Being a teenager is as scary as it is exciting. It’s a time of change, for better or for worse. It’s the time of our lives when we’ll make some incredibly great choices, and some incredibly stupid ones.
If I tried to summarise the entire teenage experience into a sentence, it would be this: adolescence is about finding our identity. It’s the hardest thing we’ll ever do, and probably the most important. Because adolescence marks the transition from childhood to adulthood, for most of us, it also is the time where we dump out the values that our parents have taught us and try to determine for ourselves the kind of people we want to be, the things we hold important and ultimately what we want our life to look like.
For me, personally, I’m finding that in searching for my identity, I am dumping a lot of what my parents have taught me. In my society, that isn’t really done. I’m supposed to respect my parents and honour them by accepting their teachings, but increasingly I’m finding that I do not want to be like them at all. I want to value honesty above all else, while they think that being practical is more important and that honesty isn’t so important as long as I don’t use dishonesty to hurt others. I want to believe in following one’s dreams and laying it all on the line for things that are important, rather than pursuing the most practical option. I want to be the kind of person others can turn to for support and validation; the kind of person who believes that mental illnesses are real and scary and that the people who struggle with them do not need to be told that they’re doing it for attention or that they’re just making up problems. But I also want to believe that not agreeing with my parents doesn’t mean that I don’t respect them. I know they see it that way, but I don’t. I try to understand why they feel the way they do, and I certainly respect their right to hold their own values, and respect that they have very strong reasons for holding the values they’ve chosen to hold. I very much respect them. I just don’t agree with them. And that’s another thing I value that they don’t. The ability to respect someone who is very, very different from me. To respect someone who’s made a conscious decision to be very different from the person I’ve chosen to be.