To be fair some of the people in this high school picture did succeed in getting their diplomas in the alloted time and some in the end having to back to school, or taking a trade later in life offered through welfare, or unemployment insurance, but most of us suffered a lot of hardships along the way that could have been avoided and some of us are still right where we were then or worse. The pitfalls are many and some even have social and moral merit, but if you do not do what is necessary to succeed, you will become part of what society sees as part of the problem and this includes your friends and the cause you valued so high that you sacrificed yourself and your personal goals for. I was vice president of this club in high school, but when I looked around the years had passed me by, the urgency of the cause was gone and I was just another uneducated black guy, with no job prospects, with a baby and girlfriend to support at 19 years old. Going back to school was not an option and so dreams of being a doctor, lawyer and even owning a store went out the window, along with me ever reaching my true potential.
I remember being a teenager and it sucked and all of my friends thought so too. In fact I do not know anyone who claims that being a teenager was a great thing, or even a good thing. All eyes are on you at this age and every grown up in your life and every child in your life is trying to get you to do something different all at the same time. Your parents wanted you to study hard and do as you are told. Your teachers wanted you to study hard, use your own mind. Your teachers encouraged you express yourself openly and honestly and that got you into trouble at home where doing what you were told without question and following the rules whether you agreed with them or not in silence preferably, was your safest choice. Then there were your peers, your friends and those you wished to be friends with all with their opinions of what you should be doing and how best for all of you to react to the ever-growing pressure and conspiracy to keep you babies forever. All of these kids did their part in helping you fight the wrong battles and helped to keep you in trouble from the time you woke up, until the time you went to sleep and you have not even entered into the equation what is that you want out of life.
At this point in your life no one seemed to care what you thought, what you wanted, or how you felt, about anything. Everyone seemed to think that they knew you better than you knew yourself. Who and what you really were and thought just did not matter and not much has changed, so it still plainly sucks to be you a teenager in a land of overprotective adults, raging hormones, pushy teachers and ever-present peer pressure.
Even the most liberal of parents fear for their children‘s safety and well-being and no parent wants to see his, or her child hurt and so we allow ourselves to be convinced that we must protect you from everything and everyone, or that it is somehow possible to spare you, (our children) the growing pains that we and every other adult on this planet went through as teenagers in one way, or another. We try to tell our children who to love and who to steer clear of, because we do not want to see them hurt and in some cases by doing so, we hand our children right over to them(those that who would harm them) and put a wedge between us and our children, but that is not our intent. We tell long stories hoping either to frighten our children into change, or to enlightened them as to what lies ahead and it works no better than when our parents told the stories to us. We get angry when our children do not listen and we punish them, for bad marks, answering back, hanging out with the wrong crowd, which further drives the wedge between us and them making them even more susceptible to peer pressure and closing their hearts and minds to us, so that we are no longer and influence in their lives other than that of the negative grownup they can’t wait to get old enough to leave. We are becoming the enemy instead of the trusting friend and parent and it is all being accomplished with an over protective type of love.
It does not matter if you are rich, or poor, academically inclined, or a sports jock, a cheerleader, or nerd all of you will feel the pressure from everywhere and none will escape without some bruises and a few emotional scars, because it is the only way to learn, it is part of growing up, it is the right of passage. No matter how the world demands it of you will never be able to make everyone happy and the world will never be able to give you all that you want or all that you need, but all will have the answers to the impossible and it will not be an easy task to overcome, but it can be made livable. Succeed, or fail it is all in your hands as a teenage. It is up to you to stand up and make it happen and it is not easy, because no parent, teacher, or friend will want to give up the power they wish to hold over you; the power they think is theirs by right of passage and age, or your membership, so you will have to be smart about it.
