“Kameel, these guys want all of our numbers,” my friend said. A group of shirtless high school seniors who I’d never met before stood in front of me. I didn’t miss the forced inflection of excitement in my friend’s voice. It was an unmistakable command to just go with it.
I thought about everything my mother had cautioned me not to do in situations like these—not giving into peer pressure, using my common sense, and such. That night I had already thrown most of that advice to abandon; instead of seeing a movie like we had told our parents, my friends and I traipsed from parking lot to parking lot reveling in the shadows exaggerated by the floodlights. We didn’t always look before we crossed the streets.
About twenty minutes later, my mother picked me up from outside the movie theater as planned. In the car, I set to planning how I’d manage my time studying for three tests the next day. A load of weekend homework awaited me at the house, as usual.
In the car, my skin still prickled from the heat of my first embrace with a complete stranger who was only half-dressed. I remembered that I was studious and that I wanted to go to Harvard.
That lapis lazuli summer night, I believed in the possibility to do things I never imagined I could do. I believed there to be two sides to life, and thus, a duality in me. Life could be just a stretch of time, and I could be thoughtless and carefree; or every second of my existence could mean something, and I could be so ambitious that I believed in my ability to change the world.
I believe in adolescence. In adolescence, as in no other stage of life, one can be absorbed equally within the extremities of existence. We are free from the shackles that are chained to our wrists at other times in life. As children and pre-teens, our lives were much too strictly regulated by our adult guardians for us to be considered “free,” though that was the time in our lives that we were most happily ignorant. And obviously adults are tied down to reality by their assets and societal obligations, and the deepened maturity that solidifies their logic and limits their dreams. But in adolescence, our bondages are quietly unlocked; our guardians let go of our hands, but true responsibility is still distant enough a realm that the lucky ones don’t stumble into it until later. As the chains fall slack to our ankles, in the mad rush of freedom we frolic among all ranges of mental experiences. We experience ambition and also complacence. We adopt cynicism but still entertain the wildest of dreams.
Being able to experience all these things is one of the most incredible opportunities for growth a human being can have. I know how lucky I am to be going through adolescence, and I try to cherish its every dwindling moment.