The Bittersweet Graduation of Rookie Yearbook

by Annie Zidek

Courtesy of Annie Zidek

Courtesy of Annie Zidek

October is a tease. The weather fluctuates; she can’t decide if she wants to hold onto summer, or if she’s willing to fade into winter. The days stop faster; the nights start at 5:30 because the clocks can’t fall back until November. October is a month of change, of endings.

Since the 2011 birth of Rookie—an evolution of Tavi Gevinson's very own personal blog The Style Rookie—the site has dedicated itself as a celebration of young girls and all things teen, and Tavi has cemented herself as the mother of bitchfacing, DIY flower crowns, and shrines to our fave celebs. Through Rookie (and occasionally The Style Rookie), Tavi has also offered advice on the teenage mundane from unrequited love to scrapbooking.

In a way, Rookie, the webzine dedicated to young girls and the everyday issues they face, has ended. With the release of their fourth yearbook—a publication compiled of the best posts from that year—marking their senior year, the era of Rookie Yearbooks has come to a close. The feminist webzine has, in a way, graduated.

Now, I previously saw Tavi at two Rookie events, both for the release of the second yearbook two years ago. The first one was in October at Tavi’s hometown of Oak Park, where she and other Chicagoland Rookie writers read some of their pieces featured in that year’s yearbook. The second event took place at Saki, a mellow record store nestled along west Fullerton in Logan Square.

That night was memorable. I drove down from the northern suburbs with my two best friends at the time (and one of their moms). Tavi read her December editor’s letter titled “FOREVER”, wherein she earnestly explored what “forever” is (essentially teendom). The band Lemonhead jammed out, as Rookies danced along; and Rookies spent hours together, chatting and spreading love amongst one another. It was an ethereal moment in my “forever.”

Courtesy of Annie Zidek

Courtesy of Annie Zidek

Speed through time about two years, and on October 21, girls greeted Tavi Gevinson to the stage at the Music Box Theater with hymns of “mom,” enforcing the idea that Tavi is in fact the ultimate maternal totem in the Rookie world. I’m at the Chicago Yearbook Four release: eighteen and with a powerful gal pal sitting next to me as Tavi reads her editor’s letter from August from just three months earlier. August’s theme was “Give and Take,” so in turn, Rookie’s editor in chief explores the dynamics of relationships—family, friends, lovers—but offers no conclusion. It served as Chicago Rookies’ commencement speech. And it was fitting. It encapsulates our own relationships with Rookie.

Our bond with the Yearbooks is coming to a close, but our time with Rookie is far from concluding. Though the annual Yearbook publications are ending, Rookie continues. It has played a role in our lives for four years already. It grew up with us in high school and taught us things our own mothers and teachers didn’t. It’s a passionate Internet site that's assumed the role of “mom” in many cases, and in a way, Tavi has also done that for me. She was my go-to, my substitute mom, my long-distance-friend. She was my idol.

Courtesy of Annie Zidek

Courtesy of Annie Zidek

Tavi still sits with prevalence on my list of influential people, but not as an idol. In her editor’s letter for “Give and Take” this past August, Tavi notes that “getting older means killing your idols, seeing their flaws, lowering them off their pedestals.” I have grown. Over the years, I’ve weaned off Rookie, checking it monthly rather than daily. I still keep track of Tavi and her goings-on, but I don’t hold her at such high regard. She isn’t dead, she’s very much alive. But I’ve learned to treat her as a human being with things to worry about and people to love and things to fuck up. She is off the pedestal I built for her, and she is walking the streets of New York City and riding the subway and acclimating to the concrete jungle just as I am doing in Chicago.

November is now six days old, and October is gone. The days will soon get colder, and the nights will bleed into mornings and afternoons. I am ready. Rookie and Tavi taught me warmth and awareness, and I will adapt to the bitter Midwest winter. I will be—I am—self-aware: with cautious yet confident movements, I feel my way through winter, headed towards the tender breaths of March and spring, a time of birth, exploration, and growth.