This week I finally got around to doing a job I’ve been meaning to do at my house for over a year: sift through 2 large piles of dirt to separate the concrete chunks, rock, and soil. Sounds exhilarating doesn’t it? And it was! It was amazing, and yes this is void of sarcasm even though you’d assume it was dripping with it. Sifting dirt was amazing, and not just because of the sense of satisfaction I got from completing a job or the sense of relief by having things look better in the backyard. It was fantastic because I wasn’t at work. I like my job, but it was so good not to be doing it because it takes up so much of my life… you know, like a grown up job. Even better, I was doing this brainless job – the best kind of job when I have to think so much for work – and I couldn’t help but feel good because I was outside and it was a beautiful day (even better is I kept that U2 song “It’s a beautiful day” out of my head… oh shoot; now it’s in there). Life doesn’t get much better than that… because I’m old. When I was working it hit me that as a young person I would’ve hated doing this because there’d be so many other things I’d rather be doing, but now as an adult the housework is the fun thing. What’s happened to me? When did I become so… easy to please? So responsible? So… lame?
I know the movie Freaky Friday teaches the idea that as an adult you see the teenage years as being easy and as a teenager you see the opposite, but the truth is being a teen is easier; teens just make it seem harder than it is, and they miss seeing the blessing it is being young. Even worse, many adults placate to teens like their lives are the hardest they’re ever going to be. Um, it gets worse. The truth is being overly nice to teens is the worst thing for them including teens with anxiety and depression because one day they’re going to wake up and realize they aren’t a teen anymore and no one really cares about their problems… because they’re an adult, and as an adult you need to deal with it. I remember being 18 and complaining to my sister’s boyfriend that I was so busy, and he laughed and said, “It only gets worse.” I thought he was crazy… and now I know he was right. Life is often as busy as we make it, but some things just make it busier like having a grown up job that’s 40 plus hours a week, on top of a commute, running a house, and trying to make time to see loved ones. If we cared about teens, we’d be better at teaching them to appreciate being a teen. Yes, homework is hard and planning your future has its stress, but you know what’s harder? Living that future you used to plan for while taking care of yourself and any dependents in your life while every forgotten thing makes you wonder if you have early onset Alzheimer’s. But again, am I just falling prey to the Freaky Friday trap of an old person? Consider the following:
- Teens get to dream about the future while adults live the reality… and often hate it. Dreaming is more fun, especially while talking with friends about it.
- As a teen you still have things to look forward to like finding love, getting married, and getting a career you think you’ll love. As an adult you wake sore in the morning wondering how sleep hurt you; it’s sleep, the safest activity you can do. Why am I sore?
- Class time for most teens usually amounts to about 5 hours a day. As an adult, a 5 hour work day would be a dream, especially if we got to have breaks to hang out with friends.
- I hate homework as much as any teen, but the reality is most big boy jobs also have forms of homework including taking extra classes on the weekends to stay relevant. If you have a job that doesn’t have you on 24 hour call or gives you homework then you likely work some assembly line job that is so boring life takes on a whole new level of suckiness that leads to many people having addictions to just get through.
- Teens get to play sports and do hobbies while parents cheer them on. Parents might be able to play sports, but no one’s cheering them on. Plus, it’s maybe once a week and more of an escape than something you do in hopes of it taking you somewhere further in life. As an adult you often just hope you don’t wake up too sore in the morning.
- Teens are allowed to be dramatic and have outbursts because ‘you’re just a teen’ whereas an adult who has an outburst is suddenly meeting with CAS or making the news for being crazy.
- Teens can target their parents for their anger, and it’s acceptable; it’s part of growing up and becoming independent. Plus, if you’re a teen and upset, there are all kinds of people ready to help. If you’re angry at your parents your friends or partner are ready to support you, and it’s very helpful for bonding. Being an adult, who can you get angry at? The person you sleep beside or the person who pays you? Nope, as always it goes back to suck it up.
- As a teen life is straightforward: school, hobby and or work, maybe homework and relax. The day is a variety of things whereas an adult it’s all the same stuff: work 8-10 hours a day plus commute and then feeding yourself, cleaning your clothes and home, and maybe watch a little TV before doing it all over again. We dream of weekends, holidays, and retirement as we just try to cope with the reality of being a grown up.
- As a teen you think about what will make you happy (or your friends). As an adult, you think about what will make everybody else happy.
- As a teen you get excited about the next concert or big event. As an adult you get excited when you make an extra payment on your mortgage. Life is pretty dull.
Question from Teens: What about all the pressure to perform, dealing with conflict, and trying to fit in with peers?
Me: You mean the thing adults also have to do?
Question from Teens: What about the awkwardness of your body developing?
Me: Is that better than seeing your body age and fall apart while you get fatter and less and less attractive?
Question from Teens: What about the challenge of teens finding a sense of self identity?
Me: You mean the thing most adults give up on because there’s no real answer to this. Give it time; you’ll see what I mean.
Conclusion: We need to treat them with more respect and believe their not wussy little brats needing constant adult supervision and protection. They need to be allowed to fail and taught that it’s okay. Parents are meant to be there to encourage their child to get up; not carry them through life. Ultimately, we need to help teens see how strong they really are in order to be ready for the monotonous responsibility of being a grown up where sifting dirt on a Sunday afternoon is the best part of your week.
Bonus: Being an adult may seem boring, but it can be amazing if you follow Monty Python’s advice: “Always look on the bright side of life.” Sometimes being an adult means you can enjoy the simpler things in life and not need constant stimulation.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, Learning to love dumb people