I think I have it! The answer to that age-old question: Why do teenagers act the way they do?
Let's take a look at what happens between the ages of say ... 12 and 22. In those ten years a kid is expected to talk differently, act differently, think differently, live differently, and do different things. In ten years, you're supposed to turn into a different kind of human being ... a grownup. An adult.
By the time we're twenty-two, many of us will know what we want to do with the rest of our lives. That's not the kind of thing that happens overnight! During a ten-year period, we abandon many of our childhood quirks, fears, and habits and prepare to lead the world, or at least inhabit it as full-fledged, responsible adults.
Wouldn't you expect us to act strangely sometimes?
Kids and adults think differently. When you're a kid, you see life like a straight road ahead of you. First you're a kid, then you're a teenager, and then you're an adult. When you become a teenager, you're in the middle. You realize that there's always a curve in the road and you can never see ahead. You don't know what's going to happen down the road.
Let us say that kids become teenagers at different times and become adults at different times. When you're a teenager, you're really a between-ager. You're between being a kid and an adult. We can't play with kids anymore, and we only have a few years to become adults. During those years we band together and make up our own world to try and figure out how adults work. We make up our own language (slang), our own fashion (grunge?) and our own foods (don't even ask!). We can't use the adult language, fashion or food because we aren't adults yet. We adopt sayings that adults of the past have dropped, like Peace on Earth. We add on things like "man" to our sentences. As if that would make it true. We're not men and women. We're 'tweenagers!
It's an odd age to be because we remember what it was like to be a kid, but we aren't kids. And we know that once we become adults, we won't remember what it was like to be a kid. Sometimes we pretend to be kids, as if that would really make it true. We act like kids, talk like kids, dress like kids, and play like kids. Any of you teenagers ever hear the phrase from adults "Oh, stop being so immature!" or "Grow up!"? They want us to become one of them. They can't stand the fact that we don't have all their responsibilities. I propose that adults are jealous of teenagers in some ways.
I'm not saying that it's easy being a teenager. None of us really has any idea of what's happening to us. We're all kind of worried, and so we pick on people we think are different. We're in a pressure cooker. There's pressure to grow up, and then there's pressure to listen to the kid voice inside. Sometimes a teenager explodes and gets very angry. Nobody understands you except other teenagers. We're all in this together.
During those ten years of 'tweenage-hood, we learn what life as an adult is like, without actually stepping out onto the highway of life. We go to school and learn about adult things. We think about what we want to do with our lives. We think about how we want to relax. We start having fun with hobbies which may last a lifetime. Many of us start earning money and learning its worth.
We take long hard looks at the adults around us and see what kind of adults we want to become. First we look at our parents, and, because we remember our childhood clearly, we decide not to be like them. We think of all the naps we had to take and the desserts and television time we were deprived of. Our parents still set our rules and punish us occasionally. It would be unnatural for us to want to be like them. As time goes on and we come closer to adulthood, we may check them out again. we look at other adults: teachers, relatives, rock stars, bosses, actors, and almost every adult in our lives. Since adults in entertainment and sports are in our lives a lot, we may try them out for a week or two.
Here is a question for any adults who may be reading this: if you were starting out as a different person, and you could choose any lifestyle and job, do you think that you might try out some weird personalities? Because that's how it is. So, parents should not be alarmed if we try out some weird characters. In the end, our good sense will prevail! (As with all rules, there are exceptions.)
It's hard to decide how we want to live the rest of our lives. We hear adults around us wishing that they had different jobs, wishing they could start anew. Well, we can start now, any way we want. That's kind of scary.
This is the time to learn. It's one of the best and easiest times to learn! That's the beginning of the adult in me. But the child in me is saying that school isn't so important, and that my grades now won't affect the rest of my life. The child in me tells me that I'm just a kid, and that I can think about all of this important stuff later. Then the adult in me tells me that I'll be sorry later, and that it will be for the best if I think of important stuff now, while I have the time and freedom.
It's very confusing to be a teenager. And it's harder to be one if you try to stay a kid. It's better to listen to the adult voice that's breaking through, because we all have to become adults whether we like it or not. And, listening to the kid voice only takes you back a step. I'm not giving this as advice, because I know from experience that the still strong kid voice in you will immediately shut off your ears. I'm just rappin' to you as a fellow 'tweenager. Because I care.
The one thing that I didn't mention is that there is a good side to becoming an adult. As adults, we will be in a better position to help the people of the world. Teenagers can definitely accomplish important things, but people listen to adults more. We teenagers are part of an echo boom. Since there are more of us, we will have more impact on the world than other teenagers before us. Let's hope that it's a good impact, not a bad one.
Just Your Average 'Tweenager in the U.S. of A.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.