05/08/2015

YS Obsessions: Gaby Gloria on Tavi Genson and ‘Rookie’

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Three years ago, on the day after Christmas, I rushed down to National Bookstore to hunt for a copy of what I think is the cornerstone of my teenage existence: Rookie Yearbook One.

I emerged from the store victorious, large paper bag clutched ever-so-tightly against my chest (right above my heart!), beaming at everyone and everything I passed. I breathed in its papery scent. I showed it off to my lola and mom. I Instagramed a collage of my favorite pages. I suppose it was sort of over to cry about it — but I did that, too.

Since then, nothing has ever compared to the rush I feel whenever I crack open a new Rookie yearbook and flip through its pages.

If you’re reading this and thinking “Are we missing out on some hip new guide for sports team newcomers?” then let me enlighten you with the spiel I recite to everyone who asks. The condensed version goes something like this: “Rookie is the best! It’s this online magazine for teen girls that isn’t like anything else. It tackles topics that actually matter! You have to check it out. It was founded by Tavi Gevinson, this girl from Chicago who’s my age…”

Rookie yearbooks are annual print compilations of the work from the website. Though my own memories aren’t artfully printed onto the pages of each volume, I still associate most of the photo sets, essays, and artworks from the site with my own experiences.

A brief explanation: much like the clichés we see in coming-of-age movies (but minus the sneaking out, rebelling and #YOLO moments), high school saw me yearning to find an identity that was a little more grown-up, but also PG-13. I was struggling to find my own identifier — something that would live up to my own ideals of “coolness.”

In sophomore year, an afternoon of procrastination led me to rookiemag.com, and it was as if a light shone down from the heavens onto my computer screen. The articles on the site resonated with me because they had so much substance. Back then, most of my friends kept referencing things that I couldn’t understand, which made it hard for me to keep up. They’d never heard of Rookie, so having that one thing over them gave me a sense of being ahead during a time when I was always behind.

Eventually, I became conflicted. I wanted to preach the word of Tavi to everyone I met, but at the same time keep it to myself. Rookie was the first thing I’d fully discovered myself, and I wasn’t comfortable knowing that other people knew about it too. It was such a special thing to have, and I hoped that other people would realize its greatness too.

Rookie has a staying power that will probably span generations. In comparison, it’s like that indie band you’ve known about since forever, but has been growing popular only now. You’ve grown too attached, which makes it too painful to share them with others.

There’s a recurring segment on the site called “Literally the best thing ever,” where a contributor talks about his/her guilty pleasure. They’re usually about weird things like glitter and Harry Potter villains, but sometimes they’re about totally real and so not temporary obsessions like Joni Mitchell and God (GOD!).

I’m 18 going on 19 — still too young to know what might happen in the future, but old enough to understand how change works. Maybe something else will have a greater impact on me in the future. But while I’m here, almost two years away from being a legit adult, I genuinely have to say that Rookie is quite literally, the best thing ever.

The cover for the site’s fourth (and final) yearbook was posted a couple of days ago, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Bump into me at the bookstore sometime in late October, and let’s relive the rush together, yeah?

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