Outlining vs. Feeling the Touch of the Sun’s Warming Rays: The Adolescent Dilemma
October 10, 2013
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How ironic that I write this article while I’m sitting in a dark room with my windows closed, even though it’s a 74-degree evening, my lap burning from an overheated laptop. Although a hypocrite, I understand that just outside I could be taking a quiet walk with no shoes and no iPod, just enjoying the singing of little birds and trying to avoid stepping on slugs in the dark.
Instead, I lock myself indoors, slaving endlessly over outlines and Huckleberry Finn and significant figures, convincing myself that these things are of the greatest importance.
But this is what we do, not just as over-achieving teenagers raised to think only about the future and how we can make enough money to function properly in the vicious, bloodthirsty world of business, but as a society. We put material before matter, success before serenity. We place economic success over a mental and spiritual success that would prove to be much more beneficial to us in the long run.
“We’re just preparing you for college:” these words perpetually echo in our fragile minds, reminding us that our carefree days of bike rides and playdates with home-made popsicles and 9pm games of flashlight tag are behind us and the college applications loom over us, a cloud of expectations.
And we accept it. We always accept it. We throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of cutthroat competition, fighting for our roles as presidents of this club, or leader of this extracurricular, or captain of that team.
We’re so focused on impressing varied college boards, a circle of what I always imagined to be flaccid skin sacks wearing monocles and sipping darjeeling tea, that we take no time to appreciate the incredible things around us: the people, the opportunities, our backyards, even. The swingsets behind our houses are abandoned, our hiking boots are filled with spiders, but possibly the most treacherous of it all is that we force our incredible minds to focus on little else but logarithms and various dates during history which will undoubtedly be replaced by new ones in another month.
So often we ignore the fact that we’re encompassed by a spectacular mountain range, extensive farmland, a dozen or more parks, and an eclectic community of super weird and wonderful people that have so much to say about the world.
Here is what I ask us to do, as a whole: leave one history outline undone and instead go to a concert. Be a leader of a club that you love, not one that will look good on college applications. Bid a tearful adieu to Netflix for just one Saturday and go kayaking. Step outside of your comfort zone and start a conversation with the animal activist sitting in the Mudhouse that’s loudly discussing her hatred of carnivores with a reluctant barista. Tell her you like her maxi skirt–chances are it’s made from organic cotton and she will love to tell you about how she is slowly but surely saving the earth through her environmentally-friendly purchases.
Stop spending Friday nights in your basement with your Wii. Stop making plans to go hiking only to wake up that morning and decide you’d rather catch up of Grey’s Anatomy. Stop living for the future, living to impress 60-year-old Harvard-graduates who spent their lives working for the Ideal Future: a future filled with fancy wines and dinner parties attended by influential men, a future that brought them money but no happiness.
If we begin to live for today and not for 10 years from now, we will have lived with passion and not with regret.