Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

To Be or Not to Be This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

By
     Who are you? Your parents’ teenager. Your sibling’s nemesis. Your teacher’s pet. Your friend’s favorite make-over project. Your employer’s dedicated worker. You may be those and much more, but who and what really defines you?

As teens, we are challenged every day by the expectations thrust upon us. Parents, siblings, teachers, friends, employers and others intersect our lives with expectations for who we are and what we should become. From their perspective, it is fair to communicate their vision for our lives. Their experiences justify their gentle orchestration of our goals and plans. However, following the identical career path of your parents or walking the walk of our peers leaves many of us wanting more.

We do want more! We want to define ourselves based on our individual experiences and dreams. We envision a time when we alone are responsible for shaping our lives, and we wish to start now. We want to become more than an amalgamation of the dreams of our parents, teachers, friends and employers. But talking the talk is cheap.

Let’s get started by taking charge of defining our identities. When was the last time you took note of all your commitments and questioned the rationale for your involvement? Have you ever drawn a diagram of where you want your life to go and the steps necessary to achieve these goals? Do you look around your community and see opportunities to share your time, talent and resources? Have you thought about getting involved in a new project, but don’t have time to do it? Do you have a feeling for the impression you leave on others? Can you walk away from negative elements others consider cool?

Our commitments are consuming us. Often, we join an organization just to satisfy our parents, teachers or friends. Taking an honest look at the reason for joining will help focus our efforts toward meaningful commitments.

Taking charge of our lives means knowing ourselves and how we want to evolve. Ambitious? Possibly, but it is essential to determine our goals. This allows us to own our goals without licensing others to nurture our dreams. Map out what you want your life to be. Claim your self-image.

Community service may be a requirement at some schools, but it provides an invaluable opportunity to share our skills with those in need. Active involvement in a community-wide effort to affect change does make more of a difference and supports a greater change in your outlook. Sure, it is easy to donate a book or some cash, but it is more difficult to look into the faces of those in need and answer their questions, or fulfill their dreams. Get involved in your community and witness a change in yourself.

No spare time to learn a new skill or pursue a hobby, or participate in life’s simple pleasures? There’s something wrong with this picture. As the old adage goes, take time to smell the flowers. When you allocate your time more effectively, you often gain a different perspective. If you make time to smell the flowers, you will also have time to recognize the abundance of opportunities - opportunities that will help you develop a greater sense of connection to your world and challenge you to develop the skills to become your personal best.

How do others see you? How do you wish to be viewed? Often, the impression we impart to others is not what we had in mind. It’s difficult to figure out why people think the way they do, but if we find ourselves constantly in difficult situations, we may need to reassess. Individual ideas are highly respected; self-serving indulgements are often construed as offensive. Develop an inner you that works well with others. Discover ways to communicate your ideas without putting others down. Self-respect includes respect for others.

Is there a handful of teens in your school who dictate what is “cool” for everyone? Why? Why do the masses let a few declare that the car you just got - that you waited so long for - is not “it” because it is not a BMW, Benz or Jag? Why do we let these individuals steal our joy and make us feel inadequate? It’s time to fight back! It is “cool” because we say it is. We must define our standard of acceptability, not allow ourselves to roll with whatever the “in crowd” dictates. It’s not going to be easy to reverse the trend, but just say no! No to things you choose not to be about. No to things that will negatively impact your goals. No to things that will morph your identity into something you don’t want to be.

To be or not to be, that is the question we must ask ourselves. Do we choose to be the individual we envision in our dreams or are we satisfied with the identity others thrust upon us? It is our choice to celebrate our own uniqueness and work hard toward developing an identity that encompasses who we choose to be.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback