Other Voices: Message for a troubled high schooler
My parents lied to me. They didn’t intend to hurt me, but they did. In fact, they were trying to make life easier for me.
The day I started high school they told me this was going to be the happiest time of my life. It wasn’t. It was the most miserable. In fact, at times it got so bad that I seriously considered committing suicide – as have some of you.
I’ll tell you where the pain was in a moment, but first let’s talk about what saved me – and made me mighty glad today.
My best friend had a wise old saying: “This, too, shall pass,” which is one of the greatest truisms you can ever learn. How many times when I was way, way down, did I say this to myself, and it gave me the courage to go on.
But how come, when adolescence and early-adulthood were supposed to be so great, did I feel so low?
What I didn’t know, and what no one ever told me, was that this period of life can be and is stressful, and it feels as if the stresses will never stop. Your body is going through all sorts of growth and hormonal changes, which are confusing. You don’t really know who you are or why you often feel the way you do, and you’re certain something is the matter with you.
You’re at the time of your life when the most important thing in the whole world is being accepted by your peers, yet you feel left out – and that can be deadly.
I was a nerd. I was a klutz in sports, and couldn’t even get up the nerve to talk to the girl I most wanted to know better. I couldn’t dance, and my parents considered popular music “bad,” so I couldn’t listen to it. Any of this familiar?
There was peer pressure to smoke, which I didn’t want to do. Fortunately, I never gave in to that one.
The biggest problem one was the joke that nature has played on all of us for generations. Way back, about 50,000 years ago, human life was very, very short. You hunted and gathered to stay alive, and if you lived to be 30, you were an old man or woman. For the human race to survive, you had to get pregnant and raise a family when you were about 13.
Today, you will probably live until you’re 80 or 90. Society demands that you spend your puberty getting educated and learning how to make a living. But the urge to merge is strong and can’t be ignored. But if you get pregnant, or become a father when you’re young, you’re faced with the real catastrophe of never being able to go on to the life you’d hoped for. Yes, adolescence is full of stress.
Another problem, and it is a huge one, is that your physical reactions are fast, and your judgment is way off.
You are a normal young adult and think you’re invincible: Nothing can possibly hurt you. So you get reckless and take chances. You are extremely vulnerable, bleed and hurt when you’re wounded, and often end up damaged or dead.
You didn’t mean to hurt those who loved you, but you left them with a lifetime of mourning and regrets.
You have a couple of parents who are truly concerned for you, yet because you’re living in a different world from the one they grew up in (and this is always true), you think they can’t possibly know anything.
But let me ask you a question: Do you think you knew more when you were 12 than when you were 10? How about more at 14 than when you were 12, and more at 16 than at 14?
Then know that at 20, you’re going to know a lot more than you do now. At their present ages, your parents know a lot, lot more about living than you do. You can’t get to 40 without going through your 30s; and you can’t get through your 30s without going through your 20s.
Too often, families don’t eat together, talk together or share experiences, so you adolescents feel you’re on your own. Your school counselor has a hundred of you on his list. Talking with your friends can’t give you much information, as they don’t really know any more than you do; but at least you can get your feelings out.
If there’s just one understanding person you can talk with, tell him or her where you are. It’s a lifesaver.
But if there’s no one, try to remember that almost all of us adults were where you are and that, while it’s a platitude, it’s the truth: “This, too, shall pass.”
Otto Haueisen lives in Nevada City.
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