10 February 2003

Story - Modern Adolescence

Dear fellow victims of adolescence,

As we struggle through our uninvited hormonal overload, we really must examine the purpose of adolescence in the modern world, if only to live up to our reputation as conceited egocentrics and under-stand ourselves just that little bit better. We need to justify why and how we are, because our world is one that is becoming increasingly more complex, and understanding the basics may be the only answer to ensuring our safe passage into adulthood.


So adolescence is the transition period between childhood and adulthood, with rapid changes left, right and centre in the physical and mental departments; we all know that. But how does the rest of society see us? One renowned public figure declared, “Our youths now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority.” Sounds like us? Yep. It also sounds like Greek philosopher Socrates, circa 5th Century B.C. So really, it’s not our fault that we rebel – it’s tradition.

Most – if not all – adolescents rebel at some point of their teenage years, most notably through the well-established forms of dress, behaviour and music that parents can’t stand. My friend Andrew once fumed, “Teenage years should be spent trying things, breaking rules… [It’s a waste] not drinking, not having wild promiscuous sex… These are the things teenagers are about.”

He was probably on middle ground as far as most teens are concerned, and just a tad excited when he wrote the above comments, but what’s important is that Andrew, confused by peer pressure, mistakes conformity with his peers for adolescent rebellion. This is an error many teens seem to make. While rebellion can aid us in the building of our identity, becoming sheep to others’ beliefs does not.

The reason adolescents have driven their parents mad with grief through the eons is because we need to rebel. Rebellion allows us to push the established boundaries so that we can define our own, because essentially, adolescence is about deconstructing our childhood egos and rebuilding an identity of our own; and there’s never change without a fire.

With constant bombardments from the media though, it’s much harder to become our own person in today’s world. Feeling inferior? So you should! But if you shell out the big bucks, you, too, can look like our glossy, liposuctioned models! We are constantly reminded of how the perfect teen should be, adding confusion to the myriad of identities available for emulation in an age of multiculturalism, and many cave under this enormous pressure.

My friend Danielle, a suffering teen with a knack for poetry, once churned out a piece called “Body Image: A Chant for Today’s Teens”. The persona of the poem declares, as she starves and bakes herself to perfection, “It’s all about body image, / Because that’s the most important, you see?” There are far too many teens like her, afraid to be an individual because everyone else seems the epitome of perfection with their formulae lives.

But the reality is, those perfectly-adjusted people are just like you and me. They may be damn good actors, but inside, they are also thinking, “Ooh bugga – another day.” Paul – the protagonist of Peter Goldsworthy’s acclaimed adolescent novel “Maestro” – says, “Self-perception lagged timidly behind my growth spurt: my body image refused to grow. Looking down at my classmates, I seemed to be looking up at them.” I don’t know about you, but that was me; some days, despite how far I’ve come or how much I’m strutting on the outside, that still is me.

It helps to know that we’re not alone in our insecurities, that it’s even expected. And if everyone else – the “perfect” people – are like this inside, then what’s to stop us from building our own model of “okay”? We all feel like fish out of water at times, so the point is not to dwell on it. Instead, we should be looking ahead and leading our own lives. After all, there is no longer a perfect model to live up to – so why not be ourselves? And once you realise that, it’s like a whole new world has opened up.

My name is Flip, and I’m also a recurring adolescent. But you know what? I’ve finally realised that it’s not a curse – it’s the key to our identity. Every minute is worth it, because it’s what makes us who we are, who we will be. And we will be all right.

(c)2003 im|mature