Teenagers are actually the devil.
Or so I hear.
If there’s one trend I’m super tired of, it’s the psuedo-scientific op-ed about how this generation of young people is so frivolous and self-centered. Where some forty-year-old with serious nostalgia a superiority complex talks about the “me” generation and how everyone expects a trophy. (Now who do you think gave us all those trophies?). They harken back to a time when the youth were industrious and worked hard at their schoolwork instead of getting mired down in endless Twitbook drama and getting knocked up. They conveniently ignore that high school graduation is at an all time high and “teen pregnancy rates are at historic lows to make their points.
But honestly. In the past 25 years, life has changed at an incredible pace. Most of the young people under fire grew up with computers, technology, and social media being closely integrated into our lives. I was born in the same year as the internet, and I can’t imagine a world without it. And the internet has given those who can use it (who are overwhelmingly young) a chance to air their thoughts and concerns publicly like never before. And it seems like somehow, to older generations, the ability to share experiences and publicize them rather than
suffer in secret keep them to ourselves, somehow illegitimizes our experiences. But when you actually get them to talk about their formative years, most people will acknowledge that they felt the same way.
What does all this even mean?
So all the high school dances, and the crushes, and the heartbreaks – everything that makes the world feel like it’s ending – it’s all real. It’s all as real as anything ever has been for you. Melodramatic or not, the social situations you encounter in middle school, and then all over again in high school are, for the most part, unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, and so they eclipse the whole scope of your experiences. They’re huge and beautiful and terrible all at once, and you don’t know how to be anything but overwhelmed.
And I’ve noticed, as I grow up, that I just keep getting overwhelmed. I graduated high school and it took my a while to cope with the fact that I was never going back. I started college and it wasn’t just one big frat party with the occasional study montage. It’s real, day-to-day life and day-to-day work, and I have to face it. I just signed a lease. For an apartment. I have partial rental ownership of a building. I’m going to be living more independently than I ever have and it’s strange and a more than a little scary. It’s the biggest thing I’ve faced so far.
I also know that eventually, I’m going to get another apartment. And graduate college. And maybe get married, maybe buy a house. And those things are going to be so big. Just like the high school melodrama, just like this apartment, they’re going to eclipse everything else I’ve experienced. Nothing’s going to change about what I’ve been through, but the way I see it will have grown with me.
So from one perspective, I understand how easy it is to dismiss the problems of teenagers.
To someone who’s grown forward from there, the problems of youth seems so small. But it’s all a matter of perspective. The experiences you have never get smaller. You just get bigger around them, stronger and more capable, as you deal with bigger and bigger things in your life. The experiences you have never mean less, you’ve just had a greater quantity of meaningful things happen in your life, and they take up comparably less space.
But from the other perspective, I want to ask “How dare you?” Because most grown-up-type people who scoff at teens were there once. Freaking out over their high school crushes and their dance moves and their taste in music, or whatever it is they like to demean people for now. It was real to them back then, and it’s real to the rest of us now, and just because they’ve had the advantage of time to grow forward from somewhere doesn’t give them the right to disparage those still in the middle of it.
Can it be stopped?
I’ll admit, sometimes when I look back at middle school, I cringe a little bit. I had these awful bangs and it was just generally a rough time to be Megan. But you know what? I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t been there, first. The fact that some boy I barely knew had a crush on me is no longer a mortifying, all-consuming experience. But it was then, and it had every right to be. And so as hard to relate as it might be, I do my best to empathize with people, even if I’ve already grown past what they’re dealing with on a personal level.
It’s not difficult. And I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect the same courtesy from others.
Do you think the youth experience has changed significantly in the past few years? Why or why not?