Today’s poem is one of my favorites, despite the dark cloud that hangs over it. I remember my high school speech teacher admiring my poems because they not only described a struggle, but came to a resolution. This poem isn’t quite to that point, but I think it takes some steps in that direction. It revolves around the imperfections of perfection.
This poem is a reflection of my confusion. Everything around me, from my happily married, middle class parents to my above average grades, was perfection. Why then did I feel such sadness? Why did I feel like I didn’t belong? I feel like I get so close to some answers in the following poem
This poem was written on December 10th 2004. I was 14-years-old and a freshman in high school.
It describes me.
It describes my family.
It describes my friends, my school,
My life and destiny.
You see me,
My happy life and my happy family,
But you don’t see what’s concealed.
Behind closed doors.
He’s restless and stressed.
Why does he take it out on me?
I try so hard to make him proud,
Without changing myself.
It’s become so hard.
Does he see me?
They’re only words but,
words leave scars.
Everyone assumes so much about me.
You assume that I’m so happy.
He assumes I’m some
Stop assuming .
My door is closed.
My eyes are flooding.
Won’t someone save me?
There’s a whole lot of emotion in each of these short lines. I’m sure it came out of me during a day I was particularly upset with my father. Actual fighting was rare. I accepted that I was the child, under the rule of my parents until I was off to college. College was the light of my life, the place that would save me from bullies and restraints, finally allowing myself to be unabashedly me.
I had some years to survive before I made it there. The first part of the poem deals with flawed perfection. I felt guilty and confused that, despite having things that should bring me happiness, I was so sad, depressed and angry. My feelings were often disregarded as those of a typical teenager. Reading these poems, I imagine I may have been over dramatic. I may have stressed out over petty situations that would hardly cause pause if they happened today.
Whether my feelings were rational didn’t make me feel them any less. This is why I’m so passionate about taking teenagers seriously. Sure, what they freak out about might be petty, but the emotion is real. A teenager has no way of understanding how their situation is petty. Most have never stepped out into the real world or carried heavy adult responsibilities. At the very least they deserve to be treated with respect, but I think even the petty issues teenagers bring up should be treated seriously by the adults they confide in. Maybe that’s why it’s common for teenagers to clam up. It’s hard to open up to an adult whose reaction nine times out of ten is, “stop being so dramatic.”
That would have only done so much, though. Even at 14, I was aware there were kids who had it far worse than I. That’s part of what spurred my interest in human rights. The suffering I felt was real. The thoughts of ending my life were sometimes quite serious. I was convinced and am still convinced that no one deserves to feel like that, let alone worse than that.
Beyond those basic emotions, I talk about a man – my father – as being part of this struggle. I think I may have mentioned before I had some communications problems with my father for part of high school. For a short amount of time, we could hardly speak to each other without causing offense. Neither of us could understand why, but we got past it.
I think part of the problem was that, while I was a rather mild teenager, my dad kept expecting me to rebel, to party, to be sexually promiscuous, to be all these terrible things he dreaded in teenagers. Before he met my mother, he didn’t want kids specifically because he didn’t want to deal with teenagers. Now, here I was. I’m 98% sure he expected me to fit his stereotype any day. I probably did some days, but I hardly had a rebellious streak. What good would it do? Bound by need and law to attend school and live with my parents, it would have done me no good to fight back.
He’s a very good father. I may have complained when I was 14, but I now realize how big of a deal it is that he even bothered to try. I know so many people, with parents both married and divorced, whose father simply checks out of their life. They’re not there for them. Despite our differences, my father was always there. He’s still always there.
I can see that now, ten years later. Back then, you can see by the last set of lines in the poem, the reaction my problems received caused me to close up. Perhaps my petty issues at 14 were nonsense and, to be honest, I’m not sure how much I really let my parents know about my life. It’s clear reading this poem that I must have tried to talk about some things. Feeling like my thoughts and feelings were disregarded as those of a ‘crappy teenager’ we can see that I shut down. By the end of this poem, I’m done talk to my father, wondering if anyone else out there can help me.
How do you view the pettiness of teenagers today? How can we do a better job of taking them seriously? Do you think we should take them seriously? What sort of things did you stress and worry about as a teenager that you later found to be petty? Looking back, are there any adults you didn’t trust as a teenager that you should have?