GONE?

    • Tavi March 15th, 2012 4:52 PM

      i forgot to renew the domain name, it should be back up soon!

  • Nomi March 15th, 2012 3:09 PM

    THANK
    YOU
    SO
    MUCH.
    You will never know how much I needed this article, right now.
    This is exactly what I’m going through. Thank you so much.

  • Alienor March 15th, 2012 5:23 PM

    wonderful.

  • chelsear March 15th, 2012 6:01 PM

    I can relate to this article so much. I feel like I’ve been going through the very same thing right now. Thank you for this article!

    xo
    http://couturecultureblog.blogspot.com

  • SunshineJilly March 15th, 2012 8:28 PM

    I mean this with all of my heart:

    Tavi, you are wise beyond your years. I think you will do great things. You are a juggernaut of woman (even though you’re still only a teen. :P)

    I wish you all the best, darlin’!

  • georgia666 March 16th, 2012 1:06 AM

    Oh Tavi. I am in university now at age 19, and have travelled the world and seen so many things that have changed me. But I wish I could have been as mature and insightful at your age and been ok with who I am enough to be as adventurous with my personality. x

  • Bethy March 16th, 2012 2:05 AM

    My fear is that, when I have teenagers of my own, I will have forgotten about this time of exploration that every teenager experiences in one way or another. I truly hope I can remember and have relative compassion due to the memory. Thanks for the Freak and Geeks love. Love it.

  • chelsear March 16th, 2012 11:39 AM

    I can relate to this so much. I feel like I’ve been going through the very same thing right now. Thank you for this article!

    xo
    http://couturecultureblog.blogspot.com

  • stellar March 16th, 2012 6:14 PM

    so true. it seems we think we need to be either/or, or we are “nobody”. we can be all sorts of things; just make sure *u* are the one making the choices!!

  • annagracie March 16th, 2012 9:08 PM

    This is one of my favorite Rookie articles so far. I LOVE Freaks and Geeks. My best friend got me into it last year. I watched every episode I could find online. For my birthday, I got Freaks and Geeks on DVD, and I WAS SO EXCITED. I watched every episode multiple times. SO good. Thanks for doing it justice, Tavi!

  • Casey March 17th, 2012 1:05 AM

    I watched one or two episodes of Freak and Geeks, and was hooked instantly! Wish I could watch more though; I only saw it on Nick at Nite/Nickelodeon when it shows its classic shows..Perhaps I should rent it?

    http://thebowandthebutterfly.blogspot.com

  • LyndseyK March 17th, 2012 12:04 PM

    I watched Freaks and Geeks during my early years in high school, which was a tumultuous time for me. I was struggling to find my place, my best friend suddenly wouldn’t speak to me, and I was desperately in need of new friends. When I watched Freaks and Geeks, I felt as if I waswatching my own life play out. My name is Lyndsey, the aforementioned former best friend is ultra-religious and neurotic like Millie, and the kids I had begun hanging with weren’t the perfect straight-A students I was accustomed to. Hell, for a year I wore my grandpa’s old army jacket in solidarity! I still feel like Lindsey in every way, from the issues I deal with to the constant decisions about who’s the “right crowd.” Paul Feig created a character every girl can relate to, a girl who appeared to be starring in our life story. Thanks for this great article!

  • carcinocatnip March 18th, 2012 12:12 PM

    Such a great piece. Such a great show.

  • March 20th, 2012 12:11 PM

    You guys should do a literally the best thing ever freaks and geeks

  • diana94 March 20th, 2012 5:02 PM

    Tavi this post is just awesome. you are such a good writer and communicator congrats!!

  • Ellie April 1st, 2012 3:11 PM

    *gets teary* Beautiful, Tavi, just beautiful.
    Thank you.

  • ClaudiaBlonde April 14th, 2012 10:28 AM

    I absolutly loved this article and agree completly. When watching the series firstly I thought “oh she’s just being all rebelious and stuff” but then I got to think about it – Lindsey still was that sweet good girl but yeah…she wanted new sutff, new people, new situations – a change. I can relate to that and I believe everyone in their lifetime go through this….it’s the part of the growth of fiding who you really are.
    Loved it Tavi, very well writen!!

  • MissKnowItAll June 10th, 2012 7:34 PM

    Am I the only one who flipped shit and screamed “CHUTNEY FROM LEGALLY BLONDE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

  • Erykaneisha June 25th, 2012 6:08 PM

    My thoughts exactly :)

    I moved to Bakersfield, this “city” – ahem, town – about a year ago from L.A. I was honestly very upset about leaving because the life I was leaving behind, my WHOLE life basically.
    Growing up it was difficult for me to find real genuine friends but once I got to middle school things completely changed. I was hanging out with these girls who didn’t really like me which was fine because the feelings were mutual. Then I started hanging out with these “weird” girls who dressed darkly but were filled with high spirits that lacked in my other group of friends. It was five of us, lively & jolly, kicking off our teenage hood with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’”. We literally outcasts & stars among our student body & ‘hood. At least that’s how we viewed ourselves. A day didn’t go by where we didn’t laugh.
    But all things come to an end & our group fell apart. We attended different high schools & different worlds that existed within us & kept each other out of. & last October one of my closest friends formally ended our friendship over a joke I made about the Queen of England taking over the U.S. & said that my [Kiwi] boyfriend had brainwashed me.

    I made new friends here in Bako but it isn’t the same. I don’t have much in common with them but they are a very nice bunch of clean healthy kids. I like them, but I wish I could love them the way I loved friendships in general before. Nowadays, it’s usually Journey, an old note that was passed in Alegbra peeking on my mirror that triggers the old me & their ghosts.

    There’s nothing wrong with moving on <3

  • mar9ar3t July 1st, 2012 1:02 PM

    This article is perfect…. Freaks and geeks is my everything right now.