Tag Archives: Teen

Teen Talk: Delusions of Immortality

Sara

By Sara Birriel

My final year of high school has come with more “lasts” than anticipated. Going into this school year, I was fully aware that it would be bittersweet. I was thrilled at the prospect of being done with secondary education for good, yet I knew I’d miss being around all of my friends once we went our separate ways in pursuit of post-secondary schooling. Therefore, I’ve tried to make a point of living each senior year experience to the fullest. Though at times this has been easier said than done, I have tried my best to keep in mind that these are meant to be the glory days.

Ironically enough, some of the most highly anticipated events of the school year are the vacation periods from school itself. Winter break is meant for making the most of time with family. The idea of sharing a lovely meal, exchanging gifts, and drinking eggnog with relatives is lovely. Yet, being around an eccentric aunt or a little cousin with excessive exuberance for an extended period of time can become wearing. As far as enjoyable school vacations go, spring break takes the cake. It’s a period of time where it is completely acceptable to do nothing more than exercise the teenage right to frivolity, while creating as many new memories (with friends) as possible. In fact, that is exactly what I was expecting to do during my final spring break before college. In hindsight, I should have foreseen that ultimately, not all experiences involving friends can be considered pleasant ones.

This vacation began innocently enough. I was looking forward to all of the obligatory teenage activities: partying, sunbathing, laughing, and cruising around at ungodly hours. Halfway through the week all of my expectations were well on their way to becoming fully actualized. I spent Friday through Tuesday with friends, avoiding all homework and being completely carefree. Soon enough, that carefree feeling was entirely drained from me in a short series of text messages. “Did you hear what happened to our friend?” said the first message from another close friend of mine. Following my first instinct, I inquired as to whether or not our friend was okay. However I soon regretted ever having asked after receiving the swift response of, “Not really… :/”

As a teenager well-versed in the subtleties of text message interpretation, I already knew what my friend was telling me. One wouldn’t think that two vague words accompanied by an ellipsis and an emoticon could carry such weight, but they carried quite a hefty weight, indeed–enough to sink my heart with the realization that my friend was no longer with us… at least not in the physical sense of the term. See, this final spring break as a high school student proved to be the final week that would see the remnants of my childhood innocence; it was the final week that would see my childhood friend alive and smiling.

While I would rather not delve too deep into the details of my friend’s death, I will divulge that he met an end tragic enough to make the local newspapers and television stations. While everyone grieves differently, I feel that as teenagers we are not fully equipped to cope healthily with the passing on of a peer. Until this point, we’ve been swarmed with delusions of immortality. Teenagers can’t die! We’re the all-knowing, death-proof beings of the world, are we not? While of course, this notion is completely outlandish, at this age it is easy to forget that we are just as vulnerable to fatal dangers as any other group of people. Yet we tend to behave recklessly and wander aimlessly.

The problem with disregarding the inevitability of death is that we end up forgetting that we do not have an infinite amount of time to achieve our dreams. This forgetfulness easily leads to taking life for granted. We do not say the things that we would like to. We fool ourselves into believing that we are guaranteed another day to tell our loved ones exactly how important of a role they play in our lives. Most importantly, we acquire regrets that could have been avoided by simply pausing to contemplate a decision for longer than thirty seconds. As teenagers, we are notorious for being too jaded to fully grasp the lasting effects of our actions, or lack thereof. Self-proclaimed procrastinator that I am, I cannot pretend that I seize each day for all that it can possibly be. I knew that my friend was headed down the wrong path, so to speak. Still, I didn’t make the effort to speak with him on the matter, because I consoled myself with the thought that he’d straighten himself out eventually. He had other friends who cared for him, so I simply expected them to take care of him someway, somehow. If I allow myself to do so, it is very easy to get caught up in the, “what ifs.” What if I had tried to talk some sense into him? What If I had made more of an effort to spend time with him? What if my own life could have affected the course of his, for the better? The list goes on… When I do fall into this train of thought, I must remind myself that there is no sense in dwelling on things that can never change. This tragedy can serve as an invaluable reminder of all that I can actually change. I can finally let go of the notion that forever exists. I have come to understand that all anyone ever has is the present moment, and this moment is the only one that will ever matter. A beloved teacher of mine once told me, “yesterday is the past and tomorrow never comes.”

The naïveté of teenage years leads us to believe, “that couldn’t possibly happen to me!” Yet, once death presents itself, it is something completely undeniable. Death is the the toothless beggar whose stench we turn away from, until our path is blocked by this entity -the insistent hand out- demanding payment of what you must certainly have– what you most certainly owe. What I’ve been forced to accept is this: there are only two options that I can select between. I can either choose to become consumed by the longing for someone that is no longer tangible or I can take into account all that is capable of being presently accomplished, and allow the loss of life to give me a renewed appreciation for life itself. Whilst I cannot say that the longing for my friend has ceased entirely (or ever will), I am conscious of the fact that the only way to go about honoring his life is to choose the latter.

l

Teen Talk: Everything I Thought I Knew

Sara

By Sara Birriel

In life there are many rites of passage that we know to expect.  Eventually everyone must lose their first tooth, have their first kiss, learn to drive, receive a license, get their first job, etc. Each of the aforementioned are fairly simple, and as children we’re prepared for most of them.

