I was organizing old photograph albums on a shelf in the basement when I found a journal from my teenage years. I picked up the spiral-bound notebook filled with sprawling cursive writing, but I only read a few lines before putting it down.
I’d thought I would enjoy reminiscing with the author, but I realized that I didn’t even recognize her. I recalled the events and even many of the emotions she described, but I didn’t remember the girl.
Experience and time have distorted my memories of the teenage girl I once was, and even though I still have a great deal in common with her, we are now very different people. And in reading those few journal entries, I found myself wondering how that teenage girl could possibly have been expected to plan what she wanted to do with the rest of her life when she hadn’t yet grown into herself.
Maybe I’m a cynic. After all, I’m just as astonished by people who stay in the same career, much the less the same job, for their entire life as I am by people who are still married to their high school sweetheart.
In my world, that just doesn’t happen.
In my world, teenagers are just tall children who are exploring the world and discovering new interests and passions every day. They are young souls who are still learning that life isn’t about one decision that will lead them down the right path but about a series of decisions that will take them on an adventure. And the are unique individuals who still need to determine how to use their gifts.
But I realize that’s in my world.
In the real world, teenagers are encouraged to identify their interests, decide on a college major and purse a career path by the time they are 21.
Maybe, if I didn’t have a son who was only a baby last week and is turning 16 next week, I might buy into that world.
But in reality, my son who is still trying to figure out who he is, and I’m pretty sure that the only way he can do that is through experiences – both good and bad. My job as a parent is to encourage him so he pursue opportunities that will allow him the time and the freedom to learn about himself. And I hope he encounters some life-changing adventures along the way.
I also like to think that the teenager I used to be hopes for the same thing.
According to her journal, she does.