Illustration by Alex Westfall.

Dear Rookies,

People say that the cells in a human body replace themselves every seven years. This is a myth, but today, I’m pretending it’s true, because it is Rookie’s seventh birthday!!!!!! That’s right—on September 5, 2011, we shot this wee website into the internet abyss, and now it is a second grader. To celebrate seven years of odd digital matter that can also bring joy and facilitate human connection, we will be sharing roundups of some favorite posts from the archives all month. To tide you over—yeah, that’s right, settle down now—here are the All-Stars we chose last year: contributors’ favorites, DIYs, Ask a Growns, pop culture writing, and Editor’s Letters.

In honor of this milestone, and because it’s fall and the leaves are changing colors and people are wearing backpacks and all that, this month’s theme is Rebirth. Without even getting into theories of past lives or reincarnation, I think rebirth can happen many times in a single life. The psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung defined it as a renewal or transformation of the personality, writing that rebirth “is not a process that we can in any way observe. We can neither measure nor weigh nor photograph it. The intuition of immortality is entirely beyond sense perception.” Sometimes you have to make external changes to match your outsides to your insides (thanks @ clothes), but some changes are so thorough that they’re almost invisible.

Carson McCullers’ play The Member of the Wedding is about a 12-year-old named Frankie. (It was a novel first, but I know the play better!) Unlike, say, Holden Caulfield or Peter Pan, Frankie is not convinced that childhood is this magical, pure thing you get robbed of. She is desperate to participate in the world, planning the debut of a new and sophisticated identity, yearning for shards of real life to puncture her own. They do, finally, in the forms of loss and injustice. A different new identity emerges, perhaps not intentionally. She goes back to school, makes friends with more normal people, seems to have fewer erratic impulses, and appears less constantly existentially freaked out/fascinated—less eager to discuss death or pain—probably because those things have now become real to her. That hardening is both how humans survive, and how we become shut off from our feelings and miss out on life. I don’t know if you classify it as a loss or gain or something else entirely, or if it means Frankie will never recover her own vulnerability. The point is, how and when she changes is not really up to her. You know something deep has taken place because she seems to be unaware, or uninterested, in acknowledging it.

Maybe that’s OK? To grow into someone different from who you expected? To even become the kind of adult you swore you’d never be, granted that that adult is not a corrupt evildoer? Like, if you can’t fight time and must literally grow up or die, you can still find other ways to be raw and passionate and imaginative and not as fatally repressed and scared as the modern world would like us all to be. Death is my favorite card in the Tarot because it really stands for rebirth—not endings or finality, but ongoingness (to use Sarah Manguso’s word).

So, this month we will focus on how the shedding of old skins can be exciting instead of scary. Or what it’s like when it’s just scary. Or when the past lingers. Or when things change too fast. Learn about contributing your own work to Rookie at our Submit page, and whether you’re a longtime reader or just now joining us, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for being here. I leave you with a poem by Yrsa-Daley Ward.

Just because you do it
doesn’t mean you always will.
Whether you’re dancing dust
or breathing light
you’re never exactly the same,