Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Thoughts on Teenage-Hood

We sure have been quiet around here. Sometimes I get really sick of hearing my own voice and the thought of blogging makes me feel weary. But I must carry on... if only to appease my parents in Kuwait.

Nothing much to report except that my 14-almost-15 year old niece moved in with us a few weeks ago. She'll be here until the end of the school year. If it seems like I'm being vague, it's because I am. I don't mind over-sharing when it comes to my own kids but as a former 15 year old girl myself, I know not to mess with the privacy of a teenaged girl.

(Speaking of over-sharing and embarrassing my own kids, Ike spent a good portion of the middle of last night sitting on the toilet and crying (half-asleep and screaming), "It won't let me go pee-pees." Can three year olds have prostate issues? Anyone have experience with boy-children and urinary tract infections? I'm at a loss. For the last few days, he's been peeing small amounts around the clock, like 5-6 times an hour. He doesn't complain of pain, just that he can't go. My Google diagnosis points to either diabetes, a UTI or anxiety. Hmmm.)

Anyway, the arrival of my niece prompted me to go digging around in the garage for my old journals. For research purposes. You see, I was also a 15 year old niece who moved in with her aunt and uncle. I left "home" and moved to Boston to finish high school. The circumstances are a little different- my family lived much farther away, it was my first time living in the states and I spent two years with my aunt and uncle not just a semester, but there are enough similarities that I wanted to revisit my journal entries from that time period. You know, to get inside the head of a teenager.

Oh boy, did I open a can of worms with that one. You hear it ALL the time, but seriously, being a teenager is so tough. I was going to take a page from my friend Carly's book (blog) and publish a journal entry here so everyone can laugh at my silly 15 year old self and appreciate how far I've come. But I couldn't do it. It was too painful. And sometimes I don't think I've actually come that far at all.

My entries swing from one extreme to another, within days, hours even. Life is GREAT! EXCITING! HOPEFUL! MY FRIENDS ARE THE BEST! I MISS MY FAMILY SO MUCH! And then the next entry... life is terrible. i'm miserable. i hate my parents/aunt/uncle. i'm angry, hurt, confused, full of sadness. i am a huge failure. i have no idea what i'm looking for. i do not belong. NO NO NO, WAIT, THINGS ARE INCREDIBLE and AMAZING. I HEARD THAT CUTE BOY FROM ART HAS A CRUSH ON ME.

It's frightening. I had so many emotions bottled up inside me and no way of dealing with them. I felt everything so acutely. I was so dramatic. I was anxious, unhappy and deeply irrational. I resented my parents for "sending me away" but also craved the stability and peace my aunt and uncle were able to offer. I was desperate to please everyone but wanted to assert my individuality. I worshiped my older sister while simultaneously fearing/hating her. I hardly recognized my three younger brothers and their existences. They never made it onto my radar. Friends meant everything, family meant nothing. I wanted so badly to figure out who I was without the help of all those foolish adults in my life.

Like I said, being a teenager is so hard. But it's not all doom and gloom. Amongst my entries, there are small glimmers of real self-awareness. I recognized that I was unhappy and acknowledged specific things that brought me joy. I tried to pursue those things. I still made lots of mistakes. Really dumb mistakes. It seems like for every two steps forward, I took one backwards. Looking back, I'm surprised there wasn't more intervention from my aunt/uncle or parents. It takes a lot of courage to step back and let someone flail about as they try to "get it." I'll be forever grateful that they worked so hard (and thanklessly) to clear the path I was walking sprinting down, quietly cheering me on from the sidelines and allowing me to "get it" on my own.

Since I'm too embarrassed to share an actual journal entry from that time in my life, I'll share this instead. It's an excerpt from a letter my dad sent me. The letter is dated November 27th, 2000. I had been living in Boston for a few months. My dad was in Yemen working on the FBI investigation of the USS Cole bombing. My dad and I were in completely different parts of the globe, each experiencing our own unique "war zones." Yet, he manages to end his letter on a positive note, describing the beautiful surroundings of the Port of Aden. I may have had a lot of resentment towards my dad at the time, but his letters meant a lot to me. So much that I've held onto them for these last 11 years. I pull them out occasionally as a reminder that I really lucked out in the "foolish adult" department.



Minnie said...

About Ike, it doesn't sound like diabetes (about the only thing in life on which I consider myself an expert)--he'd be peeing a LOT 5-6 times an hour, not a little.
I hope you are able to find out what is wrong soon, poor kid!

It is nice to be an adult, isn't it? You were my idol when we were teenagers though. :-)

Petra said...

I'm always totally fascinated when you write about your teenage years living with us because in some ways we were so, so close and in other ways I had no idea what was going on with you--which I guess really also highlights a classic adolescent dynamic, because apparently I was way too wrapped up in my own (way less dramatic and important) stuff to be able to see your stuff clearly. I regret it sometimes and other times I wonder if it was a good thing. Aaaaanyway--a blog comment is probably not the right medium for this.

Margaret Proffitt said...

It's funny, for years now I've always regarded the time I spent with your family as totally golden- life changing and absolutely perfect. It's only when I actually read those journal entries, that I realize I had a lot of ups and downs during those two years. It was definitely a process. Even by the time I was accepted and had decided to go to BYU, I was still waffling back and forth quite a bit. Had it not been for our close friendship and to some extent, my desire to fit in with the crowd (or in this case, the cousin ;), I may not have ended up at BYU and who knows where I'd be.
It's probably best that we were both super self-involved and wrapped up in our own teenage "stuff." Can you imagine a double dose of that? Yikes.

Marie said...
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Marie said...

Amen to that. I did my own journal excavation a couple months ago and I also came to the firm conclusion that being a teenager SUCKS. Big time. Its amazing that any of us made it out alive and relatively intact. Yay for being a grown up, yay for awesome aunts and uncles, and yay for the gift of hindsight. I always hated it when dad would tell me that someday my little sister would be my best friend. Boy, did he get it right. Yay for adult sibs. Love you.

emilymhjohnson said...

Margaret, I loved what you said about being a teenager. So true! I've effectively blocked much of those years out of my mind but every now and then some little thing will trigger a memory and I think, was that crazy girl really ME? Good luck with the new teenager in your life - she's lucky to have you.

Diane said...

As one of the observer adults all I can say is we didn't worry because we could see what a lovely young woman you were. We knew those years were but a moment. We knew you'd turn out to be as lovely as you are.

Also, get Ike to see the doctor. It is clearly a UTI. He needs that quick acting medicine that finally allows you to pee.

sherry said...

It's been so long since I've looked into the blog world, this is the first I've seen of any of this. Honestly, going backwards I was wondering why there was no mention, no pictures of Rachael at all! An extra kid might show up somewhere! I'm guessing you were honoring her privacy. Though if you look at her FB you'll realize the girl has no shame;) I'm glad you were around for her during a time when I couldn't be. Thank you.