Adolescence: It's Still Hard as Heck

When you’re in middle school and high school, the approval of your peers matters a LOT.  As much as you want it NOT to matter what other people think of you, it does.  Because those are the people you “live with”, so to speak.  You’re with them day in and day out at school and even beyond that if you’re involved in any sort of extra-curricular activities.

So… yeah.  What other people think of you matters.

Most kids spend the better part of their time during adolescence trying to “fit in”… trying to be “like everyone else”.  Fitting in and being like everyone else allows you to NOT attract attention to yourself.  It allows you (theoretically) to avoid being made fun of.  I remember those years of my own life very well.  I remember getting dressed in the morning, fixing my hair, putting on make-up, and the last thing I did before leaving for school was stand in front of the mirror and look at myself, thinking the whole time “Is there anything about the way I look that someone can make fun of?”

And even during those times when there really wasn’t anything about me that merited being made fun of, invariably someone found something to ridicule.

It's why some kids bury themselves in books.  It's why some kids immerse themselves in dark and angsty music.  It's why some kids withdraw altogether.  

Such is life when you’re an adolescent.

I was a band nerd… a music geek.

I was not athletically inclined, despite a few attempts at basketball, softball, and golf.  And let me tell you… that’s a tough lesson for a kid to have to face – that they aren’t particularly athletic.

I was not terribly popular.  Though  not exactly UNpopular, I was certainly not in the “upper echelon”.  I fell squarely in the middle class of students.

Of course, what I experienced in middle school and high school was nothing any worse or any better than any other kid that age has experienced.  It seems that the ridicule and the teasing and the struggle to blend in is in a way a “rite of passage” for everyone.

I’ve spent a good portion of my career as a middle school teacher trying to figure out how to enact some kind of change in this area... trying to find a way to make it “okay” for kids to just be themselves, regardless of if whether or not makes them popular… trying to find a way to stop kids from judging each other based on superficial things.

I have not succeeded.  Yet.  Why is creativity and individuality not valued from one peer to another?  Why are some kids ridiculed just for being themselves?  I have no answers.  But I hope that maybe in some small way I’ve encouraged a kid or two along the way that who and what they are is enough.

And maybe there will be a day, not too far in the future, where 13 year-olds like my own kiddo don’t have to hide the fact that they are musically gifted… or artistically talented… because it isn’t the “cool” thing to do. 

Maybe one day he won't have to ask his dad and me NOT to play the video below while we're sitting in the stands of a school basketball game, because he's afraid his peers will see and make fun of him.


1 comment:

  1. I too disappeared into my books and worlds far away in middle school- especially when I became the object of teasing by a "crowd" of boys in my 7th grade math class. I didn't dress to attract attention, but still managed to draw the attention of boys who thought vulgarity was the best way to talk to girls their age. Took me a very long time to realize they had new-found and often misinterpreted ideas about how relationships between the genders are built and maintain.

    Those rites of passage are tough, but he has nothing to be ashamed of- He's very talented.