Warning: This blog expresses a bit (alot) of ranting about a subject that may be controversial or upsetting. I write my blog as a forum to inspire people, make them laugh and hopefully help them learn something about the world or themselves. This one's a far cry from my normal lighthearted fare, so read on at your own risk. I'm feeling passionate.
We have failed our young people. Today's "millenium" generation as it is called is easily the most entitled and spoiled group of young adults in the history of man. We have created them a world where all they need to do is think something for it to become a reality. A click of the mouse, a swipe of a credit card..everything is at their fingertips. For the first 10 years of a child's life we teach them to read, write and do arithmetic. The stricter parents among us teach them how to set the table, make their bed and fold their laundry. If we're lucky they learn a few rudimentary social skills, how to make friends, to be kind and not to talk to strangers.
So if we can call the first 10 years the learning years, we can call the second decade of life the decision years. In the pre-teen and teenage years we expect these children to do all of the following and more:
-choose high school classes that will impact the course their university/college/trade
-choose healthy coping mechanisms to deal with difficulties
-choose NOT to bow to pressure to take drugs, drink, have sex, and all other social ills
-choose a career trajectory, college, university etc..
-make positive choices, friends, jobs, social activities.
I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up. And I certainly didn't know how to make such overwhelming decisions when I was a teenager. C'mon - I could barely choose which acne treatment to use.
We ask that, with the above mentioned first decade of learning behind them, they make huge decisions in a time when:
-they are RAGING beasts full of hormones, and overdosing in insecurities
-they really know NOTHING of life, and generally have parents who are just in the process of figuring this shit out themselves.
-they are changeling creatures. They start the decade as children, in children's bodies. In the decision decade they grow physically and emotionally from child to adult.
All this PLUS the fact that this current generation gets handed the whole world...literally...via the internet. Where our teen years had their own horrific angst, ours at least was contained to our community, schools, families. Today - there are no strangers and no boundaries - and no end to the choices a "connected" teenager has to make each day.
In September a 15 year old girl posted a silent video, using flash cards, a black and white chronicle of pain and suffering. A story of abuse, mental illness and pain. Amanda Todd's story is by now known to all Canadians, and we MUST mark this tragedy. A young girl, obviously searching for love and acceptance, her innocence stolen, her self esteem pummeled, her reputation in ruins. I will not spend any time talking about her predators (I refuse to use the word bully, because sexual predator, pedophile, criminal, suits so much more) except to say that they too are suffering from teenagehood, and have chosen, wrongly, to boost themselves up by dragging others down.
Yes, I believe we have failed our teenagers. We look at them with disdain, we cross to the other side of the road when we see a group of them, we fear them. I believe that this is because we still remember the pain of our own torturous years as teenagers. We know the confusion. We still feel the growing pains. We don't want to look them in the eyes, just in case we see something of ourselves mirrored there. We definitely don't want a reminder that part of us may still dwell there.
Teenagers are blank slates, morphing into the adults they will become, searching for confirmation they are on the right path, looking to us to see if they are doing okay. They are looking to be good enough, and we, as a society, look the other way, or sneer back at them, telling them that clearly, they are not.
Amanda Todd has caught public attention like few of the 100's of Canadian teens who commit suicide, and 1000's who attempt, or cut, or suffer from mental/emotional health issues. I believe that this is because she, like few others, actually reached out to us all. We, who can drive YouTube views on videos of a dog sleeping, a dancing parrot or a cuddly kitten to go viral in less than 24 hrs, we missed a plea for help so desperate that words couldn't articulate the pain. Amanda no longer had a voice.
It takes a village to raise a child. From birth to death, we all are still growing up. And those of us with the good fortune to make it to adulthood must behave as we want our next generation to do. With compassion, with humanity and with love. Every child is the collective responsibility of us all, and they deserve to have us all on their side.
So next time you walk past a teenager, or a gaggle of them, catch their eyes, smile, take a chance to engage in conversation if it is appropriate. But most of all, remember that when they look at you they are seeing themselves reflected back in your eyes. Show them that you believe they are worthy, that you see them,and that you know they matter.
Your smile might be the last piece of hope that saves a life.