Angry at Nothing: The Anthem of Teenage Angst

Most of my poetry up  to this point has questions my identity. Who am I? Who do I want to be? Why am I in pain and what do I need to relieve myself from suffering? Those poems were mostly from my late middle school years. The last couple, including the one below, come from my freshman year of high school.

This was a new experience to me. There was a lot of fear associated with going from a Catholic school, where my entire grade was made up of about 20 kids, to high school, where my class size bloated to more than 140. My world had changed with the influx of people, but that wasn’t where I felt the most influence.

I felt like my parents suddenly suspected me more. All of a sudden, there were discussions about what I was mature enough to handle. There were drugs and sex and alcohol. I wonder if my parents feared I would be tainted or something.

The reality is, I probably blew it all out of proportion. That didn’t prevent me from feeling hurt at their seemingly sudden suspicion. It is from that center of pain that I believe this poem was written.

This poem was written on August 16th, 2004. I was 14-years-old and a freshman in high school.

Angry At Nothing

Angry at nothing

It must be that attitude

that teenage thing

No, I don’t think the world circles ’round me

But yes… I don’t give a damn what you say

Your yells are so loud

I can’t hear my heart

What’s it saying, which way do I go

Yells too loud

Confusion within

I’m angry at nothing

The world will not stop

So I block it out

I block you out

to listen in

What I feel I have yet to learn

I hear more now

I understand a little more

I have stopped listening

to hear myself

Maybe someday I will be happy

for now

I’m angry at nothing

This photo, “esque” is copyright (c) 2014 Megan Schüirmann and made available under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license

There is another side to this poem that whispers in the background. At the time, I couldn’t hear. Upon revisiting, it almost seems louder than my own words. I can hear the whispers of my parents’ fear. Some of it may have been related to my transition to a public school system. More than anything else, though, I think they were afraid of how fast I would grow up. They knew what high school was like. I wouldn’t make it through my first year without learning who could supply me with drugs and all male attention having sex could bring.

I don’t think any parent is 100% confident in their child rearing techniques. Back then, I was be taken aback. Who do they think I am, I thought. They thought I was their only daughter and they worried if what they had taught me would be enough to keep me safe through high school. What came off as suspicious to me was just concern on their part.

If I could go back and discuss this poem with my 14-year-old self, I would tell her she was right on the money with the first few lines. It is a teenage thing. It’s a teenage thing to feel like you’re ready to be an adult and to be frustrated when you’re not treated with that level of respect. I think the reasons teenagers so often feel this way is because they have gotten so close. Those mid to late teenager years are when we really discover ourselves, if we choose. Those years are when we stop doing what everyone tells us and start considering what our own morals and values are.

I was angry, because I was trying to figure out who I was while my parents were working to preserve their values in the girl they raised. I think that may be the true cause behind the tumultuous teenage years. Those years mark a time where we are finally starting to understand a part of ourselves that may not match up with the morals and values imposed on us. That’s just a part of growing up. It’s not about being evil, lost or immoral. It’s a confusing time where, among all the peer pressure and college applications, we try to define who we are and what values mean the most to us.

What caused arguments with your parents when you were a teenager? Did you ever feel angry or hurt without understanding why? How did you deal with those negative feelings? Do you think this anger and confusion is a natural part of being a teenager? 


50 thoughts on “Angry at Nothing: The Anthem of Teenage Angst”

  1. One other thing, I don’t know if you have a ‘like’ button on here, but it’s not showing. I clicked like on the Reader instead. I know some don’t care about the ‘likes’ but I wanted to mention it just in case there is something wrong with support of your page in the background.

    1. Yeah, this has been an ongoing problem for the past few days. I’ve been trying to get help from wordpress since the problem doesn’t seem to be the browser or the theme. Thanks for the note.

      1. Maybe it’s just that so many people are clicking like on your stuff that it’s overwhelming the system. Yeah, that’s it. You just rock!

        1. Actually, today it works in IE just fine. I guess it’s a Chrome issue…. and that makes me sad because I love Chrome.

    1. Even at 24, the feelings are still fresh. I don’t know if those are feelings that ever really go away, especially if their attached to big emotional experiences.

  2. I was actually a very mature and level-headed teenager. However, my 11 year old son is already getting into the tempestuous phase of the teenage years. I’m not sure I’m equipped to successfully navigate the stormy waters of parenting a teenager. I, therefore, read your piece and felt for your parents just trying to do their best. As a parent, you know that ultimately your job is to create successful people who are capable of independence and no longer need you as they once did but it’s a delicate balance managing that while also offering adequate protection and support. It’s like giving your kids the tightrope and the safety net.

    1. I was quite mature as well, but that didn’t save me from typical teenage thoughts. I think part of my problem was that I was finding some of my values weren’t the same as my parents. That’s natural and that happens, but that can be difficult for parents. I mean, I assume parents raise kids hoping they walk away with the values and morals you instill in them, but they are unique people who will eventually have to make up their own minds on what’s important to them. I think that line of thinking really begins around those teenage years.

