As a teenager I was always drawn to older people. I got along better with the so-called “adults”. Today I am an “adult” and as it turns out, I get along pretty well with teenagers. I just love them, well maybe not all of them…smiles.
It was August of 1994 and I went for a swim in the lake. I was fit and healthy, with a pretty flat tummy. That day, however, I noticed a little bump. I told my husband I would go for a long run once we got back to Manhattan in order to gain my flat stomach back. He laughed, saying, “I see nothing”.
I did end up going for the run, but the bump grew. Nine months later my son was born. There are no words to describe becoming a parent. It is one of the most life changing events in someone life. It requires hard work at times and is frustrating at different seasons and stages of each child. Despite the many challenges, it is one of, if not the most rewarding experience to have. At least in my opinion.
That little stomach bump is now 18 years old, having left for college this past August. He was part of a track team during his four years in high school and become good friends with most of his teammates which most of then are now in different colleges through out United States. One of his high school teammates, a 19 years old girl committed suicide this past Friday.
Pause…What happened? I look back at my struggles as a teenager and I can’t speak for everyone but I’m sure that if we are all honest with ourselves most of us have contemplated suicide at least once. I did, perhaps more than once, but in the end I never did because somewhere, somehow I found an outlet to vent my frustrations, fears, sadness and loneliness.
The actions of this teammate brought tears to my eyes; it made me think: “Do teenagers understand the dimension of our love for them? Are we as a society doing enough to demonstrate that we care? Do they know there are more to life than a college degree. In my case, I never thought my mother loved me as much as she does, and I am now able to recognize it. I never thought I had much value in this life, or that I could make a difference, or that I was understood, good enough, pretty enough or smart enough.
What can I, one individual, do to make a high school or college kid out there seek help before doing the inconceivable? Yes most parents don’t understand us, don’t read our hearts, our dreams or share our pains. Most parents are obsessed with degrees and academics, which in my opinion is worth a second look. Our children need to play more, go for hikes, travel the world, and seek what fits their personality. Not everyone is made to bear such enormous pressure that some of those colleges are putting in our children. The very children we would die for. At what cost are we asking those kids to endure what many of us at their age couldn’t endure?
I grew up climbing trees and catching ladybugs in the stream in the back yard of my grandma’ s house. One of our past times as a teenager was to look for the highest tree to climb and try to figure out an emergency exit. We would even run around on roof tops. It was wild. I wasn’t pressured to produce endless hours of homework, essays, projects and tests every minute of the day. When are we going to awake up and realize that we are not helping the very ones we love. Do we want to raise good loving people or their A’s are more important?
When my 15 year old son and I went for his high school class assignments, the guiding counselor presented us with a few of honors classes to take. I immediately asked “why should he take those honor classes?” She answered: because he can, his grades demonstrates his academic level. I view it differently, just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do it.
Everyone has his or her own stresses and social pressures. I was picked on in school, bullied, and I was physically awkward. I was always very skinny and at that time I didn’t fit the normal Brazilian body. I was the true representation of the ugly duck story. I stuttered severely, when called to read out loud in class, it was a catastrophe. I was humiliated and it crushed in my spirit. But while in middle school it dawned on me that I could be loved if I was good at something. I ended up becoming good at many things, especially making jokes. I always had high standards for myself but I think I became an over-achiever. Most over-achievers suffer or suffered from low self-esteem because they are trying to prove they can be loved, appreciated, respected and sough after. The girl that committed suicide excelled in sports, academics and sailed through high school with honors. Even if you’re good at something, the quest for perfection is often daunting one.
Some of us try so hard to please that in the end even our own achievements don’t mean anything, because the bar is so high, we can never be satisfied with what we’ve accomplished. In this girl’s case, I think the college pressure and the demands were just simply too high for her to bear at a such a young age, and since she did excel in high school it made more difficult to face potential failures.
My daughter is only thirteen years old: gorgeous, talented, a hard worker, and does well in class. I know though that she sometimes struggles to believe she is loved, that I would die for her in a blink of an eye, that I see the struggles she goes through socially, academically or even physically. I do resort to praying to ask God to bring people and situations into my children’s life that can alleviate their pressures.
I found someone, something out there that gave me the confidence I needed to never give up on life. For me, my grandma was definitely that person. I also sough solace in an empty church next to her house. I would sit there and tell God what was going on in my heart. I found teachers that looked deep into my eyes and said: You are special Luciane, and gave me the support I needed.
If you are a college kid or high school boy or girl let me tell you college is just one of many options out there. You are very special, and needed in this world. You are made to impact lives, smile, break rules, dance in the rain, travel the world, help the poor, sing songs or write novels so I can read, fix computers so that I don’t have to seat like an idiot trying to figure out what’s wrong. You can start companies, become teachers or perhaps you are the one that need to stand up and start a campaign to revolutionize our schools system and prove that something is not working-it is killing spirits instead of inspiring you to be the unique person you are.
Perhaps you the college freshman or sophomore and I can start something that provides the alternative to such a high pressure life style. Whatever may be, trust that life is worth living and roses were created so we can stop to smell it, not once but often.
May God bless you all,