A young person (especially a young man or boy)
As we reach the age of puberty (the time of life when sex glands become functional) something starts happening to the sweet little child the parents have known for the last twelve or thirteen years. Suddenly they find themselves living with a teenager! I have no children of my own, but I was a teenager, and I know what I was like…
Before I started writing this topic, I became concerned I wouldn’t remember what teenage life was like as I am now 38, but fortunately, I have my girlfriend’s 15 year old sister to observe, and the funny thing is, it seems teenagers haven’t improved!
“But mum, why do I have to get up?”
“Because it’s one o’clock in the afternoon!”
“Leave me alone, I’m tired”
“Get up you lazy *” “ off”
The conversations that my girlfriend’s sister has with her mum seem like a mirror image of the one’s I had with my own mum twenty years ago. “No I won’t come with you.” No, I won’t tidy my room.” “No I won’t help with the washing up.” “I need some money.” “I want to go out with my friends!” “You don’t understand me!” And indeed, most parents can’t understand their teenagers behaviour. It suddenly seems as if their beautiful child has been replaced by an evil alien from another planet.
“How could the child I brought up to be respectful, and thoughtful, be behaving like this? He must be taking drugs, there is no other explanation for it!”
Mum: I need to talk to you about your behaviour. Are you taking drugs?
Mum: I asked you a question!
Teenager: No, I’m not taking drugs!
Mum: Where are you getting the money for the drugs? Are you stealing from us?
Teenager: I told you, I’m not taking drugs, now get out of my room and leave me alone.
Mum: Well, where do you go every night? You didn’t come home for two nights last week. Who are these people you are hanging round with? Are they taking drugs? Are they the ones giving them to you?
Teenager: God, I hate you, why can’t you just fuck off and leave me alone. (slamming door)
Mum: (To herself) I knew he was on drugs, I must get him some help.
In how many homes do scenarios like this take place? A few, some, all? Well, the mum may not be talking about drugs, but I’m sure there is something they disapprove of their “child” doing. In other words, the parent is thinking: “why can’t you be more like us.”
Just because they don’t go to rock concerts and don’t wear the latest up to the minute fashion, don’t have an mp3 player permanently attached to one ear, and a mobile phone attached to the other, they think their child shouldn’t either.
It’s not that they want to restrict their child, it’s just that they compare their own childhood (in which they behaved perfectly of course) with their own child’s, and come to the (usually wrong) conclusion that their teenager is heading down the wrong path, will make a mess of their life, and won’t achieve anything. But then, suddenly, the teenager is 18; the magic number! The government calls them an adult, and off they go to university or work.
Suddenly those few years of hell seem like a dream. Of course, most teenagers become well adjusted (even boring) adults. They were going through a phase, and it’s now over.
Let me go mum
When we talk about the teenage years, we are not talking about a specific age, but specific things that are happening in the teenagers body, namely, they are reaching sexual maturity – the ability of the human to procreate, to start a family of their own.
Unfortunately, society has decided (sorry, the powerful in government have decided) to fight nature, and say that actually, no, you are not old enough to have children, you are not old enough to hunt and bring in food, and no, you are not old enough to live on your own. You must wait until you are at least 18. Until then you must do what your parents tell you!
We already have the longest childhood of any species on the planet, where a parent is legally responsible for a child for a minimum of 16 to 18 years, and we are kept tightly under control (for our own good, you understand?). When we reach puberty, we are ready to break free – at least biologically. We are ready to go out into the world and find a mate, and we are constantly tugging at the leash. But our parents know that if we went out into the modern urban world at 14, we wouldn’t survive, although only 60 years ago, most of my mum’s family had to leave school at 14 and go out to work, with one uncle even lying about his age to get into the merchant navy.
They (parents and those in power) say we are not mature enough, yet nature does. They say we will not survive out there as it is a dangerous world, but it is also dangerous when you are 18 too. So what’s it really to do with? Well, there are two things.
