Wednesday, April 20, 2005

To those of us who know the pain ...

PUBLICATION: The Ottawa Citizen
DATE: 2005.04.20
EDITION: Final
SECTION: News
PNAME: Arguments
PAGE: A19
BYLINE: Anna Doucette
SOURCE: Citizen Special
DATELINE: PETAWAWA

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To those of us who know the pain ...

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PETAWAWA - One dirty look from a girl I don't even know. One friend who refuses to talk to me but won't tell me why. One thing too many to memorize for my French project. One more morning when I wake up and feel too scared to wear my favourite shirt because some random person might not like it. One more expectation that I can't live up to. One more thing that I want to do, but can't. Any one of these things can ruin my day, but usually, I get all of them at once.

I'm a 14-year-old, living in a small town, and failing my latest math assignment. If I passed you on the street, you might think that I'm loud, that my clothes are revealing, and that I swear too much. Just a disrespectful teenager. I don't have important opinions, I don't know what's going on in the world and I don't have any problems bigger than what I'm going to wear to the next school dance. Right. And you "grown-ups" only go to work, complain about your back problems, make tonnes of money and then complain about it. I'm not the stereotypical teenager, and you aren't all stereotypical adults.

Yeah, sometimes I feel like my biggest problem is that I like guys that I can never get. Or that even though I write all the time, I'll never get published. Sometimes I think my biggest problem is that my back curves in and I don't want people to think I'm just trying to stick my chest out. Or that all the people I meet who think I'm really funny will get used to me and start thinking I'm really annoying. But no, those aren't my real problems.

My biggest problems and fears are that one of my best friends is suicidal and I'm afraid that one day I won't be able to help her; and that maybe that guy I liked who got a brain tumour has a really good excuse for not being online lately; and that instead of just feeling alone, abandoned and empty, someday I'll be alone, abandoned and empty, and unable to do anything about it; and that one of these days, someone's going to convince me to actually believe in love and then break my heart; and finally, that when I finally decide to stop caring about other people's opinions and start living life as much as I can, it'll be too late.

It's funny. This stereotypical teenager probably has a few of the exact same problems and worries as you real-life adults.

I know that a new Pope has just been chosen. I know that Michael Jackson is on trial for child molestation. I know that we're considering selling our good water to the United States. I know that Karla Homolka will be released in a few months. I know that the American economy is going down. I know about the One-Tonne Challenge and about how we're supposed to be working on reducing our greenhouse-gas emissions. I know that a new president, Jalal Talabani, was just elected in Iraq. I know Prince Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles. I know all about these issues and I have strong opinions on each one. Feel free to ask me any time you want when you see me waiting at my bus stop, buying shoes at the mall, applying for a job at the drugstore, eating with my friends or just walking through the streets.

But you and I both know that you won't. Because when and if you see me waiting at my bus stop, buying shoes at the mall, applying for a job at the drugstore, eating with my friends or just walking through the streets, you will look and see a stereotypical teenager who doesn't have any real problems, is completely disrespectful and doesn't have any idea what's going on in this world. And you'll walk right on by without giving it a second thought.

It's OK. It's not like I expect you to start talking to me about the high price of gas when you sit next to me on the bus. But I expect that when you see a teenager going by, you won't just shake your head and assume. We're more than you give us credit for. I hope you will read this and the next time you see one of us, it'll be in a different way. I hope you will give us a little bit of respect.

Does my idea seem unrealistic and stupid? Maybe. But so does the idea that a woman who had no ability to speak for herself was recently taken off life support.

Then again, I'm just a typical disrespectful teenager.

Right?

Anna Doucette is a student at Bishop Smith Catholic High School in Pembroke.

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