I think that the key is to pick one’s battles and not to just disagree with adults because that is what teenagers are expected to do, or because your friends are pushing you in that direction and you want to belong; that is just exchanging one task master for another and usually will end you in serious problems and find you standing alone with that friend disappearing when you need them the most. Try to develop a plan as to who you are and what you want. Where you are in life and where you would like to be, or at least the direction you would like to travel. Become less of a mystery to your parent’s, family and teachers. Share with them the plans you have, your joys, your ambition and what your goals are. People are afraid of the unknown even your parents, but maybe if they feel that you have a plan for your life, they will try to help you achieve it instead of make a plan for your life, for you. I know this seems unfair that you should be put through all of this at this time in your life, but parenting and teaching is not a perfect science and it sucks to be a teenager.
I think school is the hardest challenge and often the challenge is for the teen to stay focused and determine to keep in mind what is of the most importance to them. The pull of the crowd, the dances, the trips, the sexual awareness that they feel and the urge to be rid of adults constantly telling you what to do makes doing the right thing for you almost impossible. What one must determine is at the end of the day, is if following the crowd, or giving into peer pressure will get you where you want to be in your life. Will hanging out today get you where you want to be tomorrow, because your friends will have other obligations later in life as you will and they will not be able to help you get where you need to go they will be too busy, so decide what it is you want out of life and go for it.
If you look at a teacher as a guide in a tour that you have opted to take I think that you will have an easier time dealing with them and what they are trying to do for you. Do you need a guide to show you around a city and help you get to know it and what it has to offer in your short time there? I would not say absolutely, but it sure makes things a lot easier and allows you to concentrate on getting the most out of your stay and perhaps could even make the whole adventure a lot more pleasurable. There are good guides and bad guides as there are good tourists and bad, but ultimately what you get out of school is up to you and you and you alone will have to live with the results of what you have learned during this time.
Becoming sexually awakened is not fun either and the pressure to act on those new budding feelings is enormous and often end up with the teenager doing something not because they feel they are ready, but to get it over with and be like what they think the rest of their friends are doing. Unwanted pregnancies, babies having babies is usually the outcome of such actions with one’s education taking the back seat and the young lady usually ending up taking care of the baby by herself and the man moving on to try his luck with another person. Even in the best scenario all are losers and grow up way to early and miss out on being all that they could have been. The safest sex is abstinence, if you simply can not abstain then please use protection, there are far worse things than getting pregnant too early, like getting aids. My mother once told me,”Son if you do all of the things that adults do now as a teenager, there will be nothing left for you to enjoy, or experience when you are indeed a man”. I did not listen to her, but she was right.
What this all boils down to is that if you have not developed your own ideas of what is important to you and have the strength to follow your dream you are not alone and will probably have a little bit of a bumpy road ahead of you. My advice to you is to follow your path and not that of your friends, parents, or teachers, because they will not have to live the life that they suggest, or are trying to impose on you. Be wise enough to know when you are getting good advice and not let your need to be free of authority stop you from taking sound advice from parents and teachers and friends. It is not easy, but know when your friends are not being friends and are not suggesting things that will get you where you want to go, because when you fall they will not be there to pick you up, because they will be there on the ground with you.
I remember a time that I had a job working in the bank. I had not seen my friends in some years and I was doing great, that is until we found each other by accident. I walked into a bar and there they all were on welfare and closing the bar every night. At first I was able to hang out with them and get up and go to work, but they always kind of chided me and made fun of me having to leave and eventually I started staying later and later and soon I was not able to get up and started missing work. I got fired, but that did not bother me because now I could hang out with my friends. Well they did not want me hanging out with them, because I soon ran out of money to buy drinks and that was the only reason that they really wanted me around. The only advice they had for me now was to get on welfare after unemployment insurance ran out. It took me years to get back on my feet and through it all my mother and family helped as they always have tried to do, but my friends again faded into the background, too busy taking care of their own problems to get involved in mine.
Stand up for what you believe and never give up. The future belongs to you if you believe and do the things that you need to do, to be a success and only you can measure what being a success to you is. It is this success that will make you a happy content person.
- Self Reflection: A letter to my 7th grade self (jennicinparadise.com)