      1. I think my parents were perhaps just more relaxed when it came to my teenage years because my four older brothers had trained them up (I’m number 5 of 8 kids). I definitely try to instill good values in my kids and would definitely be disappointed if they didn’t grow up to share those cord values, such as compassion, but I’m also teaching them to have their own minds and form their own opinions within the parameters of those core values and I’m prepared for their approach and attitude to things to differ from mine. Now, of course, this is all just theory at present. I might be singing a different tune when I have four rebellious teenage boys under my roof. It’s what I’m aiming for though and hopefully that will remove some of the potential for conflict. Time will tell.

        1. I was my parents first child and their only daughter, so I felt a lot of pressure and experienced a lot of suspicion out of their desire to protect me. I think people have different ideas of core values, though. Just as an example, some may instill the idea that you should only be one specific religion or that marriage is only between a man and a woman. But the child won’t always just run with those ideas. I don’t think teenagers are going through a phase where they think they know everything, they’re just aware that their parents also don’t know everything. They start to form their own opinions about life and those ideas won’t always match what their parents wish for.

  3. Figured I’d stop by since you were nice enough to visit my page. Liked the poem and I think the confusion is normal. If I were to say why, it’s because I think when we are teenagers we are mature enough to really start asking the important questions. We get angry when there are no easy answers. Just a thought. Enjoyed it. Will be back.

    1. That’s probably true. We grow up in a school system where every problem has an answer only to emerge into a world where answers aren’t always available.

  4. Looking back on our lives, we can often see the growth and the moments where things changed. That you have beautiful poetry to chronicle your journey through life is a precious thing you should always treasure. And yes, many teens go through the same feelings, but it is not only teens. As a mother and as a person suffering from depression, I can understand both your parent’s concern and the negative feelings that seemingly have no explanation. Just keep moving forward. If you stay in the same place mentally, things never get better.

    1. Most of my poems come after the darkest parts of my life. In early middle school, I had my own struggles with depression. My poetry was part of what saved me. They allowed me to make sense of my emotions, which helped with my depressed state. I find it interesting you connected on that element even though it wasn’t stated in the poem. I think the feelings of both myself and my parents in this poem both come from a place of frustration. There are no easy answers and, if we focus on that too much, that fact can drag us down.

  5. My oldest son is now 14 and entering the teenage angst years. Sometimes I wonder what happened to the loving, clingy little boy from a few years ago. I always remind myself before I lose my patience that this is no more than a phase that he’s going through. He’s intelligent, and mature beyond his years, but that’s not enough for him to intellectualize the change he’s experiencing. In many ways, I feel sorry for him, for the confusion that he’s experiencing. I don’t look for answers, just the strength to have patience during these difficult times.

    1. I think the big frustration of teenage years is feeling like an adult without being one. That, and there is no way a teenager can conceptualize what the real world is like without experiencing it. I think part of angst is that battle between parents who still want to protect their child and children who can’t understand why parents feel the need to protect them so. It’s hard to explain. I just don’t think either side has bad intentions.

      1. To your point about conceptualizing the real world – there’s an added component – teaching the adolescent. I know that I would like my kids to learn from the mistakes that I’ve learned in life, but I also have to understand that some mistakes have to be experienced to learn. That’s a tough one for me.

  6. As teenagers, we take this attitude that our parents don’t know what it’s like; all the stress and suffering that causes is to get so angry — but it takes looking back for us to realize that we didn’t know what it was like, either.

    1. Neither knows what it’s really like, which is part of the problem. The world has changed so that, while some things are the same, many things are different for their children in school. I think there’s often a disconnect because parents want to believe they know how it is just as much as teenagers and often both miss the point.

  7. Good post TK….and a great poem to boot!

    This may sound crass, but, generally speaking teenagers will always draw from their own narcissistic assumptions because they don’t have enough life experience to gather from. Young parents knowing this seek to protect unwary teens from unnecessary hurt, forgetting that they learn (hopefully) from their own experiences. Teens and parents are like oil and water in this regard and rarely mix. I think the only hope with both parties is that; parents have instilled enough good advise and council in their teenagers to let them go, and that teens have gleaned enough from their parents to make some good decisions on their own.
    Crap will happen…its how we (parents and teens) deal with it that determines whether or not a good relationship develops into adulthood.

    It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I realized the wisdom of my parents and asked them to forgive me for the stupidity of my youth. Knowing this, I have sought advise from them on most major decisions in my life. I have never been disappointed and they have often pointed out something I may have missed. Sadly, both my parents are gone now and with them the value of their experiences. Too bad we learn so late in life what we had, and what we’ve lost…but that too is all about growing up.

