The In-Between: Student Views on Youth and Aging

The+In-Between%3A+Student+Views+on+Youth+and+Aging

They say the grass is always greener on the other side, and when it comes to the difference between childhood and adulthood, that certainly seems to be the case. Children are fearless and free of responsibility, but they are largely ignored when it comes to opinions or choices; adults are burdened with responsibility, but have more freedom in the physical sense, able to go where they want and pursue an identity in society. Teenagers are somewhere in-between. Studies show that the teenage brain swings on a pendulum of sorts between a “child brain” and an “adult brain,” which can cause a lot of the confusion and frustration that teenagers are so infamous for. Teenagers struggle to comprehend the shift from their choices being meaningless to their choices defining their future, and fight to find themselves as their childhood self-concept fades away. Adolescence is a time where many students balance the pros and cons of their life before and their life to come, so I decided to ask some Farragut High School students for their thoughts on the subject. 

There are plenty of differing opinions. Dawson Mercer sees the pros of growing up as more freeing than a childhood when you are confined by the rules of adults.

“I’m excited to age,” Mercer says, “Especially the next few years, cause I’ll get to drive, and after that, you know… I get to do bigger things, move on with life and have more opportunities.”

Others, such as Reagan Smiddy, see the process of growing up as a painful one. 

“I would love to see what my career’s gonna be, how successful I’m gonna be, what my family looks like, what my children and grandchildren look like, but I don’t want to go through the process of that, I just want to be there. Because I have to go through that process, I don’t want to do it. I would love to just go to a point where that’s not necessarily something I’m thinking about and worrying about and planning for, I just want to live. And that’s not something I’m able to do right now,” Smiddy explains.

Despite the many outlooks, the most common one is a mixture of the two. Most teenagers describe themselves as conflicted, and trying to find a compromise between the two levels of life.

Isabella Pinto describes her conflict, saying, “I look forward to the future, and I’m excited, but then sometimes I feel like I don’t want to grow up, I don’t want more responsibilities, and I’m scared that I am going to be a failure.”

On the topic of weighing pros and cons of each level of life, Skyler Switzer frames aging in another light.

“Human nature is to find problems with anything, and then to deal with those problems in the best way that you can. When you’re growing up, you run into new problems. They might not be problems that are more difficult for you, they may be difficult generally speaking, but as a child stubbing your toe might be the worst thing that ever happened to you. But then you wreck your car, and that’s the worst thing that ever happened to you. Or… your family, like your dad dies, that’s the worst thing that ever happens to you. It gets harder and harder, the things that come at you, but it gets easier to find a way to deal with them, and the process of dealing with them will always be the same if you know who you are and what you do.” 

The lack of major issues to deal with is not, however, the only thing that teenagers miss about their childhood. Many miss the fearlessness with which they believed they could change the world, and the ability to express themselves without fear of judgement.

Pinto recalls,“When I was younger I would, when people would smoke cigarettes around me, I would tell them how bad it was. I’d say “don’t come back to me when you’re in the hospital with lung cancer.” I was kinda harsh about it! But I wanted them to know, it’s not good for you, I don’t want you to see a bad future… And of course they didn’t listen to me, they just laughed at me, like what do you know? Of course they didn’t listen to me, but when I was younger I liked to think it made a difference and helped some people.” 

On the topic of expressing herself as a child, she goes on to describe how, “I had this bug costume that I would wear everywhere, and my parents told me the other day that I wore it out to dinner! I was dressed as this bug and it had these big eyes and these arms coming out, but I just didn’t care. People were looking at me. But if I were someone looking at a kid wearing a bug costume, I would think ‘I wish I were wearing a bug costume right now.’” 

Therein lies the paradox; everyone who is now an adult was a child once too. Most people long for the days of their youth, for the same freedom. If everyone in society wants to be free to live in a childlike manner, then what society is it that says they cannot do so?

Chances are, it is not any real society at all, but an imagined one. 

Jewel Richards describes participating in “childish” activities as a teenager, saying, “When I was in eighth grade, I had two friends who I would sit with at lunch, and an art teacher, she’d sit there with us. We had these dinosaur figurines that we were supposed to be drawing, but she’d sit there with us and we’d play dinosaurs instead. It was wonderful! I had the best time in eighth grade playing dinosaurs during lunch. I wish I could still do that.”

Why should she wish, if there is nothing stopping her from doing so?

Richards goes on to ask the question herself, “I was not embarrassed about that as a kid, so why should I be now?” 

It boils down to a simple fact; the only thing keeping us from finding harmony between our past and our future is our own minds. We tend to bend to expectations that were never obligations. The quickest way to a beautiful life is to hold on to the passion and the joys of youth, and to apply them to the responsibilities and freedoms of the future.