As a consolation for being traumatized by the blood or pain, our parents present us with the marvel of a magical “Tooth Fairy” who rewards us with money. In high school, little by little, all of our friends begin to work and buy nice things with their extra cash, so eventually we all want jobs, too. Yet, if there is one rite of passage I feel that no one could have possibly prepared me for, it was the monumental eighteenth birthday.

As far as birthdays go, of course turning twenty-one is the year when young adults look forward to getting legally intoxicated. The cliché is that the birthday boy/girl will consume alcohol until they blackout, simply out of the excitement that they’re officially allowed to. While that’s extreme on a physical level, turning eighteen is much more extreme on an emotional level. Throughout childhood, we all look forward to the eighteenth birthday. It’s assumed to be lifechanging; it means you’re officially an adult. We all know that being an adult is lots of fun; they answer to no one and do as they please all day, every day, right? Wrong. This type of disillusionment is what causes such disappointment.

As far as being an adult at eighteen, I’ve come to realize that it is purely on a basis of convenience. Before this birthday, if I were to ask for money to see a movie with friends, my mother would say, “Sure, honey. Go have fun with your friends.” Yet if I were to ask the same question today, the response would be, “If you want to have fun with your friends and go out, you need to get a job already!” In the eyes of my mother, if I have a traffic ticket to pay, then I’m an adult; I need to pay it off myself. However, if I want to stay out all night with friends, I’m still a child; I need to respect the curfew. Even as an eighteen year old in high school, we must still abide by the same rules as minors: field trip forms must be signed by parents, we are not allowed to leave campus without parental consent, and adults must be the only ones to excuse our absences. How can eighteen year olds assert ourselves as adults if we are constantly being sent mixed signals?

I will admit that I do appreciate the perks of being an adult. It’s nice being able to go to a nightclub and present proper identification to the bouncer. Although I’m not a smoker, I could buy my own pack of cigarettes if I wanted to. I’m now able to spend money trying to win the
lottery. I’m able to go to any concert venue and watch my favorite performers now that my I.D. states that I’m old enough to do so. These are the things that, as teens, we all look forward to. It seems that on this monumental birthday we will officially possess an infinite amount of freedom!
While achieving infinite freedom is a far-fetched notion, there is certainly a significant increase in freedom once becoming a legal adult. Of course this birthday is considered the ultimate rite of passage for teenagers. There is nothing we desire more than freedom from our parents.

Yet, to be quite honest, the added responsibilities outweigh the glamorous perks. There are many more negative aspects that came attached to this past birthday. I’ve found that there have been unforeseen strains in friendships. Old friends of mine (who were already eighteen) came out of the woodwork and began inviting me to go out and have fun with them. Friends who were still underage quickly became jealous. They can no longer go everywhere with you. It’s hard being the one to say, “Sorry, I can’t hang out with you this Friday. You have to be eighteen or up to attend this concert I’m going to see; you’re not old enough.” I’ve found that no matter how nicely you try to say that, it’s always going to seem slightly mean or condescending.

These types of scenarios start to occur more and more often. The issue of age differences amongst friends becomes easily solved once they reach
this birthday. Little by little all of my friends are becoming legal adults as well. Yet nothing will solve the issue of being pressured by the adults around me. Suddenly I’m expected to know what I want to do for the rest of my life. I have to begin making decisions regarding a career, a
college, a car, a place of my own to live. I think that as newly inducted adults, we are blindsided by the decisions we’re now forced to make. Wisdom comes with experience, and at this age I don’t feel that I’m wise enough to make the lasting decisions that will impact the rest of my
life. The thought of making the wrong choice and regretting it absolutely horrifies me. See, it seems that just yesterday I could barely decide which cereal I wanted for breakfast. Today I’m forced to pick out a roommate (from a group of random strangers) that I will spend the next
few years of my life with! I’m not sure why things change so much from one day to the next, simply due to a little birthday. I’m quickly realizing that childhood is becoming a mere memory, and that if life is an ocean, adulthood can be considered a sink-or-swim experience.

I don’t feel that as seventeen year olds we’re fully aware of the magnitude of responsibility that awaits us. Everything I thought I knew before this birthday has been rendered meaningless. Eighteen is the end of the beauty of childhood as we knew it, but it also something much more beautiful: the beginning of real life as we will come to know it.