I would like to thank my college students for allowing me to share these excerpts from recent papers they wrote on "My Teenage Years." I have been assigning this paper for almost 25 years and I am always touched by my student's honesty and insight as they reflect on their adolescence now that they have some distance.
So in their words I give you their thoughts on:
EMOTION AND FRIENDS:
"During my teenage years I felt emotions worse and more extreme than I ever had in my entire life. Everything hurt worse than it ever did before and everything was dramatic. I had my heat broken so many times I lost track. Often these heart breaks didn't come from boys. The worst heartbreak I ever felt was when my closest friend told me she didn't want to be friends with me any more. Her reasons didn't make sense to me and I felt horrible. We had spent all of high school there for each other with no arguments or problems. She made me hate myself because I felt rejected. I became crazed over it and analyzed every part of our friendship and all my other friendships to see what made me such a horrible person in her eyes. There are many differences between who I am now and who I was when I was thirteen. I no longer care as much how people perceive me or think of me. I no longer feel emotions as strong as I did. I actually look back at some of the things that once made me cry and laugh because they seem so ridiculous now.
I realize that as a teen my friends helped define who I was and who I wanted to be, and so I sometimes wanted to be friends with people that saw the person I wanted to be. She is not the person I am today."
"During Adolescence I thought I was too cool to be seen with my family. My mother would always get mad at me when I would not talk to her while we were in public. For some reason I was embarrassed to be seen with my mom. When I step back and look at the fact that I did that, I have no idea why it was such a big deal. With a completely 180 degree flip, I love to hang out with my mom now, sometimes more than with my friends!"
"I used to be the bigger kid in my group, but than I realized I wasn't getting any taller. I kept waiting for the growth spurt I heard about from my pediatrician. It never happened. I never had a year where I grew more than two inches. I have been 5 ft 6 in since the seventh grade. Although I never talked to anyone about my height bothering me, I would come home and mention that my once shorter cousin or friend was now taller than me. My friends teased me bad."
" The one thing I couldn't accept about myself was having a flat chest. In seventh grade, a lot of girls were starting to develop breasts but I was not one of them. At first it was something I was only mildly insecure about because other girls were in the same boat. I didn't think I was getting sized up or people examined my body as closely as I did. But when I got my first boyfriend that made me far more doubtful of what was normal for breast size. I was raised with very good morals and didn't want to put my body out for anyone to have. When I didn't do sexual things with him, he cheated on me with my very busty best friend. After a few weeks of people finding out and bashing the couple for doing something incredibly harsh to me, he lied, and said we fooled around, but I was boring since I didn't have big boobs. For the rest of the year, I was mocked by his friends for not being developed.
A BIG TAKEAWAY:
Adolescence is hard. Because teens are naturally so self-involved they can be hurtful and mean. The fragility and vulnerability of teens, due their changing bodies and changing brains can contribute to emotional highs and extreme emotional lows.
The good news, nothing lasts forever. This is lesson that older teens learn, and a lesson that you should learn as well. What you see now is not what you will see in a few years. This is a moment in time when drama, attitude, and feeling dismissed as parents feels acute and painful. But fear not, with age, and growth, maturity, and a move home after college, these feelings will be a distant memory.