First those who control society want you to study and pass exams so you can get a good job and start paying your taxes. Second, parents and teachers fear that if you go out into the world at 13, you will not be psychologically mature (although you will be physically mature) enough to deal with life, will possibly be exploited by others, and if you are a female, probably made pregnant, where you would end up on the street, with no way to feed and clothe yourself or the baby. So all in all, it’s best to stay at home, do what your told, and wait until you are psychologically mature enough to deal with life!
It’s not like it used be, I remember in my day…
We are not biologically equipped to deal with this modern world we have created. Nature didn’t count on us building desolate concrete cities.
Perhaps nature still imagines that we will be living in the forest, or somewhere like that, where we will hunt, and gather berries, clothe ourselves in animal skins or something similar, and bring our children up in small tribes. That is, of course, not how we have organised our society these days.
We are getting further and further away from what we are biologically equipped for. But there’s no point in fighting it. This is the society we have created and we must live in it.
Thanks to modern society becoming so dangerous, and parents being so loving, I’d say that teenagers have never had it so good. In your grandfather’s day, you’d have been forced to leave school and get a job. You’d have had to look after yourself, and the family you would create.
No, life’s pretty good these days. Teenagers get to hang around trying to look “cool,” talking a load of rubbish, drinking, smoking, taking drugs, having sex, and still they get looked after! They get their meals cooked for them, their clothes washed, they get shelter, food, water, some even get money.
Hey, what are you complaining about? Life as a teenager is great. You may have the biological urge to go off and have sex with anything with a pulse, and yes, your parents may not “understand” you, but it’s a darn sight better than having to go out to work every day, pay for your rent and your food, and support a family, in addition to the fact that you are not seemingly psychologically ready for the urban lifestyle. So if I were you, I’d keep my mouth shut about how bad you’ve got it, you’ve got a pretty sweet deal!
In some countries, children are sent out to work as soon as they are able to, and they get none of the benefits of the western lifestyle. They send children and teenagers out to work in sweat shops that provide us with cheap clothes, and some even are forcibly conscripted into the army in some parts of the world! Imagine what that life must be like as a teenager in places where you are forced out to work in a dangerous job? No hanging around the shopping malls looking cool, swapping ringtones on your bluetooth enabled phone. Just work. Work. WORK.
Are you the future?
Everyone says that the teenagers are the future. They say these are the people who will look after us in our old age, so let’s make sure they get the best possible chance, the best education, and the best support!
We make them study, study, study, at a time when their internal clock is telling them “it’s time to flee the nest and start procreating!”
“If you don’t study, you will be a failure,” we tell them.
“How will you get a good job?” We ask them. Because of course that’s what it’s all about, getting a good job. So they reluctantly study when they would rather be out practising their newly developed social skills. Do you see?
Forcing teenagers to study goes against all of their natural instincts, but as adults, who live in this competitive urban environment, we see at first hand what happens when you don’t study – you are forced into a dead end manual job, with long hours, and little pay – and as we brought you into the world we are going to make damn sure it doesn’t happen to you! So we say study, study, study. And the teenagers who cannot yet see the monstrous society we have created say: “Why? I just want to go out with my friends tonight.”
But we want them to fill their heads with knowledge to pass exams. We want them to conform – not because we want to control them – but because we know they will be miserable in later life if they don’t put the effort in now. But this is not the time to be filling teenager’s heads with knowledge. They are not interested in doing what someone else tells them to do, they are doing what any self respecting homo sapiens should be doing, and that is exploring life! And explore life they do, whether it be sexually or socially.
We must remember that Man is a sexual social animal, so to deny it is more dangerous than permitting it. Teenagers must explore their own bodies, and each other’s bodies. They must mingle with different social groups to find out where they feel most comfortable, but we say: “No! You will not go out with these people. You will not have sex before you are 18” and the teenager rightly says: “Up yours, I’m going to do it anyway.” So we must not let our children stop exploring life. They will make mistakes and they will learn from them.
