Step Out of Your Isolation Zone This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

December 15, 2011
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I rushed into school Thursday morning, afraid that I was late for my first class. Finding a clock, I confirmed that I had arrived with time to spare. Relieved, I let my bag slide off my shoulder and land with a thud. With my head finally cleared of its worries, I turned to acknowledge the others waiting in the hallway. Two girls began to complain about waiting in the hall for the last hour with my brother James. Apparently, he was being extremely annoying – but, hey, what else is new?

“He drives me crazy. How do you live with him?” one of the girls asked.

“I don't,” I told them honestly. “I spend more time at the library or with friends than I do with my family.”

The girls laughed, but for the rest of the day my comment haunted me. Had I really become so absorbed in my life that I had isolated myself from loved ones? Recalling the past few days, I remembered times when I had chosen to be by myself – for example, when my brother Owen asked to play cards, or when Eli wanted to go on a walk. Both times, I told them I was too busy. Did I really want to grow up not knowing my family?

I tried to make excuses. I'm in high school, I have too much homework to waste time playing games with kids. But I had to admit that this wasn't true. Recently I had come to school early after a piano lesson, unaware that my brother was there early too. I could have walked with him to the coffee shop if I had known. If I had thought about someone's schedule besides my own. My excuses were unacceptable. Yes, school is important, but would I be happy with a strong education but a crumbling family?

After much thought, I came to this conclusion: Many teens – myself included – have become ridiculously self-centered, most without even realizing it. We've become unplugged from the real world, creating our own that suits us better. Sure, we know the names of the hottest celebrities and the newest trends, but those around us and issues that matter are foreign to us.

In twenty years it's not going to matter what clothes you wore or which CDs you owned. What will matter is the people in your life. Teens are isolating themselves from the real world and focusing on themselves. They live on Facebook and Twitter, complaining to the world about how bored they are or how much homework they have instead of interacting with their siblings. When teens have a problem, they go online instead of to parents or siblings – real people who can give real advice.

Teens often ignore issues around them – the homeless man asking for change, the girl at school who hides in the shadows, afraid that someone might notice her bruises. Too many turn a blind eye to others' problems.

So I took an oath to stop caring just for myself, and began to make changes. I started small, smiling and talking to my siblings and others more, helping my parents with chores, sitting next to a lonely looking student on the bus – and the change grew from there. Before I knew it, I was helping my brothers rake leaves for an older neighbor, who became a good friend. Tomorrow, I'll be going to an all-nighter with James, getting to know him better. Just a few minutes ago I was playing poker with my brothers and my parents instead of hiding in my room, stressing over homework.

I've begun to interact with the world, and I've never been happier. Finding time for others is hard, but you just need to do it. Skip a few sleepovers or do your homework later instead of while your siblings are playing. Take the opportunities that come your way. If your soup kitchen needs donations, collect canned goods with kids at your school. When your museum needs volunteers, give time. It will be worth it, I promise. Get plugged in to the world around you, starting with your family. Step out of your isolation zone and enter the real world.

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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BlueRoses451This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Nov. 7, 2016 at 11:49 am
Is it reasonable if your family is narcissistic and abusive to believe this isn't always the case.
AvaJay This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Nov. 10, 2016 at 3:12 pm
Yes. It has been almost five years now since I wrote this article, and I have grown much and changed a lot of my opinions. A few years after this, I landed in counseling where I learned that I am not at all obliged to spend time with my family (my parents and some of my brothers were abusive) nor was it healthy. I still believe that being isolated is detrimental to mental health and you should find a community where you belong, but this does not mean you need to find that community in your famil... (more »)
8tephanie This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 31, 2012 at 9:59 pm
Definitely sharing this on facebook. Just today I saw someone post something along the lines of: "Missing the football game to hang out with my mom :( Ugh" Family is something we need to learn to appreciate, those are the people that will be there for you in the long run.
Imaginedangerous This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 17, 2012 at 5:55 pm
So many teenagers are dedicated to ignoring or outright hating their families. If you have a good relationship with them, though, life becomes so much easier. I had to learn that the hard way.
shmam7624 said...
Jan. 20, 2012 at 6:48 pm
Very inspirational!
WhittyKitty This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jan. 21, 2012 at 9:09 pm
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