As regular readers of our blog know, we are always encouraging new insights and voices. We strive to educate ourselves, and others, about whats going on in the worlds we don't explore; the worlds which scare us due to our lack of insight, knowledge and, yes, compassion.
One of those worlds is that of adolescence.
Written by my daughter from my wife's first marriage, this month's blog entry on what it's like to be a teen today is one which all of us over 30 should read very carefully. Personally I feel we put too much pressure on these kids, and we forget just what it's like to caught in that world where were are neither a child nor adult.
A Teen's Life
It is often said that teenagers live in their own world, captivated by social media and not paying attention to anyone but themselves. Adults treat us like children, children look at us as adults, and here we are: stuck in an unknown middle ground, forced to find a way out. It is a hunger-game of popularity contests, homework, and endless commitments to school, sports, and whatever else we have put on our plate. Welcome to the all-but-idealistic teenage years.
All throughout my life, I have excelled: from the moment I was born, six weeks early, to the day I finished first grade, one year ahead of schedule, all the way to where I am today, a sophomore in high school. Never once, in all fourteen years of my life, have I ever been told to slow down. Throughout adolescence, lives are looked at as an object, and always looked at from a perspective where finding the next step on the ladder is the number one priority. There’s pressure to take harder classes while maintaining good grades, to be popular, to wear this or buy that and everything in between. As we are turning up our music on $300 headphones that we buy just to “fit in,” our authenticity is being drowned out.
Throughout our lives, most all of us have heard the phrase, “stop and smell the roses.” Looking at this phrase in literal terms, it just means slowing down and taking time to observe your surroundings, to admire what is around you. Looking at this figuratively, while it is cliché, it makes a whole lot of sense. Ever since the start of high school, there is one question that has been appearing more and more frequently: “What do you want to do after high school?” Never have I heard parents, teachers, friends and peers ask that question so much as they have these past few years. However, not everyone is as clueless as I am when it comes to this question. Some people want to enlist in the military, others branch off to a mathematical or law degree, while others want to simply stay in Boothbay and fish until the end of time. I, on the other hand, have no idea whatsoever. Other adults in my life say not to worry about that kind of thing, that it is too early to be thinking about those kinds of plans anyways, but the constant nagging in the back of my mind says otherwise.
But why is there such a rush? Why are our future plans taking priority over everything in front of us now? It is quite the opposite of stopping and smelling the roses. All we are seeing are the bursts of color that make up the passing bouquets as we rush through our lives, hopelessly awaiting the next chapter. How hard would it be to stop focusing on the next chapter, and focus on what is in front of us? Everybody wishes our time away, encouraging us to look at college and focus on the future, taking for granted the moments before our eyes. Society needs to start focusing on the important things that are displayed in front of us now, not years from now.
Nevertheless, I am not disregarding planning ahead. It is a necessity for an organized and well rounded life. On the other hand, being present and being absorbed in the present are two very different things. All things considered, Rome was not built in a day. In other words, of course the pressure from adults and peers won’t go away with the snap of a finger. However, it is a good idea to keep in the back of our minds.
Navigating life in general is complicated, not to mention the constant rush coming from the people that surround us. To simply slow down, understand there is no rush, and to look at the world around you is just a small task.
Coming from a 14 year old high school student, these words may sounds cliché; but, maybe not. That, you can decide for yourself.
That is what was going through my head during the last hundred yards or so of the recent 1/2 Ironman I completed. I mean I had just done a 1.2 mile swim, 56 miles on the bike and run nearly a half marathon, a few yards in the sand wasn’t going to kill me.
Or was it?
I don’t know if you have ever run in the sand, but it’s not easy. And let me be clear, this wasn’t the nice packed sand down close to the water which after 6+ hours of racing could be mistaken for road. No, this was the soft sand which felt like it was grabbing your feet and pulling you backwards every step. Yes - I have to say, those last few yards were brutal. That being said, I made it through; not very gracefully, and certainly not very prettily, but I made it through. I just kept telling myself, “A few more steps, just make it through these few yards.” In the big picture it was a very small part of the race, but at the time it felt huge.
Now that my body has recovered from that day, I find myself looking back and trying to glean wisdom from what I put my body through that day. Completing a race which less than .5% of the population has even started is an accomplishment of which I am proud. But for me it’s much more than the physical.
For me it’s the sense of completion, of setting my mind to something which a few years ago would have been impossible for me to even contemplate, let alone complete, and finishing it. I am by no means fast at the races, but I complete them, slowly and methodically; one step at a time. In looking at it, in many ways the races I do are analogous to my sobriety.
At Loeta we work with a great number of people who are struggling with substance use. People contemplating how to live a life free of alcohol or drugs, and what that would look like. I know many clients have said the same thing to themselves that I have said when first presented with doing a race of a seemingly insane length. No way; that’s impossible.
But just like I do with the race, when we break it down into small chunks, it becomes a bit more manageable.
Don’t think about the 1.2 mile swim, just swim to the next buoy.
Let’s not think about how to make it through the holidays, let’s talk about what to do today.
Use this transition time to get yourself ready for your ride, you made it through the swim.
Before I rush off to work, I’m going to take time to set my intentions for the day.
And so on…
Before we know it, we are slowly making it through; we realize every step is getting us closer to the end of the race, and every minute sober is a victory in its own.
We also realize we can’t do it alone. We need the support and love of family and friends to make it through. Additionally, some of us need a coach, a professional to guide us through the process. Sure we can do it alone, but it is a lot easier to be able to talk with someone to bounce ideas off of. Someone to have as a guide and a support who has been there and knows what’s coming up for us so we can lean in and finish what we started.
And of course, there are the inevitable obstacles; the hills, the cocktail parties, the broken chains and the family reunions.
And then there’s the sand.
The damn sand...
But we make it through that as well.
And, just like that it’s over. We made it through the race and through the day. But of course tomorrow presents a whole new set of challenges and opportunities which we will tackle when it’s time to do so.
Like maybe the full Ironman…
Bar Clarke has been working with families for 30 years. He uses his knowledge of family dynamics coupled with his own personal struggles to help families find a new path