When you look at somebody else’s yearbook and find tweaked variations of your own class.
Both, German and Germany can feel like that video game you’ve beaten. Princess’ saved and nothing left to do, and it’s a short level; bouncing onto invisible walls. And the walls inside of my head. Staying up late and spinning my brain in English’s my little escape. And no cheats.
I must admit, we are very difficult to recognize. More often than not you seem to be completely at odds with who we have become. In light of this, allow me to illuminate the inner workings of the teenage soul. Or attempt it, at the very least.
You must first understand how incredibly needy we are. We want. We want for so many things. Some of us want the same things: a functional family, friends of quality, the ability to pass our classes with minimal trauma. Some of us want other things. To stumble upon an adventure, to feel understood. To laugh until throats are raw, to find what we love and do it over and over and over until we die and then after, to sink into silence for hours on end. To kiss, to be kissed. To love. We are want personified, and oh, what a struggle this is. We won’t admit to wanting all these things. When you point to Santa and his collection of elves at the mall, with that aching parent smile that has far too much tightness around the eyes, we don’t admit that yes, we do want to interrupt that little tableau by insinuating ourselves onto his lap and whispering our deepest desires into his ear (Dear Santa, what I’d like for Christmas is a purpose, to know that there’s some sure thing awaiting me out in that great void). Instead, we laugh. Or maybe we roll our eyes. We walk on. We don’t admit to still wanting to hold your hand. Or sometimes we do, slipping our fingers into the spaces between yours. You: surprised, pleased. Us: apologetic. We know how much of a rarity this is anymore. It takes a very wise person to deconstruct the machinery of longing and we are not there yet, so we don’t display our want. Displayed want is vulnerability. Vulnerability is teenage kryptonite.
There’s another thing you ought to understand about teenagers. We’ve had this idea in our heads since childhood about how these years were supposed to go. Nights of glitter and ash and shouting at stars, of whipping down to the ocean to hear the hiss and roar, of putting our arms up to the sky. Real life, by comparison, is a knee to the stomach. Consequently we are incensed. The initial rage dies down to a faintly more manageable angst, a sticky emotion that smudges our appeal and makes us into brutes. We know this. We aren’t proud of it. It eats away at our spirit; an unstoppable corrosion. But this, we think, is unavoidable, a part of the transition into adulthood. No choice but to inhale, exhale, grit our teeth and move on. I make no attempt at pardoning our behavior, but I would like to remind you it comes from a place of profound disappointment. Our fantasies must fall to their death as we make way for reality.
Teenagers, the universally regarded magnets for catastrophe. Oh, the drama! Oh, the tragedy! Oh, the lashing out! It’s like we lose our ability to shake things off and now it all hurts like hell. We see everything. The betrayal and injustice and inauthenticity. The hatred, the selling out. This is when we as people begin to fully grasp the realm of what it is to be in pain. That realization is tremendous. It’s devastating. This is why we cling onto beauty, reserving a precious part of our hearts for sunflares and dancing and shoes kicked off in tall grass, for the pulse of our favorite music and the swim of clouds overhead. We notice all these small things and we find ourselves in love. The savage parts of us shiver to life and we bask in the liberation. “Young, wild, and free,” we declare, smearing war paint across our still-round cheeks. We love pretending to be brave. You should know that, too.
Do not believe what we present, the infamous aura of apathy. We care. We care so much. Harder and deeper and more fiercely than you could fathom, and then some. We’re sorry for not letting it show. We do try, catching up small children in our arms, throwing you sudden looks of warmth (meaning: yes, we love you dearly), and blinking at the morning news with a hollow chest and blurring vision. We stitch our wounds shut, but it’s funny. Everything still comes streaming through the cracks.
We lament over being too different (I am a freak) and not being different enough (I want to be the only one of my kind). Do your best to ignore this epic toss and turn. It will burn itself out eventually. As will our total incapability to obey anything you tell us—we know how infuriating we are. It would be untruthful to say it isn’t a little satisfying, in a grim sort of way, to see you become enraged at our persistent obstinacy. We cannot take orders anymore; we can’t shut up and listen. Yes, we realize this is unpleasant, and yes, we apologize, and yes, we recognize our audacity. The thing is, we want so much for you to like us that we are practically terrified at any disapproval directed our way. We strike out. You are angry. We storm to our rooms and fling the door shut. We sob. We wonder what the hell is wrong with us. We wonder what the hell is wrong with you. We chastise ourselves for thinking the latter. We forgive. We go on.
We’re stupidly emotional, inflexible to the core. But we will change. We will be better. Remember that. Please, remember that. Remember that we were kids not so long ago, and babies not so long before that, and we are caught between two identities—adolescent and grown up—and at the moment neither seems to fit. We acknowledge our unpleasantness and the anguish we cause you. We see it in you and we’re so sorry. Remember that this is the time of germination when the seed begins to burst. Expansion is strange and painful, but it’s glorious also. It’s this that we are chasing: The joy. The clicking into place. The sudden sensation of being exactly where we are supposed to be.
Wait for this, wait for us. We’re coming. We’re running as fast as we can.
Ann Coulter reminds me of Amy Braun from the eleventh grade. I remember the first time I saw her in front of Mrs. Uhazy’s English class. She was a mid-year transfer student from Los Angeles.
Usually, Mrs. Uhazy’s class was full of easy talk. We were the smartest kids in school and we knew it. But when Amy walked in we sat dead silent from a mixture of fear and wonder. Fear because we immediately knew that she could erase any of us from any map we thought we figured in. Wonder because she defined her universe just by living in it.
In the few months Amy chilled the halls of Wheaton High School, she changed all of us. She damaged anyone stupid enough to come near. Those of us standing at a distance lost our mortality cherry from watching the carnage. The stakes, we realized, were higher than previously thought.
Three months later, she was gone. Nobody knew what happened.
I still google her every so often. I tell myself I’m eager to see her involved in some tragedy, but that’s not why I submit her name to the searchbots.
Mrs. Uhazy died last year. Other than my parents, she was the first adult I really loved. She taught us to think for ourselves and never to accept anything at second hand. She reminded us that we all matter. Which is exactly what Amy was hoping we would all forget.
Danke für dieses kleine Fundstück.
Manchmal fühlt es sich so an, als ob ich mich an zu viel erinnern kann. Diese warme Wehmut ganz tief im Bauch.