I believe in teen angst. I believe it serves a purpose as a part of our personal history. Even though it may be “just a phase”, I don’t think we grow out of it. That is, I think the anxiousness eventually goes away, but the things we learn from it do not. I believe that teen angst is what starts us thinking about the world around us and how we fit into it.
I was an incredibly angst-ridden teenager. In the style of many who came before me, I felt suffocated by my small town, and I shunned every aspect of it. I dyed my hair unnatural colors, bought outlandish clothes, wore fake nose-rings to the confusion of my parents and did several other surface-level rebellions. While in the throes of all this anxiousness I couldn’t see any positive aspect of the way I was feeling, or living in the place where I did. None of it made any sense to me, and I wanted out.
However, once I got out and went away to college I began to appreciate my roots a bit more. I did not come to have fond feelings for my small-town teen days, but I started to see where they had brought me. The dissatisfaction that I felt in my adolescence spawned a determined spirit in me. I made the changes I wanted to see in my life: I went to a different high school than my older sisters because I refused to attend the same one. I went to college on the east coast because I wouldn’t consider schools in the Midwest. I did everything in my power to distance myself from my adolescence. And eventually I decided to become a high school teacher (in the Midwest).
All of my efforts to make change for myself made me want to make change for other people. After all, what good is learning a lesson if you don’t try to share it with people? Once the restlessness of being a teenager faded a bit, and I gained some distance from it, I found out what I wanted to do with my life…work with teenagers. So I am currently studying to become a high school English teacher. I want to educate teenagers while they are in the middle of the craziness. I want to help them realize that their teen years aren’t something to “just get through”, but something that will shape the rest of their lives. The angst can be an essential part of that.
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