Generation Frustrations: Understanding the Generational Divide

When I was in high school, I had a lot of pride for my poems. While I was afraid to share any of them until the end of my grade school education, I still had a lot of pride in them. It’s funny looking back and seeing just how young I sound.

There is something unique about my work, though. This uncommon element would eventually lead me to a state speech contest my senior year. My poems didn’t just complain. As I’ve said before, they were my way of understanding the world. While this piece opens sounding very stereotypical, it reaches an end rare for a teenager to realize.

This poem was written on August 17th, 2004. I was a freshman in high school and was 14-years old.

Generational Frustrations

I am here

I stand before you

Unwilling and unwanting

Saddened and confused

I am stronger than you think

I’m responsible and proud

I have honor and I have grace

I have power to say no to you

All you teachers and parents and elders so much older than I

You know nothing

I am here

I care enough to stand here

I realize that what you went through

When you were my age

Simulates… yes

Same only in your world

I can never explain and you

can never understand

Twenty years from now

kids will say the same

And I will be the one in your place

Forgetting all this

This photo, “High School Lunch” is copyright (c) 2014 MC Quinn and made available under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license

As soon as came to the line about teachers and parents, I felt a little wary to throw this up here. Like I said above, I come to an abrupt conclusion that I think proves I was a bit wise beyond my years. I knew there were a lot of elements in my life that my parents never had to deal with. The internet, cell phones and ability for college to lead me to a career were all differences between my youth and theirs. My parents, like many, were prone to rolling their eyes and telling me they went through the same thing when I expressed stereotypical teenage woes.

In those last few lines, I reach a conclusion of understanding. While I was frequently frustrated with adults in my life, I understood their position. I understood that it was hard for them to look at me or their world differently. After all, a lot of what I complained about had similarities to their high school experiences.

Maybe I’m still young to think this, but I really want to hold on to the ideas expressed in this poem. I hope, if I choose to have children in the future, I recognize the differences between my child’s high school experience and my own. Just because a solution would have worked for me in my day does not mean it will work for them. Still, as I say in this poem, the more likely scenario is that I will forget how different the high school experience can be between generations.

What was different between your high school experience and the experiences of your parents? Did they try to tell you they knew exactly what you were going through as a teenager and did you believe them? Why do you think some teenagers find it frustrating when adults in their life try to convince them things were the same in when they were that age? Do you recognize the differences between your high school experience and the experiences of today’s teenagers? 


23 thoughts on “Generation Frustrations: Understanding the Generational Divide”

  1. It drives me nuts when adults live and act in such a way that they demonstrate no remembrance of what life was like when they were younger; its as though they become an adult and forget what its like to be a kid

    1. That, or they think they no all the answers because their childhood was exactly the same. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know for a fact that social media was not as big of a deal when I was in high school. While any children I have will face issues similar to what I face, the differences between the way my would was and their world will be means I won’t have all the answers.

  2. I like reading your words. Its like traveling in a car, on a smooth road. So smooth and calm, to read. Very pleasant.

    For your third question, I think it fits people of all age.
    Most of us do feel the same then and there while teenagers feels more.

    Its more about expressing. Most of us become close minded when handling children. They say something and we think that we knew that already, and do not listen to them, or start manipulating them.

    Kids want to express something, something is wanting to come out, something is struggling to come out. Expression might not happen when the listener is not passionately listening. Teenagers finds it frustrating, because they could not tell how they feel, because their expression is indirectly blocked by a closed minded listener. I believe in most cases, we will feel better when we are able to express how exactly we think and feel. So simply passionately listening to teenagers with a open mindedness, might help them to put out what was struggling to come out.


    1. I think that’s probably the big problem. Teenagers get frustrated when they feel like parents aren’t listening to them. I know I felt that way sometimes. That doesn’t mean my parents weren’t trying, though. I only know how I felt. I think that’s part of the reason some teenagers become closed off to their parents. If they feel they’re not being heard, why would they bother telling their parents anything?

      1. I forgot to mention that i liked this particular statement of yours, so much.
        “Just because a solution would have worked for me in my day does not mean it will work for them.”
        Well said with your recent words that “I only know how I felt. I think that’s part of the reason”
        While its very natural that any teenager might be soaked more in how they feel, i think its parents responsibility to be an example of being a good listener, trying to understand empathetically how the child/teenager feels. Isn’t it the parents responsibility to teach their children how to listen ?, how else could a child learn it ?
        Most of the parents do make effort to listen. However it isn’t efficient & effective, and probably thats why there are so much of talking on this subject, worldwide.
        There are many levels of listening. Probably parents might have got stuck in the initial levels
        I also wouldn’t blame all parents, as many parents have gone through economic and war crisis, unable to focus much on higher level of needs.
        A very good post from you. Enjoyed it and your poem as well. 🙂

  3. My parents never stood where I have been. They never gave advice simply because they did not have any. Not even in my family there were many who could relate.
    And quickly after I followed their lead and started working 😀 Though it started with a math teacher.

