You Don’t Need to Have it All Figured Out: Dealing with Societal Pressure as a Teenager

You Don’t Need to Have it All Figured Out: Dealing with Societal Pressure as a Teenager

Picture by Brandon Kim

Today, I am seventeen. Well, by the time you’re reading this, I’ll have been seventeen for a bit over a week. The point still stands. I am a teenager! And no longer the fun, young, irresponsible kind- at least in my head. Fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen are the years to make mistakes while you can still get off with a flutter of your eyelashes and an “I’m a dumb teen who doesn’t know any better.” Seventeen means business. It means college applications and SAT scores and googling, “How long until we run out of food,” just in case your future kids will have to survive on dirt and rocks. There is a laundry list of worries that teenagers face, yet they are still brushed off. We are too young to understand the real world and too old to keep making silly mistakes. The pressure is on; whether we voice it or not, we all feel it. You can’t run from fears, you must learn to cope, and that’s its own journey entirely. 

As we grow older, expectations and responsibilities grow with us. Aging can be a beautiful thing! It can be empowering and freeing, but it can also be paralyzing. Now, instead of asking for the newest Barbie for my birthday, I ask for money deposited straight into my savings account. I get Dunkin gift cards to survive school days and gas money to drive myself there. Instead of saving up to buy a brand new bike, I’m saving for my future, whatever that entails. I don’t even know what exactly I’m saving for! I just know that I need a lot more than I already have to move out and go to college. 

Arguably the worst part of aging is the questions from family. Sure, they mean well, but they always feel like a punch to the gut. “So, do you have a job yet?” or “What are you planning on doing after high school?” Sometimes, they don’t even attempt to phrase them as questions, just biting statements that make you question your entire life plan. “You really should join more clubs if you want to get into college,” or everyone’s favorite lead-in, “When I was your age, I was already paying my own bills.” 

Dealing with expectations from our loved ones is near impossible, but we need to remember that this is our life at the end of the day. We are the ones who actually have to live it, so we might as well make it as enjoyable as possible, even if that doesn’t follow the traditional path. Be kind to yourself, and give yourself room for error. No one is perfect, so stop setting yourself up for disappointment by expecting too much. Our teenage years are influential and have so much growth packed into a short timeframe. We must allow ourselves time to learn and understand the things we are feeling and realize that it’s okay to feel lost. There is a long journey ahead of us, and there is always time to change your mind. Learn patience, and treat yourself how you would treat your friends– kindly, forgivingly, and lovingly.