“Being a Teenager is vastly over-rated. We all make mistakes, we are stubborn and we couldn’t give two shits what our parents think, we hate school, we cause shit, we fight, we love, we cry, we give up believing in a higher power. We’re all f##ked up and that’s the truth, we all come from dysfunctional families, because no family is perfect. We say things that we don’t mean, we yell, we scream, we get broken hearts, we get drunk, we have sex. Grades don’t mean a thing anymore, we live on quotes and music that describes our lives and most importantly we are tired. We’re tired of waking up each morning and having to go to school where we see the people we hate or the people we love, we get tired of waiting for the text message that’s not going to come and we get tired of pretending we’re fine.” Unknown Teenager
I came across the above quote yesterday while doing some research for a story I’m working on. I read, then reread it, then sat for awhile thinking about it and wondering if it was really an accurate description of the teenage condition today? Could teens today in this user friendly, easy access, hi-tech, social media society of ours, still suffer the pains teenage angst? You bet. It’s a rite of passage. Even with all the marvels of modern man the brooding, inner turmoil, pain, passion and self-doubt that make up teen life, is indeed alive and well today. Sad really, except for the part about the ‘text message that never comes’, the quote above could be describing the teens of my day as well! And that was more than 40 some years ago! I suppose it only proves what “they” say, (whoever the hell they are!) is true, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Yes the ‘teenage wasteland’, that unpredictable period of our lives between the ages of 13 and 20, when we pass through what our parents used to call a “phase” hasn’t changed much over time. Remember hearing the phase thing? I sure do. “Oh he’s just going through a phase” or “It’s just a phase all teenagers go through.” Yeah and some phases last longer than others. Mine stayed with me well into my late twenties. No, really! I was a late bloomer! Actually I’m 63 and sometimes I still feel a twinge of that rebelliousness and contempt for authority I felt as a teen. I tell you, it’s been a helluva long phase!
For most the teenage years are tough and often painful, a time of confusion, anger and even desperation, with just a smattering of good times thrown in to offer us some hope. Usually we can’t wait to get those years behind us and move on with our lives. However, for a select few the teen years are their glory years, particularly high school. Sometimes the best years of their lives, glory years some go on reliving for the rest of their lives. It never gets any better. Pretty sad really, to realize you peaked out in high school, but it does happens.
As a counselor I worked with kids everyday. I got to see it all first hand. I saw the kids who relished every high school moment and those who hated every minute of it. I saw them all, the jocks, nerds, geeks, skaters, Goths, outsiders, tough girls, bullies, taggers, wannabe gang bangers, the well adjusted, and the maladjusted. Just another day in the Guidance Office.
At times when I worked one on one with some of these kids, listening to what ailed them, trying to find the right combination of words that might help take some of the weight off their shoulders, it was a lot like sitting across from my teenage self. Man do I remember those days! The only difference is I didn’t have a counselor I could go to. I had no one I could really talk to. My entire senior year I saw my counselor maybe two times for a grand total of maybe five minutes if that. The first time was my first day at AHS when I got the welcome speech and the second was a few weeks before graduation when he called me in to tell me I wasn’t graduating. Yeah he was a great counselor, not! By the way, I did graduate on time, no thanks to him.
When I became a counselor I knew exactly the kind of counselor I wanted to be. I had promised myself I would be the type of counselor I never had, the type of counselor that I had needed, one that makes himself available to his students at all times, no matter the reason. Now I don’t claim to have all the answers for these kids, but I do have empathy for them and I know how to listen. Sometimes that’s all they really need, someone to listen to them.
Unfortunately, sometimes I think parents and teachers forget just how tough the teen years really are. I haven’t ever forgotten. They are probably the most tumultuous times of our lives, an emotional roller coaster of raging hormones, mood swings, anger, frustration, rebelliousness and strong sexual impulses. This transition period from childhood to adulthood is both vital and critical to our physical and emotional development. During this period we begin to develop a sense of self and want things done our way. We begin to view the older generation and their rules as foolish and look upon our parent, teachers and other authority figures with contempt. We are more easily influenced by our peers during this time, and are affected by peer pressure. Our relationship with our friends become more important than our ties with family and we view ourselves as victims in the battle of us versus them.
The journey through the ‘teenage wasteland’ though not easy, is a necessary one. It is the most important, life-changing phase of our lives. I lived through it once and have no desire to go back and go through it again. Even knowing what I know now I wouldn’t want to, no way! Besides I believe it was far more important to draw from my experience and be there to offer my students a sympathetic ear, lend a helping hand whenever possible, perhaps even provide some sense of direction no matter how slight, to this new generation of restless youth as they make their way across the ‘teenage wasteland.’