    I am lucky to grow up free to think my own ways.

    1. I took my parents advice for what it was, but I never thought they were a fountain of knowledge. They could be wrong as much as I could be. Other poems I’ve published have pointed to that revelation. Knowing that they weren’t always right but having them act like they were was annoying at times…. but keep in mind these are teenage memories. Maybe they weren’t intending to act like that. That’s just how I interpreted them.

  4. I dislike dismissive attitudes, whatever the generation dishing it out. The fact that they’ve experienced the same thing doesn’t trivialize or diminish the potency of what you felt as you were writing those poems. In fact, it’s an opportunity for parents to share empathy and to relate more completely!

    The eye-rolling may have been an untactful way of saying, ‘you’ll get through it–I did.’

    1. Yeah, but telling me “you’ll get through it” does me no good. Teenagers have no idea what the world outside of high school is like. Even if problems seem trivial, they still deserve to be heard.

      1. I totally agree. They do indeed deserve to be heard and just suggesting that someone will ‘get through it’ or ‘get over it’ is insensitive and demoralizing. Neither of those phrases should even enter a meaningful conversation between parents & teens, especially if the undertone is ‘suck it up.’

  5. I had a backwards experience, TK. I did not go from the stereotypical “my parents know nothing,” “my parents are so unfair,” in adolescence to “OMG I’ve become just like my mother/father” “I guess they weren’t so stupid after all.” No, no, I had a repressed childhood, and coming into adulthood was the slowly dawning horror that my parents had very deep flaws, they had tried to cover them up in some way, and that thankfully, I was not repeating the old family traditions that were toxic.

    1. My parents are not bad people, but they definitely aren’t perfect. I don’t know that I ever looked at them like they were the image of perfection, but I think all people go through a transition where they begin to understand that, while their parents may know a lot they don’t, they can make mistakes.

      1. Fair enough. My frustrations as a teen centered more around my peers and my teachers, though. Our high school had a band teacher and an art teacher that should have been committed or jailed. The band teacher, in particular, assaulted the choir teacher IN FULL VIEW of faculty and students in the cafeteria.

  6. Perhaps it is the fact that older people have had the same experiences that you are about to experience. It may seem different but it is fairly much the same. We have been there, done that and we do not necessarily as parents reveal all that we have experienced to our children nor to many others for that matter.

    However, you may want to consider that older people twice your age have experienced twice as much – it is just that we are waiting for you to catch up…

    1. I’m not denying that those who are older are knowledgeable nor that that knowledge isn’t useful. But things are different these days. Just because they experienced the same thing does not mean their solution will work as well today as it did for them at that age. As such, parents need to be open and really listen. Just shrugging off struggles because “I survived and so will you” does no good.

      1. Yes, parents have experienced the same thing but in a different form and so will your children (or the next generation). Everything changes but in essence it reamins the same

        It may be shrugged off because they do not know the answer and like them, in their day you have to find the answer yourself.

        The questions become… Why do I feel that things are different?… Why do I need someone else to decide the answer for me?
        I have read your writings here and I know you are capable of working these things out

  7. I’m going to answer as an adult looking back.
    First – high school was the worst. My life was definitely different from my parent’s lives in many ways. Luckily, my parents didn’t spend a lot of time telling me they knew what I was going through (actually my mother was battling cancer so we didn’t talk much about my problems at all, but hey – silver lining?).
    The thing is the world changes, but people kind of don’t. We struggle with broadly similar issues at each phase – and I’m not just talking about the before-adulthood phases, although it does come across that way when you’re mainly hearing this stuff from your parents.
    Anyway, you rarely hear eighty-year-olds lecture frustratedly in the same way because one of the things about being eighty is you’ve moved on from lecturing frustratedly about this sort of thing. You just smile now and know that all those silly forty-year-olds will get over their frustrated lecturing in their own time.
    The thing looking back is you remember yourself and you think, my goodness, why on earth would I feel like that about something so stupid? Because you’ve got that bit worked out now, you see. Then you kind of wish you could get people younger than you to skip to the resolution, because if they could just work it out like you have you would all be much happier. And they won’t! So that’s frustrating.
    And in the meantime we don’t really understand that we’re going to feel exactly the same about our present problems in about ten or so years’ time, and so the passage of human development continues.
    And I must be getting old because I’m just about at the point where I realise that telling a thirty year old to lighten up (or choose another agegroup/characteristic) is almost exactly like telling a baby that it’s very simple, you just go left, right, left, right and what’s so bloody difficult about walking? C’mon! Like me! Walk!
    But that’s not how we develop as humans. Some things can’t be delivered to us, only worked through in our own time.
    Which is all to say – don’t worry, your parents will catch on eventually, as will you and I.

    1. I don’t think the things I thought back then were stupid. If I thought them now, then yes. But back then, there was no possible way I could comprehend the complexity of the world outside of high school. My concerns were real and any teenager who feels that way deserves to be listened to and respected. I hope I can continue to remember those feelings so I don’t simply brush off the struggles of being a teenager.

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