Teenage intensity

One of my favorite comic strips currently is “Zits.” I think the writers must either have teenagers themselves…or else they really remember the intensity of the teenage years.

As we have dealt with teenagers at various times ourselves (and are currently dealing with one about the age of Zits), I keep wondering…was I ever that intense? And–if I’m honest with myself–I think the answer has to be “yes.”

I was the age of Zits during the 60s. While I didn’t get involved in all of the various kinds of activities–as a preacher’s kid, that wasn’t really an option…and I wasn’t really interested in a lot of them anyway–I do remember the intensity of the age.

I did not like the war in Vietnam…especially when a young friend of mine was killed there. His was the first death I had to deal with that wasn’t an “expected” one because of age. While I wasn’t able to fully articulate my feelings, I do remember thinking that war never really resolves any situations–and I was touched by the strength of the young people my age who willingly stood in protest.

I was also in awe of the young people my age who were part of the Civil Rights movement. I watched the news in horror as peaceful marchers were brutally attacked…and yet came back for more in order to stand with those who were oppressed. When three young men my age went missing–and were later found murdered–my heart sank. I sort of thought about joining the protest marches…but for various reasons that didn’t happen. And yet…

As I look back at that younger self, I find myself feeling somewhat sorry for my parents! My world was black and white; there weren’t shades of gray. Things were either right or they were wrong…and I didn’t really want to hear another perspective. I got angry…I cried…I knew the world wasn’t what it could be–or should be. But I wasn’t sure how to set it right. I just knew it should be.

Things change…sort of.

There are still significant issues that need to be resolved. The world still isn’t what it can be–or should be.

And we still have to deal with teenagers!

They can drive us nuts at times because their world so often has no shades of gray in it. Things are either right or wrong–and they know exactly what “the right” is. Sometimes I envy that certainty. Sometimes I feel sorry for them as they have to come to grips with a world that will challenge them in ways they often don’t expect.

And yet their intensity can challenge us as well…remind us of our better selves…encourage us to look again at what we can do to make the world what it can be–what it should be.


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