By Shayna Gibson
The life of a teenager. Everyone has their own opinions on
"teenagers these days." Some think we're jokes, some
are impressed by the amount of responsibility put on the kids
of the twenty-first century, and some choose not to stereotype
by age. Personally, I don't think stereotypes have any kind of
credibility, but I have found one common link that connects just
about all of us. It's something found everywhere you look, and
it doesn't pertain solely to teenagers. What am I talking about?
Exhaustion. It seems like the plague of the new millennium could
quite possibly be over-stimulation. Appointment books and cell
phones are as necessary to some people as socks and shoes, but
some days it seems like the majority of the human race has been
enslaved by time and too many commitments.
It's easy for me to understand the trap of time as a teenager. We're taught that extracurricular activities as well as good grades are the key to getting into college, and that college is the key to a good future. We're taught that these are the best days of our lives, but don't waste time getting started on the future. The result of this training is a generation overrun by overachievers that are still trying to maintain a carefree, fun-filled, teenage lifestyle.
Looking at a typical week in my life with school, homework, extracurricular activities, and friends: I'm home an average of 34 waking hours, less if there's a speech meet, play, or other school commitment on a weekend. That's only about twenty percent of my time. This may sound generous to some of the people I know. Perhaps these days, we should be worried about creating latch key parents, as well as latch key kids. Don't get me wrong, I'm not whining. I know that everyone is pushed to their limits. My simple question is why? Because we have to be? If I accepted this, it would be similar to giving up.
There's got to be a solution. I've just never had the time to look for one until now. Sometimes to learn how to deal with something, you've got to go to the edge of losing control over that situation. I became a personal casualty to my schedule and commitments. My health suffered, my emotional stability wavered, my performance in all areas weakened, and I teetered on the brink of exhaustion. Even though most of what I was spending my time on was for myself, the things I loved to do began to feel like drudgery. The solution? I was told that "something had to give;" that I couldn't do all I wanted. I had to eliminate some aspect of involvement in order to maintain my sanity, as well as the comfort of the people I live with. But then I realized the real solution. It wasn't to take away from my schedule, it was to add one crucial commitment. A commitment to myself. But I hesitated. Could it be that I felt like making a commitment to myself was selfish? Selfishness is a scary word, it's frowned upon if you want to be thought of as a kind, loving person, and if you're like me you probably feel obligated to fix everyone's problems, to give 100 percent in everything, and be your own version of a super hero. It doesn't work.
When you get out that chaotic appointment book, pencil yourself in. Take a night to slow down, do something relaxing that requires no thought or energy, no other people, and no big distractions. Don't take this time to catch up on your house cleaning, your correspondence, or your reading. Don't do anything productive, just sit, and take in life. Think if you absolutely must, but don't accomplish anything. If you must feel like you're getting something done, just know that you are replenishing your energy and usefulness. If this does mean eliminating one night away from social circles (a thought worse than death to most teenagers), or if you feel like you're falling behind in something you should be doing, take a deep breath. You've got to change your outlook on life.
I don't pretend to know the meaning of life, nor would I want to, if I knew then I'd really have no time to relax. As an excuse, realize that no matter how hard you try to be everything to everyone, you've got to include yourself. Many teenagers have somewhat of a craving for chaos-maybe it's just because we're taught through the media that chaos generally makes for a better storyline. Maybe someday it'll teach us the value of quality as opposed to quantity.
It's still good to know that even if you insist on living a life with only time enough to breath between saving the world from cliques and hang nails, you've still got to have time to look at a sunset now and then. Life is short, it's worth it to slow down. If you don't, think of everything you'll miss, while you're trying to be in seven different places at once for the sole reason of not missing anything. The simple concepts of slowing down and taking time for a little positive selfishness will improve your performance in all other aspects of your life. One night to meditate, or to sit at home in front of the television, or to take a walk, or a bubble bath, can make all the difference. It's something I've accepted as needing in my life to get through the everyday mission of living the life of a teenage girl. It's not a weakness, it's something I can add to the list of reasons of why I succeed. Make your life full, appreciate the beauty of the things around you, take the time to do things right, and take care of yourself.