Discovering “Who You Are”; Teen Answers Pressing Question With “I Don’t Know” And An All Too Apathetic Attitude
May 21, 2015
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines high school as “a greasy mosh pit full of angry social outcasts with very little in common except for their competitive nature and their eagerness to destroy.”
I personally find this definition dramatic and slightly out of touch, as high school culture is constantly evolving, and really I think the contemporary definition ought to look something more like “Taio Cruz enthusiasts.”
The definition’s only example sentence is as follows,
“I got knocked up in high school.”
I don’t think this is quite fair, either. I think it’s meant to embody high school in a way that is not wholly, and hardly partially, accurate. I think high school might not be as bad as Mr. Merriam and Mr. Webster believed it to be. Maybe it was awful for them because they were a bunch of nerds, but for most of us high school is much more than four years of uncomfortable social experiences. Through all of its embarrassment, awkwardness, sadness, through the unexpected periods at school, the run-ins with Ms. Grimm and the crippling fear that comes with faking your way through an APUSH open forum, it brings to us such a vivid human experience.
It allows us to find our humanity and our individuality. We are exposed to responsibility, knowledge, ethics, politics, ideas. Academics enhance us intellectually, they teach us that we cannot divide by zero! that plot is a distraction! that Heart of Darkness is not a terrible book, you and I are just dumb, I guess! But we as individuals grow through our own realizations.
I think what leads us astray a lot of the time in high school is the aggressive quest to find out Who We Are. I don’t think I know Who I Am but I also am not sure that even those who say they do are telling the truth. I don’t think knowing is as important as Disney Channel original movies and your guidance counselors make it seem. I think knowing Who You Are is achieved through finding a quality of life that makes you happy to live each day.
And so often the means for finding that happiness is through becoming things we’d never thought we would be—hopeless romantics, temporary redheads, Democrats, fans of the Today Show.
Four years ago I was wrapping up with the Clique series and finding myself connecting deeply to Taylor Swift’s first album.
My room is so full of books now. I stopped painting my toenails and started eating kale on purpose. I got rid of all my flannel and replaced it with velvet. I tried writing poetry. I used to think that I was most afraid of throwing up inside of a human body on an operating table, and now I’ve learned what I fear most is falling out of love.
I hope that in four more years, I will hate myself less and consequently stop eating kale on purpose, I’ll just have someone crush it up and sprinkle it in my food. I hope I have no more velvet and that I’m taking frequent train rides to places I have not yet been. I hope that I am better at drawing and that I’m no longer afraid of frisbees. I hope I never say that I “don’t have time” for things I want to do.
I hope that none of us lose our youthful ability to love so fully and foolishly. I hope that we are always learning even when we do not have to. I think what I want most for you and for me as we go out into the world is to buy the velvet pants from Goodwill that we tried on “as a joke.”