On Adolescence

Boy #1 will be 20 in May, Boy #2 will be 17 in April, and Boy #3 just turned 12 in November. I really feel like Boy #3 and I have so much in common. For example; our sense of humor and the things we find funny, the way we relate to people in general, and how we feel about ourselves. I guess that means that I am now functioning at an adolescent level as Zander. Part of me has always been slightly adolescent in the right situations anyway, even though I was always judged harshly for that, especially by women.

It’s interesting to feel this way after feeling like I was still a small child inside. So it’s like I am growing up, finally. Honestly, adolescence looks much better the second time, with an actual adult mind already developed to sort of keep an eye over this process. I already did this as a hormonal, nutty kid in the wrong body. Now it’s just raising the main part of my personality. I feel like this part will be the most work I need. I think letting myself out and letting myself learn how to just be without trying to please everyone will be helpful for me. I know that I am a good person and that I deserve to live my life as myself. I’ve just been programmed to try and please everyone else first. It’s a very fine line between being kind and ignoring my needs for everyone else’s benefit. I count too.

What I remember being the worst about this phase the first time was how unsure I felt about the world around me. My parents weren’t very understanding, as parents often forget what these horrible years are like when you are the kid enduring it. They invalidated my feelings, told me I had nothing to be depressed about after moving us to a new city for 7th grade and leaving all of my friends, told me that they would make my life miserable if I didn’t shape up, grounded me all the time for minor kid things, and made me feel like something was wrong with me because we were always arguing about how horrible of a person I was.

I struggled with a lot of anxiety because of trauma in my childhood. I often felt like I had balls of lead in my stomach that made me not hungry on a regular basis. I used to complain that my stomach hurt and they would tell me that it didn’t really hurt. It was anxiety. I was afraid all the time about what was coming up that I didn’t understand, I was being bullied in my new school almost every day, and I had no friends for a long time. Even though there were people who let me eat lunch with them and I sometimes got invited to sleepovers and birthday parties, those were short lived friendships because either I couldn’t go out as often as their other friends or I just wasn’t a good fit with that group.

I bounced around a couple of friend groups until I landed with the “scummers”, who were the poor kids from poor families. They had no standards about who could be in their group. It never mattered to them if I had the right clothes or the money to go to the movies all the time. Or even if I was grounded every other weekend and could only hang out on the opposite weekends. They were good friends who never judged me for anything. Sometimes other groups of kids picked on me for being friends with this person or that person from the scummer group. Shamefully, I never defended my friends. I just stared at the bullies blankly and never said anything. My parents always told me to just ignore bullies, and so I didn’t defend the kids who let me in eagerly and always were nice to me, even if I wasn’t always nice to them.

In 8th grade I moved up to the honors classes and left the scummers behind completely. I wish I hadn’t done that because I found most of the kids from the honors classes to be shallow and two-faced. There were groups in that class too. The brainiacs, the popular and smart kids, the connected kids, and me…loser kid promoted up from the regular classes. I was the only one out of the 50-something honors kids split between two classes. Cue way more anxiety about being called on in class. Cue the beginning of imposter syndrome and feeling like I didn’t fit in with kids who were academically equal to me. I did well in all of my classes and only struggled a bit in science because I went from 7th grade science into 9th grade science. I missed some fundamentals from 8th grade science that the other kids in my class all had. It was a huge burden to shoulder that I couldn’t quite explain to my parents. So they thought I did nothing but complain about everything at school.

Those early high school years weren’t much better. This was where my father got his first “real” teaching job and wasn’t just a substitute. And so I had to attend the very high school where my father taught. It didn’t go well for me. I was still friends with my shallow friends from the honors classes and a few new friends from the class above me. And a senior in my art class who had a baby and also had a crush on my father. She often tried to figure out where I lived so she could come over. It was so weird. I was grateful when art ended and I didn’t have to worry about her anymore. She had made some trouble for my dad while I was in middle school and I hated the feeling that she was preying on my dad through me.

Remembering all the awkward dances, conversations, and notes about those years makes me cringe. Those were probably the worst years of my life and reliving those types of things would be unbearable. So I am grateful if I have to do it again, I can do it this way, just in my head and through the knowledge I have already gathered from that first time. I don’t envy kids these days, trying to grow up in the social media fish bowl they live in. I think it’s way harder than what I had to endure. It’s the same hormones and horrible feelings, but with all these complicated added layers. No thank you!!

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