From the age of thirteen to fifteen I have always been reminded that this will be the best part of my life. I’m living for free in a home where food, electricity, and clothes are free. I am reminded I live a life without the responsibility for other people and I don’t work a nine to five , I work at a restaurant for three days a week and go to school five days a week from seven to three. I am free to do what I please, or so I am told.
From the moment you enter a health classroom in elementary school, it is embedded into you that drinking, drugs, and smoking will kill you. The poster strung in classrooms and across school hallways preach safety and healthy lifestyles. The colorful posters with teens around my age now, playing on swing sets and playground equipment, they are meant to show us what life will be if we stay healthy as teenagers. I believed these posters, I think everyone my age did, how could you not trust what people had told you since the start of schooling. I live in a small town, everyone knows everything about everyone, and in middle school, no one would talk about drugs or alcohol, we all knew it was bad so why try it. In the required health class we all had to take once a year, the same lessons were taught with the exact same colorful posters. I believed that the way movies and tv shows portray school while being a teenage and all the underage drinking is incorrect, because in my tiny town that was unheard of.
My freshman year began and I heard all the stories from people in different schools about how bad the drug and alcohol problem was at their schools, I remained oblivious to the issue at hand, I believed that my school was perfect. When the summer of sophomore year came around I was faced with peer pressure head on. A night that I thought was going to be spent talking about boys and drama soon turned into drunken laughter and a beer bottle being shoved in my hand by one of my best friends. She didn’t tell me I had to drink, she didn’t call me names from refusing the drink she had snuck from her parents fridge, it was what I feared she would say or do if I chose not to drink. I put the bottle down and told them I finished drinking it because I feared of getting caught or not being considered “cool” for doing what I was taught was so bad for you. For the past 14 years I lived in belief that peer pressure didn’t exist, but subconsciously I pressured myself into lying in fear of being made fun of. Fast forward to October of this year, me and some friends were preparing for a party in our town. A few days before the party someone asked me if I wanted to smoke with him during the party, I told him no because I was scared of being caught. He proceeded to ask me if I had ever smoked before, I told him the truth which is no, I never have. After he heard my response he started to laugh, he began to call me names for refusing and the overwhelming fear of being made fun of came over me and I questioned if I should say yes to his offer in fear of his persistent demeaning comments. Common sense came over me and I realized that by me saying yes, that I am compromising my beliefs and ideals on health and what I wanted for myself in the future to be cool, when did popularity become embedded in my head as importance. I felt like my life was no longer free, like I was being controlled by what others saw me as.
Teens my age have no idea who they are, they all just want to be popular and be the top of the totem pole, so they follow what others tell them to do. We all just want to fit in and be happy, it’s impossible to fit in if you don’t conform to what everyone else is doing. Society tells us all to become the same person to fit in and we all push away what makes us different in order to follow what everyone tells us what to look and act like. I have always thought I was nothing like the popular kids who hide their personalities to be “cool”, I was myself and I was happy about that. But I still feared not being considered “cool” , I still feared being considered different from everyone else. The pressure put on us to be popular showed me how stupid society is, that if I make a healthy decision I am criticized by my peers, and I should value my health more highly than what others think of me. High school only lasts four years and so does the popularity and social rank that comes with it, but if I make unhealthy decisions now because I want to be “popular” for the next four years, I will be impacting my life for the next 60 years. I am my own person, I do not need the approval of other people to be happy.
I sure hope this isn’t the best part of my life, I really hope that the stress and pressure put on us as teenagers will fade, I hope I’ll learn that doing bad things isn’t cool, it doesn’t make you better than someone. Kids my age worry about never feeling good enough, so they resort to other things like drugs and alcohol. Society makes us all feel like we must conform to the mold of popularity, which in 2017, is drinking, smoking and not caring about grades. This is not the best part of my life, I may not have to pay taxes or be responsible for another human, but I am responsible for my future and making sure that the best part of my life is not feeling this pressure.
-Teen Identity Graduate