Speak Up, Kid This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

July 8, 2012
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I've been 18 for half a year now, long enough to know that being 18 is really no different from being 17. Sure, I'm a legal adult, but what does it matter if the government considers me an adult when my parents don't? Turning 18 isn't a magical experience in which enchanted confetti falls from the sky and the old people who used to give you dirty looks at the grocery store suddenly respect you. You're still a kid, still struggling to prove yourself. I'm not an angry teenager raging against authority, contrary to what the older members of society may believe. I simply want to be taken seriously. The greatest prejudice in today's world isn't one of race, religion, or sexual orientation; it's of youth.

My parents say that I can make my own decisions once I leave their home, once they're no longer supporting me. Whenever I try to express my beliefs – for example, that being gay isn't wrong, that a person's goodness isn't measured by how often they read the Bible, that maybe, just maybe, that pregnant girl isn't a sl*t – my father calls me a punk. I wonder, if someone their age said these things, would they listen?

I don't claim to know all the answers, but I do know that adults are usually the ones stating their opinions on television. We live in a world where being older means being heard. Schools don't poll the students for suggestions; they ask the parents. When teachers hold meetings about how to raise test scores, students are never included. We know the answers they're seeking, but how could their students possibly know something they don't? I corrected a teacher once in class and she told me to double-check the textbook. When the textbook said the same thing, it was wrong too. She grades me on my performance every day, but I'm not allowed to do the same. Some might say that those are just the roles we play, but I say equals should be treated equally. I respect her, but where is her respect for me?

Now, I know some kids are rude, immature, and don't deserve to be respected, but so are some adults. That's just how people are. Old or young, we're all the same. We all just want to make the most of our lives. But being older doesn't automatically give one the right to tell those younger how they should make the most of their lives. Feel free to offer advice, share your life experiences, but don't tell me that my dreams aren't worth chasing. Don't tell me that being older means you know what's best for me.

My parents sometimes ask me where they went wrong, how they lost me. They don't know how much it hurts to be told that everything I love and believe in is nothing more than me straying down the wrong path. I want so desperately to tell them that they lost me the moment they thought they knew who I was, but you don't try to describe colors to a blind man, do you?

I want what every young person wants: to be treated with equal respect. Parents wonder why their children don't listen to them. It's because no person wants to be told how to live rather than being asked how they want to live. Teenagers don't rebel just because they can; they're fighting back against a world that doesn't recognize them.

Being 18 should never feel different from being 17. Not because the teenager is still a kid but because they should already be accustomed to being treated as an equal. That's the eighteenth birthday I wish I'd had, the one everyone deserves to have. Inequality should not be a normal part of growing up. After being told you're inferior for years, you start to believe it. And when you finally ascend to the throne of adulthood, you've become like those adults you knew as a child. Monkey see, monkey do.

Well, I have something to say to all the teenagers out there: you're not inferior. You're equal to everyone around you. But most adults don't accept that, so you'll have to show them. They won't ask your opinion, so you'll just have to tell them. Women didn't gain the right to vote by knitting sweaters. African-Americans didn't gain equality by resigning themselves to fate. They fought back. They made themselves heard. Young people have a voice too. But no voice can be heard if it isn't used. Don't be afraid to tell the world that you're here, that you have opinions too, that no one can tell you you don't matter, and that you won't rest until you've earned what's rightfully yours: a say.

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

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sempiternal_obsession This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 6, 2013 at 4:12 am
I think that this is really amazing - you wrote it phenomenally, and it's extremely true. I'm really glad that this was chosen for the magazine, it was perfect for its purpose.
WordsRUs This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jun. 15, 2013 at 1:10 am
Thank you. It means a lot to me that people are still reading this long after I wrote it. I think I can safely say now that I'm 19 that young people definitey need to make themselves heard. Adulthood is defined by those around us, no matter how much we'd like to define it ourselves. It's sad, but we are tasked with constantly proving ourselves in a world both telling us to grow up and telling us that we're not. But I believe that makes us strong and gives us the power to place fa... (more »)
elisha24 said...
Mar. 16, 2013 at 8:34 am
I really like the message, it was well written too
Macki- said...
Jan. 13, 2013 at 10:33 pm
This was an awesome article. And I completely agree. 
grrmbl said...
Dec. 27, 2012 at 1:25 pm
I'm not even eighteen anymore, but I still agree with you and this was really well-written. :)
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