Twelve-year-old Jada Edwards reads voraciously, enjoys going to museums with her aunts, and stares at pictures of the ocean, thinking about the generations that came before her. While Jada is often called an “old soul,” in reality, she just wants to be popular.
“My mom’s friends are always saying, ‘She is wise beyond her years,’ or ‘She was born in the wrong century.’ What is that even supposed to mean? I just want to be invited to one of Jenna’s sleepovers so I can try cigarettes.”
Sadly, this “old soul” label has followed Jada her entire life.
“I used to write songs about, like, the importance of being kind,” she pauses. “God, what was wrong with me? I should have been begging my mom to buy me padded bras so maybe Brendan would notice me.”
Jada’s mother, Eileen, is proud of her child’s unusual leanings.
“She’s so imaginative,” she says, beaming. “When she was little, she used to get so depressed right before her birthday. She would say, ‘Only four more days and I’ll never be three again.’ And I would just think, wow, this kid’s really special.”
“Mom!” Jada interjects. “Don’t tell people that! I want to get picked early for Color Wars.”
Jada does her best to hide her old soul from her classmates, but sometimes this proves impossible.
“I’ve never had a student quite like her,” says seventh grade English teacher Martha Diehl. “Her writing is very mature, in an almost eerie way. All the other kids write dragon stories or dumb teen romances, but her psychological realist novella centering on a crumbling marriage—”
“Ms. Diehl, I told you not to tell anyone about that!” Jada interrupts. “What Ms. Diehl means is that I hate school! Haha, school is so dumb! Check out my Uggs.”
Jada may have a hard time ahead of her, as studies show that most old souls are not fully appreciated until college. “I can’t wait till then; I’ll finally have a boyfriend,” says Jada, while completing a needlepoint of her favorite W.H. Auden quote.
Unfortunately, by college, it’s only the straight male old souls who manage to reach the top of the social hierarchy by using their sensitivity to woo female English majors. For female old souls like Jada, achieving social prowess could take even longer.
“I know it will be a long road,” says Jada, with the resolve of someone who has lived through a lot. “I, of all people, understand that. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try, every minute of every day, to squash my old soul into oblivion. And then maybe, just maybe, someone will decorate my locker on my birthday.”