Adolescence is a Tough Gig
(This article first appeared at stylesubstancesoul.com on 16 May 2013)
I have two daughters who have just come through the difficult teenage years. As a mother, I’ve watched with so many different feelings and emotions. I’ve often felt helpless and unable to ease their pain and confusion as they courageously try to adjust to life. Being Australian, one of my favourite singers is Missy Higgins, who is so popular “Down Under.” I love her music because of its honesty. In her first beautiful album, The Sound of White (which she wrote while she was still a teen herself), she sings The Special Two. I’ve always felt that she is singing about my deepest personal pain and the pain that I saw in my girls during adolescence. It makes me feel that maybe we’ve all experienced this anxiety and these feelings of depression. The first couple of verses are:
‘I’ve hardly been outside my room in days, ‘Cause I don't feel that I deserve the sunshine’s rays.
The darkness helped until the whiskey wore away, And it was then I realised that conscience never fades.
When you’re young you have this image of your life, That you’ll be scrupulous and one day even make a wife.
And you make boundaries you’d never dream to cross, And if you happen to, you wake completely lost.’
To me, these simple lyrics describe the insecure state in which the human race currently resides, unsure whether we are making a positive impact on this planet or even how to do that. I think these lyrics reflect on this transition we all make in our middle teenage years.
This ubiquitous change from child to adult is little talked about; teenagers are labeled hormonal, selfish, unstable, unreachable and rebellious. They hide in their teenage lairs, fighting off the sunshine’s rays with loud music blaring and smart phones at the ready, blocking out the rest of the world as best they can.
Australian biologist Jeremy Griffith wrote an insightful and compassionate essay, Resignation, about these teenage years in his best-selling book, A Species in Denial (which can be downloaded for free at the World Transformation Movement). Reading this essay has literally changed my life and I think it has the potential to change the world. It sheds enormous light on adolescence and discusses in an extraordinarily compassionate way the reason behind our human behaviour and its origins. It talks about a monumental psychological event endured by us all during our adolescence where, having seen the lack of ideality in the world and in ourselves, we “resign” to living a non-ideal life and effectively give up on trying to make sense of things. It also talks of the massive implications for us individually and as a whole global society as a result of this collective resignation and how, through understanding, we can ameliorate these problems.
As with much of the artistic realm that helps us to bare some of our normally hidden souls to the world, Missy helps me when she sings such honest lyrics. As with any subject, honesty about the plight of the world and about our human condition is a soothing tonic. It is reassuring to know that it is not just me or my family, or any one person, that is struggling with life, that we are all on the same search for answers every day even if we don't talk about it openly and have to keep our brave faces on 99% of the time.
Yes, I think we are all living in hope and trust that those answers will be found. And I must say that when I read Griffith, I am filled with so much optimism for the future and especially the future of all the children in the world, that finally those answers are here and some wonderful changes are on the way!