I’ll never forget him.
Situated in the back of the classroom, his enthusiasm for class bubbled over every day. He was a little taller than the average 8th grade student and sported a mop of curly hair on his head that actually bounced when he walked.
Cute as a button, he had a broad, impish smile that lit up his cherubic face, accented his dimples, and could warm the coldest of hearts. He could be a bit of a goof-off, yet I noticed that he was very intelligent and possessed a maturity level beyond his teenage years.
My work for a non-profit takes me into schools, community organizations, and churches where I communicate with teens about making wise life decisions. I will never forget the teen boy I described above because while we as a class were discussing problems and difficulties teenagers sometimes experience, he uttered this response, “Oh, you mean teenage angst!”
Other students seemed dumbfounded and asked, “Huh?” “What did he say?” “What is THAT?”
I allowed him to explain what he meant, and he did quite well, ending with another phrase most teenagers totally understand. “It’s being emo,” he explained and the classroom all seemed to say “Oh!” at the same time.
Teenage angst. The word angst comes from the German language and it is defined as “a feeling of anxiety, or apprehension, often accompanied by depression” or “a feeling of dread, anguish, or insecurity.” Coupled with the word teenage, when angst looks at itself in a mirror, it would see teenage and think it was its own reflection – same image.
What teenager do you know who has never felt moments of angst? Most of us can remember all too well those emotions from our own teenage years, even if it was back in the dark ages. I’m certain that puberty, when our hormones kick into high acceleration, fuels most of those feelings of apprehension and insecurity. When a youngster is in the middle of turmoil, it’s difficult for them to believe that eventually the things that seem so important to them now won’t matter in the future.
Sometimes I wish I could travel back in time and warn my own teenage self that some issues just are not worth the worrying, crying yourself to sleep over, or wasting so much time and energy on. If I could save my teenage self from all those wasted feelings of angst, here is what I’d say:
- Not getting official “Monkee” boots, or go-go boots, or a genuine leather jumper doesn’t make you a loser. Someday you will develop your own sense of style and not want to dress just like everyone else.
- Don’t give your heart away to the first boy who acts like he likes you because chances are he likes five other girls besides you. (And he’s not good husband material, anyway!)
- No matter how much you think you love him and daydream about him, you will not meet and marry Davy Jones of The Monkees! But that’s okay, because the man you do marry is soooooo much better.
- That hair cut, no matter how bad it seems, will grow out. As for beauty tips, stop wearing blue eye shadow and white lipstick. Neither one looks good on you.
- Not making the drill team is not the end of the world. When you are in your 20’s and enjoying your career, no one will care whether you were a pom-pom girl or not.
- Don’t believe all the stories other teenage girls tell you especially when there is a boy involved. Girls can be devious, so if Roseanne tells you Johnny likes you and wants to meet you at the dance, don’t run after Johnny. Instead be available when Sam comes looking for you because Roseanne found out Sam was interested in you and she wanted Sam all for herself. (And she convinced Johnny to “like” you for just one week, so Sam gave up and started liking her!)
- Not having rich parents and having to earn your own money is not a detrimental thing. You will know the value of a dollar, make and spend your money wisely, and appreciate the lesson your parents taught you.
- Stop whining about the fact that your dad won’t let you “car date” until you’re over 16. He knows what he’s doing.
- Don’t go out with the first boy to ask you just because you think you need a boyfriend. Get to know him first, see if you even have anything in common, and consider what kind of person he is. (And again, he’s not really good husband material!)
- Never, never, never like a boy who tells you he will break up with his long-time girlfriend for you. No matter what he says, he will always go back to her and you will end up with a broken heart. (Another one who’s not husband material!)
- Unfortunately, you will not always be a size 5, so enjoy it while you can and don’t worry that you are too skinny because the day will come when you worry that you’re too fat.
- When you really aren’t compatible with your boyfriend, don’t keep dating him just so you can attend your Senior Prom. Proms can be highly over-rated and not fun at all when you fight with him all night.
- Make sure you come home before your curfew. If you don’t, be assured your dad WILL be waiting up for you.
- If the guy you date lies to you, cheats on you, and demonstrates extreme jealousy, don’t believe for one second that he is going to change. You will just prolong the drama by not breaking up with him immediately. (And he REALLY is not husband material!)
- Be thankful for your circle of girlfriends. When you’re 50, it won’t matter that you were not in the popular clique. Some of your school friends are going to be your best friends for life. Cherish them and stay connected to them.
- Cut your mother some slack! She does not hate you; she’s just in the throes of menopause. Someday, you’ll be just as cranky, irritable, and sleep-deprived as she seems, probably worse.
- Try to understand that your parents are concerned for your safety and well-being, that’s why they don’t want you getting into cars with people they don’t know, they want to know where you’re going and with whom, and they’re not crazy about that guy with the motorcycle either. You will have three teenagers of your own and you’ll finally understand why your parents were so “over-protective.”
- Learn how to study well and efficiently. Those good grades you take for granted in high school despite not studying won’t get you through college, where you learn you have to work and study hard for that degree.
- Be assured that as an adult you will marry a wonderful man, give birth to three amazing children, and have a very fulfilling life. You will do things you never dreamed of doing, see things you never thought you’d experience, and you will not pine for high school days whatsoever. The best years are yet to come!
Finally, I would tell my teenage self what I tell the teenagers I interact with today. “Take good care of your future because that’s where you’re going to spend the rest of your life.” ~ Unknown