“Timid and shy and scared am I
Of things beyond my ken
I need someone older and wiser
Telling me what to do
You are seventeen going on eighteen
I’ll, depend, on you”
Can anyone guess where this is from? Yes! The Sound of Music. My all time favorite musical. If you’ve seen it you remember the scene: It’s pouring out and Leisl is dancing just out of reach of the rain with her man candy Rolf. She’s singing about how she is becoming a woman, and needs Rolf, to look out for her. Rolf, mind you, is only a whopping one year older than she is.
The teen years were a journey for all of us I’m sure. I know that mine were…and that’s if by journey the connotation is less an evening stroll through the woods and more of a spinning, looping, speeding rollercoaster with no indication of when you’ll be let off.
Dating was a thing. Like…a real thing, not a sitting next to a boy in the cafeteria thing. But, having a deep emotional connection to another human kind of thing.
College was a thing. It was always a thing, but this was a thing that was happening…soon. And I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do or even if I wanted to go…
With or without college, graduation was a thing, a very fast approaching ready-or-not thing. My grades sucked at this point…and even though no one said it, everyone was nervous. I was nervous. I wasn’t sure I’d make it.
Work was a thing. I’d been working since I was 16 but now it was a thing that had to get me from point A to point Z somehow…not just a thing that I did for fast food money.
Driving was a thing…that everyone else was doing but I avoided after failing my permit test the first time.
Sports were suddenly a very important thing. Times mattered. Performance mattered. First impressions mattered.
There was a lot of pressure coming from all directions. All my life I had been a child incapable of making important decisions on my own and now all of a sudden every decision mattered for the rest of my life.
Oh…did I mention that my parents were getting divorced? Yeah, you know that thing everyone’s parents did in elementary school or while they were babies? Yeah, that. That was happening to my family at 17 years old.
My late teens were filled with so much…chaos. I craved some form of stability, didn’t find it, so I learned to thrive in the chaos and unpredictability. I stopped trying to define myself and let others do it for me. I found personas I liked and wore them for a while until I got bored or found another I liked better, one that was more fun, more exciting.
Through all of it though, all I really craved was visibility. I wanted to be seen. I wanted someone to spend more than a passing “how are you?” with me. Although I would have initially resisted (because that’s what teenagers do), I would have loved someone to have taken the time to say “Hey, I see you.”
When I was around 21 years old I began journaling again. I’ve journaled for the majority of my existence. I’m an advocate for it. I believe it keeps you sane and maintains your emotional intelligence and ability to communicate things to others, if you don’t journal I recommend you start. If you’re unsure of how to begin stay tuned and I’ll make that my next blog post. One of the things I wrote, was that I wanted to remember what it was like to be a teen for the rest of my life. Why? Why would I want to remember such a tumultuous time of my life, for the remainder of my life? Well, because in my world I had encountered so many adults who only knew how to adult. They were either too prideful or too ignorant to remind themselves of what their own teen years were like. I’d had too many conversations with adults who claimed not to understand the struggles of balancing romantic relationships with friendships with school and with crazy unbalanced hormones and everything else and that made them incredibly unhelpful to me during crucial times. I hated that I was surrounded with people who could help me but who were too invested in themselves to try to understand the world from my inexperienced viewpoint. That prayer was born out of frustration.
Fast forward 5 years.
I’ve worked with children and teens my entire job history, and never because I sought them out by the way. I actually thought I disliked children and teens at one point. I currently have the privilege of sitting with a group of 5 teen girls every single Wednesday night and I get to tell them “I see you.” I get to be a part of their lives and I get to watch their stories unfold. I get to watch them explore the world around them and watch as they grow into leaders. I get to work with people whose main job is to pay attention to each child they encounter and I get to watch as adults who remember their childhood embrace and partner with families to help children and teens succeed. Sometimes I forget about that moment in my purple bedroom not too long ago, but when I have moments like these where I remember… floored doesn’t even begin to explain it.
It has been such a blessing to get exactly what I asked for.
Teens need adults who care about them more than adults who want to control them. Yes, they are definitely intimidating, that’s a fact. But once you get past their protective shell you’ll see nothing but unrecognized potential. I give my time and energy to teens today because I know that right now, not when they’re 30 or not after they’re mothers, but right now they can change the world. All they need, is for you to believe in them.
Can you do that?
I’ve asked my teens for topics that they’d like me to discuss here, so that should be interesting. We should be seeing some results of that in the upcoming weeks. I’m excited.
I’ve got some more posts brewing, I’m excited that this is taking off and that it’s getting easier to be more myself in my writing topics and style. It’s hard to get started but I think I’m doing a pretty decent job. Thanks to those of you who read each week and like my posts, I appreciate it greatly!
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