    ~ Dave

    1. I think part of my personal frustration is that I felt I was honestly listening to their advice, but teenage years are also when we start to find ourselves. Who are we and who do we want to be? That means, while we might take their advice in, we still make our own decision. I think that last into adulthood as well. I always listened to the advice of my parents, but this life is my own. They just as failable as anyone else and I have to make my own decision. For me, a good relationship was restored when I took certain action that showed my maturity and adulthood to my parents. From that point on, they were comfortable with having me listen even if I didn’t always make the decision they would have made. Listening to advice is important, but you still have to be your own person and make your own decisions.

  8. The major arguments my mother and I got into were that she was whoring herself out for money and that she was legally crazy and needed to take her meds.
    Specifically on the whore subject, that I would come home from school to her sitting in the kitchen topless w/ one of the god awful hideous men that live near us sitting across the table.
    As for the crazy, I’ll give you my 2 favorites. 1) When J “broke-up” with me for a year, her way of comforting me was, “I told you it would never work out. All men are the same. They all just want sex from you and then once they get it they don’t want you anymore.”
    2) When I asked why were were paying insurance on a car that wasn’t running. We were carrying in groceries. She threw a 12 pack of Pepsi at me in a fit of rage that I would have the audacity to even ask such a question.

    I dealt with my negative feelings about all of this by getting a job, getting a car, graduating from High School, moving the hell out, graduating from College, and pursuing my dreams of happiness with the man I love. I haven’t spoken to her since and my life has been everything I want it to be.

    1. I’m sorry you had such and rough life growing up, but it’s great to hear you have overcome it all. While my home life wasn’t particularly bad, I still benefit from living a good distance away from my parents. I love them, but our relationship is better with a little space to breathe.

  9. Actually my dream was never becoming an adult. Grow just till 17 years old and nothing more. This because, even today as an adult, I think the adult world is ridiculous, the crowns, medals, titles, uniforms, etcetera are just phanthoms or jokes about nothing. I cannot bare an adult talk (politics, football, religion, moral, etcetera), I prefer to spend my time reading stories, or designing, or travelling alone to the countryside. I am not antisocial, just there is no much people who I can talk a long period of time without end bored.

    1. Oh man, I would hate to be 17 forever. I could be who I am now forever, but those teenage years were too much hell for me to ever want to go back. They were too long as they were. Unfortunately for me, the world is little more than a giant high school. If you look at politics both national and global, we just see high school. There are the popular jocks, the people no one notices, the people everyone has a vendetta against, the people who get bullied. I kind of wonder if a lot of people are stuck at 17. The world certainly doesn’t reflect a maturity beyond high school politics.

      But then, I also love adult talk. I like having discussions… but real discussions. I hate the gossip nonsense.

  10. Samuel Johnson once said of poets (they) “…must write, as the interpreter of nature, and the legislator of mankind”
    You are in need of all that pent up rage. The world is not a nice place despite what people try and tell you. If you’re lucky your generation may be able to repair the damage before we all evaporate or choke.
    The world needs dreamers and especially poets. Direct that energy where you feel it will make a difference.

    1. thanks for the confidence, I needed that. I do try to keep a positive attitude, but there are a lot of naysayers out there. It can be discouraging.

  11. I never really argued. Just kept to myself, mostly. Worked, did chores, wrote. Boys were too intimidated by me to pose a problem in any way, nor did I go out drinking or getting into trouble. lol

        1. I did write a post about a knight in shinning armor once (that will be on here eventually). That’s as lovey dovey as I ever got.

  12. Because of my tumultuous childhood, I didn’t have a healthy family perspective to look at and consider. I don know, however, that when puberty hit, I became a tornado of hyper-girl-tivity. I remember thinking to my self, “Staci, you are too hyper, you have got to calm down.” But then the next day would come and I was talking a mile a minute again and extremely hyper. Gotta love those puberty hormones.
    I remember reading something once about this mother and her relationship with her teenage daughter. Her daughter was always in a bad mood and had bad attitudes towards her mom. The mom, however realized that it really wasn’t the girl’s fault. She was having to deal with a whirlwind of new hormones that the teenage years so lovingly bring.

    1. yeah, I would talk really fast, too. I was really passionate and opinionated, so when I got involved in discussions, I just went off. My father was similar and, through discussing things with him, I learned how to breathe while talking without having to pause for that breath. This was because the only way I could get a word in with my father was to start talking when he took a breath.

      That may have been more of my father’s DNA than hormones, though ^_^

  13. I understand your feelings. I will just suggest that when people really connect to the love of Jesus, they begin to find their identity. But they must be willing to seek out answers and commit to His word and will…

    Just think about it, ask me anything you’d like…I’m happy to try to help!

    Steve Pejay

  14. Keep writing like no one is reading… my poetry and others who have lived before you… Your angst will turn to creating a reader’s angst. You will toy with their many emotions and not your own and discover your voice. Be bold and much success to you.

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