Part I: Emma’s Perspective
Most of us can remember during our teenage years the mundane writing assignments gifted to us by our teachers (not always their fault). They asked you to write essays “discussing the role of family in To Kill a Mockingbird, paying close attention to Aunt Alexandra.” or “from Steinbeck’s, Of Mice and Men, please discuss his descriptions of the natural world. What role does nature play in the novella’s symbolism?”.
Memory refreshed? Okay good, I’ll stop.
In most cases, the teachers will typically receive 3-4 variations of the same essay, coming from very similar perspectives. Reading these staple books, understanding their overarching themes and processing what it means to our current reality is quite useful. Yet still, during such a crucial time of physical and emotional growth for adolescents there is no replacement for a chance to write about something personal, of deep meaning, and most importantly brutal honesty.
So with all of this in consideration, what happens when you ask a teenager a more potentially vulnerable, subjective, and open-ended question to write an essay on? For example…
This leads us to Emma. On paper, Emma may sound like any ordinary high-school student. In reality, she is much more. Her personal journey towards self-acceptance is inspiring and can hopefully resonate with other kids the same age.
Here is Emma’s essay:
We were able to snag some more of Emma’s time and ask her a few questions.
YouTime Coaching: Do you remember a moment when you realized things were “different” for you?
Emma: In elementary school things were easy and kids didn’t see me any different. Middle school is when I would say I started to realize that I could not complete things as fast or as easily as the other kids around me and I started to notice that I would say things without thinking, I would struggle to fit in with conversations my friends were have or when I would say something they would say “that isn’t even what we were talking about or that is stupid” and they were right, I found myself just saying random things to fit in. Eventually, I stopped talking in fear of sounding stupid or them laughing.
YouTime Coaching: What were some of your biggest frustrations during this process of understanding for you?
Emma: I would say my biggest frustrations are probably feeling so lonely and feeling like I will never find anyone that understands me. I am in high school now and teenagers are cruel, to be honest. Walking into a classroom and fearing the teacher will ask me to read out loud, walking into the lunchroom seeing all my old friends that I am no longer friends with because I did not know how to be a friend so to say… those are some of my biggest frustrations with myself.
YouTime Coaching: Who and what did you find most helpful in making some of the challenges more manageable?
Emma: My parents are so supportive and I know it has been so hard on them. I would say my mom has helped me more than anyone over the years. She has provided me with any ounce of information on ADHD, depression, anxiety, and dyslexia that she can find to help me understand what is going on with me. I would also say having a parent that is so motivated to educate herself in understanding me has been my biggest help.
YouTime Coaching: If you had a couple pieces of advice for another teenager going through something similar, what would the advice be?
Emma: Know that you are enough! Stop trying to “fit in” with kids that do not understand you and that do not care to understand you. TALK to someone, do not hold it in! Find someone that you are comfortable with and tell them how you feel no matter how dumb you may think it sounds. Oh, and fidget cubes… Those are lifesavers in school!!!!
It could be a slip in grades, change in friends, hard time expressing emotions, or even controlling them. Teenagers can present their struggles very differently. Reaching the level of self-acceptance that Emma experienced takes a lot of courage, awareness, and support. Hopefully this story can be a testament to the power of parenting, genuine support for your teens, and that self-acceptance is a reality even in the midst of many personal challenges.