One of my favorite conversations to engage in with my clients is the one that begins after I express my relief regarding that client s discontentedness with his or her teenage existence. Well of course you hate your life, why shouldn t you? I m liable to remark. Let s face it, as adults, how many of us look back at high school and wince? Personally I am a member of the John Cusack/Hughes generation of teenage perspective. Maybe before this cinematic revolution adolescence was viewed by all as a natural and relatively peaceful transition from childhood to adulthood. I don t know; I didn t see those movies. Ever since the teen movies of the eighties, adolescence, and high school in particular, have been depicted as a singular and treacherous war-zone, a life-stage you merely hope to get through with all your limbs intact.
Quickly reflect on all the occasions your teenagers have railed against the policies of your own dictatorial regime (oh, if only more of them knew the term Fascist ) under the rule of which they have languished their entire lives. On top of that they are sent off daily to literal concentration camps so they can be force fed knowledge that others deem necessary but that they know is totally lame because who needs math when we have calculators? Classrooms are one thing; hallways are another, because it is there that the spirit and ego are trampled beneath a social caste system so thoroughly suffocating and inviolable that it is actually capable of making them long for the more familiar shackles of their own homes. They can t make any decent money because the system unfairly refuses to sponsor their skateboarding careers, and the gods have callously decreed that they shall be forever incapable of making awesome enough the rims on their cars. Through all this they courageously persevere, day after day, provided the PlayStation 3 continues to function.
Being a teenager sucks, I tell them, because if it didn t, who would ever choose to become an adult? After all, what about adulthood is appealing to adolescents? Is it surprising that many of our children are not responding with alacrity to the clarion call of full time employment, taxes, car insurance, having to fill your own pantry with food you yourself had to pay for, healthcare and the hundreds of other responsibilities that constitute adulthood?
The teens I talk to aren t afraid of all that. They ve had enough and they re ready to move on. They are convinced that their experiences are so miserable that they at least claim to want to replace their lives of futility with lives of responsibility and all of its attendant benefits. I ve been known to offer high fives for this type of revelation. For all I know, this could be some brilliant device of developmental evolution. Unhappy teenagers, in my mind, with a little endurance and planning, have a terrific shot at becoming happy adults.
Quinton is a staff therapist at Edmond Family Counseling and can be reached at 405-341-3554.