I want to make sure everybody understands something about yesterday’s post. A few somethings, actually.
First, all of it was true. Completely. Right down to the thought processes that went through my head. I really went through several years where I thought I was the bomb dot com (and yes, I did just say that, thankyouverymuch). Coincidentally, these were also the unhappiest years of my life. Take what you will from that.
Secondly, the last line of my post was the following:
“And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I continue to teach high school and insist on writing for teens.”
I didn’t put that there as a way to say LOOK AT HOW AWESOME I AM AT WRITING A TEEN VOICE! I rock at teen voice! I capture teen voice! I AM TEEN VOICE!
No, young grasshoppers. No.
I put it there to say: 99% of people between the ages of 12 and 22 have, at least once in their lives, felt completely incapable of controlling themselves and/or have felt like nobody could identify with what they’re going through.
I am a high school teacher. Half the kids I teach think A) I’m an idiot, B) I have a personal vendetta against them for some undefined reason (usually this is because I did something cruel and unusual, like require them to turn in their homework) and/or C) I’m some loser who couldn’t get a job doing anything in the real world, so she turned to teaching because, as the old saying goes, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”
Until they are out of Teendom, many of my students will not realize that not only are all of the above statements false, but I do, in fact, care about them.
This is normal. I was the same way.
But the thing about being a teenager is this: Even though you fight it, even though you’re convinced it’s not true, those adults around you? They were teens once. And believe it or not, a lot of them do remember what it felt like. (Some don’t, but that’s a post for another time.) And some of them – most of them, I would dare say – DO care about you. You personally. As an individual.
I remember very, very well what it felt like to be that age. It helps that I’m 28 and therefore only five years removed from the end of my adolescence. (Bad news, kids: Sometimes, Teendom lasts into your twenties.) It also helps that I surround myself with teens on a daily basis. It keeps everything fresh.
I remember the crippling insecurity. How weird things were embarrassing to me for no concrete reason. (Like purses. I was so embarrassed to have a purse. Even the word “purse” made me cringe. I stuffed my pockets until they threatened to burst just so I wouldn’t have to carry a purse. Why?)
I remember the skyrocketing highs of my emotions when something good or fun was happening, and I remember how, when things were hard in one way or another, I would cry so hard I threw up.
My heart was shattered more than once, in more than one way, by more than one person. And some of those wounds will never fully mend.
I remember this. And I understand.
So that’s what I meant when I said “This is why I teach teens and write YA.” Because, to be totally honest with you, I needed all the help and empathy I could get at that point – even if I fought it till the bitter end. And I hope to give at least a little of that empathy to my students and readers.