A young couple who are residents of mine have broken up. And through the mess of their break up and move out configurations, I’ve gotten to learn that the break up isn’t even. The boy’s heart is broken in two, his first heart break.
And I heard myself utter to my coworker the other day, “they’re so young. What do they know about love yet?” And then I bit my tongue. The very words I promised myself to never mutter had just slipped my tongue. They’re 17 and 18 years old: the ages J and I were when we were fighting for our love. And I know I knew then that I was in love. And I know I knew then it was something different than puppy love. How quickly we all forget, huh? We all forget that to teenagers their lives seem real, as real as they get. Little did I know then about the world of rent and bills and grocery shopping and working a dead end job I can hardly stand just to make ends meet. Real world…? To them, maybe.
My heart goes out to my residents. Break ups are never easy. The waiting game after the break up has to be the worst part. When the one who was broken up with sits and waits and wonders if the one who broke up with them will change their mind. More often than not, they don’t. And then you pick up the pieces and move on a little wiser.
I wrote once in my diary as a young teenager that I promise I wouldn’t ever lose perspective of what it was like to be a teenager. I promised myself I’d always remember what it felt like to have the world you live in feel so real to you and so useless and petty to all the grown ups around you. And I promised myself that I would have compassion and understanding for any teenagers I encountered. Some people are good with babies. Some people love children. Me? I understand teenagers the best. My teenage years were hard. Very hard. I remember feeling so lost and sometimes very alone and very misunderstood. My world was trivialized and my problems were often brushed off. But my tears were real. And my heart ache was painful and often dealt with in the confines of my bedroom.
To a teenager, what they are going through at that exact moment is so real to them they can’t see beyond it. They often don’t realize that there is life beyond the walls of their high school.
In my opinion, teenagers have it so hard. They have to balance school and becoming a young adult and bullies and grades and often jobs and extra curricular activities. They’re falling in and out of love and making friendships: some real some false, all the while trying to find out who they really are. Their worlds are very unstable and any little thing can change them for the rest of their lives. People treat children with “kid gloves,” when really it’s teenagers that should be handled that way. Their emotions are all over the place and it’s easy for them to feel alone.
People chalk teenagers up as trouble makers and brats. But in all reality, most of that can all be rooted back to a lack of understanding and compassion. You’d act out and be a brat too if no one were taking you seriously and telling you not to feel the way your feeling.
So when people ask me if I’m really ready to take on all the crap that teenagers will throw my way when I become a teacher, my answer is always yes. I care about English, yes. But most importantly I care about teaching. I’m fully aware that 99.9% of my students won’t give a flying flip about Literature and grammar and well, anything I have to teach. But I had some awesome teachers in High School who made me feel understood. And I had some awesome teachers in High School who showed me what it really meant to be a good teacher, and it’s not always about the books. Sometimes the best and most important lessons taught within the four walls of the classroom have nothing to do with a syllabus.