Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Suckness of Teenagehood

My sister IMed me today to tell me that my 15-year-old niece didn’t make the Yearbook staff. As her mother, my sister feels terrible that her child is hurting. As the aunt and former Yearbook editor (for the same high school) I’m annoyed that her talent got overlooked. But part of me thinks this has to be chalked up as part of the suckness of being a teenager.

I remember being a preteen and having all these grand notions about what high school would be like. I thought for sure I’d be popular, brilliant and outgoing—and of course have a boyfriend. I seem to recall even talking with friends, trying to predict what age we’d lose our virginity.

Flash forward to the actual 4-year era and I was a skinny, gawky, shy-ish but sarcastic girl who barely had a boyfriend for four months and was nowhere close to losing her virginity. My best friend and I tried out for cheerleading together when we were 15. She made it, I didn't. I was never going to be the girl I pictured years before.

In the finite realm of high school, every bit of rejection, criticism, insecurity is amplified. It all feels so huge.

I wish there was a way to make kids really understand how little high school matters. It gets built up as being "the best years of your life," but really, those are some of the hardest years. Sure, there are great memories. And lots of firsts. But there's awkwardness in your body. Uncertainty with your persona. Constant questioning. Continual competition. And in the grand scheme, I think it can be meaningless.

Or maybe it means a lot—maybe all the hardship is what chips away at you and helps sculpt you into the person you're meant to be. Maybe the thing to tell teens is that even their friends who seem to have everything are experiencing pain. Nobody gets to have it exactly the way they want it. And somewhere, someone is probably envying the way you did something or the way your life is going.

I wish I could flash forward into my niece's future and show her what an amazing, successful, happy individual she's going to be. Show her that everything is going to be okay. That today—and even this year—is just a tiny blip.

Every day is a chance for the blip to go in a new direction.


LesleyG said...

Ugh. Those high school feelings. I had so many great experiences in high school, and yet the ones that seem to be easier to recollect are the hard times, the times when I thought the world would end based on a little, little thing. Everything is so huge, so hard. And when you think about it, when you see your life only in the window of four years or so, it is pretty huge. It's really amazing that any of us make it through to be healthy, happy adults. Good support at home makes a huge difference, even if we don't realize it at the time.

Sizzle said...

The high school years can be brutal. But they can also really shape your resiliency and self-esteem (which is good and bad simultaneously). I think all you can do is remind her that she is loved and talented and later she'll remember the support and it will resonate with her. Teenagers can only see themselves in that moment a lot of the time. Hell, a lot of adults get stuck in that mindset too. Maybe her not being accepted to Yearbook just means she will find something better that she is awesome at?

Danielle said...

So, so true. I have tries to explain this to my teenaged step sister. But just as I would have done when I was her age, she ignors me. I guess we have to sit back and watch just as our elders did for us!

Anonymous said...

I dunno. Sometimes I feel like I never really left high school. I'm still not popular, brilliant or outgoing - and I still don't have a girlfriend! LOL

Anonymous said...

Grandma P always said things happen for a reason - good or bad. And something good comes from everything bad. Because I know C is a perfectionist, and wants to do the best in all aspects; I too believe she didn't make yearbook for a reason. Perhaps, her grades would have suffered or her stress level meeting more deadlines would have become an issue. I believe something better is waiting for her.
Life is full of ups and downs and disappointments - and parents feel that hurt just as much as their children - but it too builds character and prepares you for the coming years. She is a beautiful, charming, and intelligent girl and her path will soon find it's way to better things in life.

Scribe said...

I always said that my high school days were practice for my college/university days. I spent my youth working to be someone else - more popular, etc. - and I've spent the rest of my life working to appreciate the person I am. My trials and tribulations during those four years made me the great person I am today.

You are right - everything happens for a reason and it will turn out as it should in the end. It just sucks right now.