I am a teenager. I am ignorant, illiterate and irresponsible. I lie, cheat, steal and hate for no apparent reason. I am rude, inconsiderate and, to all appearances, completely lost. I have never known failure, loss or despair. I never talk to my parents about my life, and would never suffer being seen with them in public. I don't know the value of a dollar and am under the impression that money is cleverly disguised as foliage. I drive 90 miles an hour and cause wrecks, discord and trouble wherever I travel. I know nothing of events, current or past. I am superficial, loud and obnoxious. I am viewed with haughty disapproval as a person who drinks, smokes and parties at every opportunity.
I am a teenager. I am a stereotype. I have been cast unfairly in the role of an imprudent person who knows nothing, is inherently cruel, and always thinking of myself. I am the bane of a society of whom many have never read Tolstoy, Dickens, Bronte, Nietzsche or Rousseau. I am dismissed by many of the generation who fear the day when I become an adult, because then the world will surely fall to pieces. When people look at me, they evaluate through lenses tinted with suspicion, mistrust and doubt.
Some will never know that I am compassionate, humble and patriotic. I am an athlete, singer, artist and comedian. I am a daughter, sister, student and friend. I laugh and cry. I speak out and I brood. I love, dislike, and show indifference. I will be the next Nobel Prize winner, best-selling author, life-saving surgeon, president, or beloved teacher. I have lofty dreams and the ambition to make them reality. I have the determination and self-discipline to see every goal surpassed. I will go to college not just to party and have fun, but to pull myself one step closer to the destination I so greatly desire. Through kind words, intelligent conversation and common courtesy I will change the misconception of youth.
One day, one person at a time, I will show those who judge that they are wrong. When I am an adult there will be a new collection of disrespectful, reckless, hateful youth. Maybe, just maybe, when I look at them, I will see through the labels and see the promise of a future generation. For now, I am simply and proudly myself. I am faithful, loving and honest. I am inquisitive, intelligent and sincere. I am a leader, follower and teacher. I am a teenager.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.