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  • Soa Andriamananjara

21st Century Teenager

On Tuesday night, I walked through my front door and found my mother lounging on the couch. “This is Us” was paused on the TV atop the mantelpiece. Thus commenced our evening ritual. I walked through the hallway into the kitchen, where I opened the refrigerator and then the pots on the stove to find whatever nutrients my family had saved me (they’d eaten hours before I’d gotten home), while my mom asked, “How was your day?” to which I replied, “Fine.” Like always. Never great, never horrible. Just fine. 

Then my mom asked the forbidden, “Sweetie. Are you stressed?”

“No!” I yelled, slamming the refrigerator door. “I am not stressed!” 

“I just want to know how to help yo-”

“I don’t want to talk about this right now! I’m just tired,” I snapped as I punched the microwave buttons. 

This occurrence has become all too normal in my life. I can’t admit out loud that I’m stressed. I shouldn’t be stressed–I should be the one slouching on the sofa! I should be hanging out with my friends for hours on the weekend. I should not be spending entire Saturdays completing worksheets and editing essays. I’m finally 17. I used to pretend to be 17 when I was seven, and right now, if my seven-year-old self saw me, she would burst out crying because I’m not what a teenager is supposed to be. I don’t have a boyfriend (and I never will, haha), I don’t play soccer, and I don’t spend my weekends driving from hangout to hangout. I spend my weekends driving from rehearsals to study sessions.

This is the life of a 21st Century teenager. Contrary to popular belief, I am not on my phone twenty-four-seven. I am needed somewhere twenty-four-seven. There is a rehearsal to be at, a subject to study, a club meeting to lead, an essay to write, a counselor to meet, and for what? To succeed? I’m less concerned about success and more worried about keeping up.  

Part of the problem is on me. Yes, I’m focused on keeping up with my work, but I’m more concerned about keeping up with my classmates. They amaze me as much as they scare me. It’s awesome that Charlotte won the robotics competition, but why didn’t I? Could I have won? Is she smarter than me? Is she better than me? Thoughts like these are fueled by the digital era. LinkedIn has become my newest foe. Virtually all of my classmates’ resumes are accessible on the platform. In fact, a classmate who recently joined LinkedIn mentioned seeing my resume. “Your account popped up on my dad’s feed,” she explained. “He sent it to me. He was like, ‘Look how much she’s doing!’”

“Don’t compare yourself to me,” I replied. “Comparison is your worst enemy.” She looked at me, brow furrowed, mouth slightly agape. She shut her mouth and shook her head like she couldn’t believe that I would say that. 

I need to practice what I preach. 

Here’s the other thing– why, seriously why, are teenagers on LinkedIn? What jobs could a teenager apply to that require a LinkedIn profile? I’m pretty sure you don’t need a full resume to get a busboy position. Fifty percent of what’s on our LinkedIn profiles is just high school clubs. For teenagers, LinkedIn is less about networking and finding work (again, why do teenagers need to find work?), and more about flaunting your profile to your classmates. “I’m the president of these three clubs, and you’re not! Nyanyanyanyah!” 

Maybe it is the phone. 

Now, I’m completely aware I’m stressed, but I can’t find a solution to it. I get more than eight hours of sleep each night. When I’m home before eight, I make sure I stop work at eight-thirty, so I have at least 30 minutes for myself. I set schedules. I put my phone away when I’m working. I’ve deleted Snapchat. I talk to a therapist. I freaking meditate. I’ve listened to all the advice adults have given me, and none of it is working. 

Maybe there is no solution. Maybe this is what being a teenager is meant to be. Being stressed, insecure, and lonely. Simultaneously, you are a child, and yet you are responsible for what feels like everything. I’m stuck in this box where all my decisions are made for me. The only thing I get to choose is whether I follow those decisions. I want to choose how I live, but I’m not ready to be responsible for my own life. At least I don’t have to pay bills. Yet. 

[Image via The Front]



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