As I kneeled on the pew of the prayer room in my Catholic high school, my skirt tucked around my thighs, my hands were clasped tightly, intertwined with one finger between the other. My chin rested on my fist and looking up to Mother Mary holding baby Jesus, tears ran down my face, landing on the collar of my white polo. My shoulders sat heavy and my heart lay in my chest with great weight. In my head, I asked for guidance and strength, but was interrupted by the faint noise of two teachers laughing in the faculty room next door.
“Oh yes, it’s so hard being a 16-year-old and your only worry is homework and texting on your phone!”
“Yes just wait until you’re an adult and have an actual life with bills, dinner to make at home, and kids to look after! You definitely won’t be able to handle that.”
The two continued to snicker through the exchange of passive aggressive remarks back and forth regarding teenage problems.
At this moment, hundreds of conversations filtered through my head.
“You aren’t depressed, you’re only 16.”
“You’re a teenager, your life isn’t hard. Stop being so dramatic.”
“You don’t know what real sadness is, you just make a big deal of things.”
Convinced that maybe I was just overdramatizing my life, I stood up from the pew, wiped my tears from under my eyes, flattened my plaid skirt and walked out. Carrying through the rest of the day with a heavy heart and puffy eyes, I used what felt like every muscle in my face to force what was a sad and somewhat scary facade of happiness. When friends asked me what was wrong I laughed and said nothing, I was just really tired.
So, teen angst. Defined by Urban Dictionary as, “when teenagers, for any number of reasons combined with their hormones and stress from school, get depressed.” But to me, and maybe many other teens, this period of horrible hormones and stress can’t be justified through such an over exhausted excuse adults use when they fail to understand the other side of the age spectrum.
Teen invalidity was a prejudice I’d discovered and had come to the conclusion that a majority of adults have. Granted, our age bracket can be a bit frivolous with the Tumblr posts and excessive Starbucks consumption. Despite this, from the moment I had developed my own thoughts, feelings, and was able to form such into a cohesive argument, they had been deemed invalid and thrown to the back of my mind, untouched and disregarded by myself and everyone around me.
Maybe this wouldn’t bother me so much and maybe it wouldn’t be something I’d dedicated five-hundred plus words to if there hadn’t been such an apparent contradiction. Written between the fine lines of the social rule stands the expectation, the expectation for us to act like adults, yet we’re still treated as children. Pacified and patronized, we’re conditioned into veiling our emotions.
However, despite such masking, teenagers are strong. In the midst of self discovery and confusion, we are resilient, we are evolving, and we are anything but invalid.