Best Things About Being 19: Teenage Angst

Thursday, March 6, 2014


Watched 16 Candles for the first time last weekend and it made me really wish life were a John Hughes cinematic experience.

This is kind of an embarrassing story, but I'm going to tell you anyway. I went to Mass yesterday evening for Ash Wednesday to receive my ashes, and of course right next to me sat down a very attractive boy, whose goal, I presume was the same as mine: to receive a sign of his mortality. The embarrassing part is that this boy made me feel 13 again: sweaty palms, twirling a curl around and around my finger wondering if when he glanced my way every so often (was I making this up???) he was looking at me. And of course, like every brief encounter with a complete stranger, I began to wonder if maybe a glance is all it takes. Maybe maybe maybe. 

These brief encounters, are the mystery, the magic, the tragedy of teenage angst. It's beautiful really. When naivete and the belief that you know everything, everything, everything come together, teenage angst ensues. Inherent emotions, though striking in their own permutations and tantrums and tears, also inspire beauty. From my teenage years have come some of my most prized thoughts. I've manifested this creativity mostly through writing, because the flow of words and phrases is comforting: journals, lyrics, research papers, poetry, and post-it notes with scribbled dreams on them are the products of my teenage angst. When I wrote down each of these various expressions of trepidation, at the time I thought them embarrassing, fleeting, not relevant to my future adult life. It's funny, because as I'm writing this now (I do find writing often begins with fact and discovers truth), I realize that these once embarrassing little pieces of my soul floating around on my hard drive and in my desk drawers are REAL, relevant parts of my psyche. Silly daydreams about breaking out into song (if they made a movie about my life it would for sure be a musical) and silly hopes that maybe just maybe that boy sophomore year actually actually really maybe liked me and the silly, irrelevant belief that there is a different boy out there that I'll be able to sing out loud in the car with and travel the world with are a part of me. They can't be forgotten and disregarded as Teenage Angst. They shouldn't be. Those dreams, those hopes, those fleeting beliefs are rather attributed to Teenage Angst. They prove that the suffering, the confusion, the growing up we all experience from 13 to 19 is not all for naught; we felt, we cared with every fiber in our bodies. It didn't matter that we didn't know the name of the boy sitting next to us at church. He inspired a little heart flop nevertheless, and reminded me the importance of, the vitality of, the imperishableness of Teenage Angst. 

Teenage Angst isn't ridiculous like I thought when it was all-consuming. It's something we all go through, in different senses; it's rebellion in its original packaging. It's a belief in a greater tomorrow because our pallets haven't been tainted by the stains of adulthood. Us teenagers are young enough to still believe in love at first sight, to believe that even if you've never talked to someone there might still be fireworks (i.e. John Hughes movies, the boy at church), to believe that anything is possible. We are young enough not to know better. We believe we are invincible; we believe that life extends far beyond the realms of our imaginations, even if reality doesn't extend beyond our dorm room walls. The famous anthem to the movie Fame proclaims: "I wanna live forever / I wanna learn how to fly." As teenagers we are inevitable, we are immortal, we see life as an endless, impenetrable, void. We are bored because we can't see beyond the void, so we must create with what we can't see. We're blind searching for the sun.

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