They are capable of great things these young people. But to deny them their freedom of expression just because you don’t like it, is idiotic! It doesn’t matter if they are “making a fool of themselves,” or “they are making a big mistake,” it is their life. They are the future, but only because they will live longer than we will (perhaps).
As parents, or as educators, you have to learn that this is an important time for teenagers. Because it is their time. It is not a time to be enforcing rules and regulations, but helping them to explore life to its fullest extent. You may think that because you have experience of life that you have the answers, but nobody has all the answers that these teenagers are seeking, because they are looking at life through fresh eyes, which hopefully have not been conditioned too much already.
I didn’t study hard at school. I didn’t go to university. I didn’t even finish school properly, now I come to think of it. I did nothing my parents told me, in fact, I did the opposite. I got drunk, slept around with women, got up late, and did little work; but did it affect me as an adult? I mean really affect me? Of course not. It was all part of growing up, of tugging on the leash; until one day it broke, and I was free to make as many great discoveries, or mistakes as I wanted to. By then though no one cared. I was over 18. I was an adult.
University and beyond
I’m not surprised teenagers are tired and irritable while they are growing up. They are having to deal with some serious chemicals in their bloodstream (no, I’m not talking about taking drugs). I’m talking about hormones. Boys are discovering the power of testosterone, and girls are discovering the wonders their monthly cycle (the monthly discharge of blood from the uterus of non-pregnant women from puberty to menopause) can do to their emotions. Crying, anger, you know the sort of thing. At the same time, they are forced to study, and fill their brains with mainly useless knowledge which will probably never come in handy in later life.
Eventually at the age of 18 you are finished. Your hormones have settled down, the government has told you you are an adult, and you can go and fight for your country, or drink beer. Unfortunately, in some countries, you have to wait until you are 21 so you can find out what you have been missing!
You can get a job, or if your grades are good enough you can apply to go to university (which is like school except you can drink beer, have sex and party without your parents being around, and it puts off having to get a job for another few years), oh, and sorry, learn a lot about a subject you are deeply interested in.
If you complete the three years or more of study, you will be able to get a much better job than if you left school at 18, or you can continue studying and maybe go into academic life.
At university you will get to use your mind more. You will explore, you will be creative, and it will be encouraged by your lecturers. They do not want you to just repeat what you have read. They want you to redefine it, investigate it, argue the case for it and against it and at the end of your course of study you will usually be asked to do a dissertation (a treatise advancing a new point of view resulting from research; usually a requirement for an advanced academic degree). If you pass, you will be awarded a degree, and sent off into the world much cleverer than you would have been if you hadn’t gone to university. Then, unless you are carrying on in academic research you will have to get a job of some kind!
Now, I don’t want to go into all the boring stuff about how important it is to choose the right company for your career. In fact, I don’t want to go into jobs at all. I want you to think about university. I want you to remember the magic of discovery, of investigation, of being immersed in a subject you were passionate about, and now think about what life has in store for you in the future.
Is that the end of learning? Are you now just a conformist?
You may have been a revolutionary at university, and now you are going to be a corporate banker! Think about how you felt when you were with other students all embarking on an exciting new journey of discovery. The things you learned from each other, the things you discussed, the passion you displayed when arguing your case, and now think about your future.
What will you do with that investigative spark, will you just let it die, and join everyone else in the rat race, getting up at 6.00 am, home at 8.00 pm?
“Nice day at the office, dear?”
“Terrible, I need a drink.”
Do you want to join in with the misery we have created for ourselves, or do you want to find out if there is something more, something wonderful? All this learning, all the pain of being told to go and study and do your homework, being told you can’t go out, you can’t have a boyfriend, or girlfriend. All the protection that was given to you, and suddenly it’s all over, and you are tipped out into the madness of the modern world.
What was the point of all that learning? What was the point of all the trouble you put your parents through while you were growing up? Is there any point at all? I urge you to use your mind and go and explore the universe with it! Never stop questioning. That’s what learning is all about, exploration, not passing exams or getting a job. That’s just plain boring! No wonder teenagers hate it.
by alan macmillan orr
‘the natural mind- waking up’