The Stories I Tell ~ from The Word Cellar

Stories. Anecdotes. A free round of words for everyone!

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I love stories. I'm the one at social functions with a dozen new anecdotes. But I worry about hogging the conversation. Sometimes I tell myself that I'll be quiet and let others do the talking. But no matter how hard I try, my stories insist on bursting out! Here I can let my stories (the classics that I tell again and again, as well as new ones that unfold along the way) run free. I'm a professional writer and editor, and sole proprietor of The Word Cellar. I write for a variety of publications and clients on everything from green buildings and nuclear reactors to entrepreneurship and the arts. If you need words written, edited, or enlivened, I can help. Contact me.

5.09.2008

That Teenage Feeling


It's Friday night and there's a gaggle of teenagers roaming my street. They've been up and down the road for the last hour or two, running through my front yard in this neighborhood with no sidewalks; yelling, laughing, arguing, and generally sounding exuberant.

Now they're sitting on my neighbor's front lawn, in the complete dark of this neighborhood without streetlights. I assume at least one of the kids who lives next door is among their numbers. Either that or the neighbors aren't home and these kids are delinquents.

One of the kids just got into the backseat of a car and shouted his goodbyes before it drove away. Another shouted, "Jump on it, Tyler!" And I heard Tyler's sneakers smacking the pavement as he ran after the car, going along with the joke.

And now I hear them back in my own front yard, half running around, half wandering aimlessly. A boy just said, "Smells like...smelly sperm." There has also been some debate about whether or not "she" is "at home" or "at her friend's house." I can't understand most of what they're saying, but every so often a "shit!" or a "fuck!" rises up above the crowd. A car drives past, slowing down for a moment, but doesn't stop. The kids yell something at it.

Everything is louder and more boisterous than necessary. But isn't that the teenage way?

Six months ago, I started volunteering as a mentor to a teenage girl. She just turned 16, which makes her half my age. I hadn't forgotten my teenage self and the whole sordid world of high school, but it's all come back to me in a much more palpable way since spending time with this girl.

Oh the drama! The boys! The teachers! The boys! The parents! The boys! The friends! The boys!

I'm exhausted just thinking about it. Teenagers are "on" all the time: in front of their friends, their families, their classmates, their teachers, strangers at the mall. Thank God they seem to have a bottomless supply of energy; they need it to deal with the drama trauma that soaks into every minute of their lives.

My life used to be like that, all the way through college. I always had some sort of "situation" going on. This has slowly calmed down in the ten years since graduation. At first, I remember feeling disappointed about it. A few years after graduation, whenever one of my best friends would call and ask what was new, I felt ashamed that I didn't have much to say. I missed the drama.

Now? I'm so glad the daily drama has faded. Sure, I still get riled up about things and usually have a story to tell, but everything doesn't feel so do or die as it did at 14 or 18 or 22. Now, I deal with a cranky client and remind myself that this too shall pass. The toilet leaks or the water heater breaks, and we pretend to be adults and do what needs to be done. On the other hand, things like boy problems (i.e. marital discord) and family issues (such as illness or money problems) are harder to get through; the stakes are higher and the problems run deeper. But the constant, hyperactive state of teendom has mercifully ceased.

I had a real problem with turning 30. I felt like it was the final passage from young person to adulthood. There was just something about leaving my 20s that made me fearful and sad. But now, two years on the other side of that milestone, I think I'd have to name the 30s my best decade yet. I feel more solid, more grounded. And at the same time, freer. I'm pursuing the career of my choice, married to the man I love, scheming and planning for my bright, wide future.

When you're young, in high school especially, it's hard to imagine life beyond those childhood or teenage parameters. Every insult and slight feels insurmountable. There seems to be no world beyond school, chores, activities, friends, boys, and family. For various reasons (which included: "finding" religion and becoming a social outcast; the 21-year-old love of my life shattering my heart; and being in an extremely unhealthy relationship) my last two years of high school were miserable. I was desperate to get out, but terrified of college, dreading the idea of another four years of being lonely, misunderstood, and broken.

I wish I could go back and show my younger self that all of those things, while important, are temporary. I would tell myself that the feeling of being stuck won't last forever, that I will make friends with people who "get" me; discover music I love; uncover my passions and talents; spend a summer at the beach; learn how to play the guitar; spend a year in London; get married; buy a house; start my own business; be a published writer; get my first pet; travel to Santa Fe, New York, Ireland, Chicago, Wales, San Francisco, Tucson; do things I never imagined like enroll in a five day art workshop retreat; love and be loved.

I don't know what I thought my life would look like as an adult. I can't remember having a vision of myself when I was in high school, college, or even shortly thereafter. Now, for the first time, I feel like I'm seeing and choosing the possibilities. And I'm so glad to do it without the distractions that plagued my younger years. That drama trauma has a place and serves a purpose, but I'm finally okay with leaving it to the kids.

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add to kirtsy | 10:20 PM

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Smells like...smelly sperm"...i think ben and jerry's is coming out with that flavor this month.

5/12/2008 11:44 AM  
Blogger Lex said...

I'm glad you think that life looks good from the other side of 30!
Take care,
Lex

5/15/2008 1:24 PM  
Blogger Jen Ballantyne said...

Your life sounds rich and warm and lovely when you look on it that way doesn't it? Amen to the teenage years sister, oh my I don't ever want to have to do them again. What a horrid stage to go through. I remember how selfish and insulated you are as a teenager and just like you say, every little comment matters, if only we could all go back to our younger selves and tell ourselves it will all work out okay.

5/24/2008 1:57 PM  

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