Editor’s note: This story was written by a high school student in Northwest Asian Weekly Foundation’s Summer Youth Leadership Program. This story is part of a special back-to-school issue.
By Sofia L. Wagner
“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”
— Socrates (469–399 B.C.)
As a child, I was scared of teenagers, not that I ever had much interaction with them. There were a few at church, a couple in the locker rooms at the pool. But mainly, what I knew about teenagers came from comments made by my parents.
From what I understood, teenagers were a sketchy group of young hooligans, generally with scandalously baggy jeans or low-cut blouses. They dyed their hair with strange colors, had Mohawks, had multiple body piercings, and perhaps, the evil of all evils, they had tattoos. Their vehicle of choice was a red convertible.
To parents, teachers, and other respectable elders, they were generally rude and disobedient. Teenagers were reckless, inconsiderate, and dangerous. As if that wasn’t enough, they listened to rap. In my classical music-loving family, having anything to do with rap was an irredeemable offense.
Needless to say, I was horrified when I turned 13. “This is the beginning of the end,” I thought. “I wonder how long it’ll be before I start being mean to my parents or trying to wear teenager clothes. Are all the nice old people I know going to be afraid of me now?”
A funny thing happened. I didn’t change very much. I dressed the way I had always loved to dress. People still smiled at me. No one seemed to view me as a public menace. My relationship with my parents survived.
Did these things reassure me? No. “Maybe I’m not a real teenager yet,” I decided.
Now, at 16, I’m pretty sure I’m a teenager. And you know what? I’m an OK kid! I look at all my teen friends and realize that I know a lot of OK kids.
Sure, there are bad kids out there, but a lot of us are really nice people. Yes, we can be crazy and reckless. We’re also likely to try strange, dangerous, or just plain goofy things. We will try things that most adults would find pointless and silly. But I think these things just have to happen in the process of entering adulthood and trying to figure out who we are. After we’re tired of testing our boundaries, we’ll wise up.
But in the meantime, I’m happy being a featherbrained, foolhardy teenager. ♦