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Do You Know Where Your Teenager Is? An Ode to All Teens

Dedicated to my three teenagers

 

 

You’ve begun to work for a new company. During your first many weeks, you are learning the ropes, figuring out how to accomplish your assignments most efficiently. You are awed by the range of the company, overwhelmed by its many divisions and the extensive systems in place that execute its vision. You are the new kid on the block, and like a newborn you gaze with reverential wonder and worshipful submission at your surroundings.

And thenas time passes, you perceive a change within. You begin to notice inefficiencies in the hierarchy, leaks in the system, mistakes or lacks in the production line. You are no longer so new to the job that you are silenced by the higher-ups, but you are also not so entrenched in the company that you can’t see beyond the set infrastructure. You bring new blood and a fresh perspective that visualizes how and where change can be effective. You have ideas and foresight that can revolutionize the old, and the stale.


And soin your own way, you begin to make dents in the way things are done. At first, it is only on a small scale, but with growing courage, you begin to tackle issues company-wide. You suggest new projects and revolutionary proposals well beyond your jurisdiction. You want to inspire others to sail along with your dreams. What you lack in experience you are more than willing to make up in initiative, energy and exuberance.


And that’s when you hit against the inertia. You encounter it at every step of the way. There is resistance. There are raised eyebrows. There are the naysayers and there are the know-it-alls. For every two steps of progress, someone is forcing you to regress one.


And soondespite your convictions, you once again discern a change within. The criticism is having its effect. The sparkle of determination in your eyes has dimmed. You begin to wonder why you are expending so much effort. For the first time you hear yourself saying, “This isn’t my department” and “I can’t change the world.” You’ve settled down. You’ve begun to accept the status quo, the easy path − the one with less resistance. You stop tackling new undertakings. You’ve just entered into your complacent adulthood.


A baby enters this world. For his first many years, the child is discovering the wonder of his new world. He is awed by his environment and reverent of his elders who provide instruction, infrastructure and guidance. But, as time progresses, he becomes a teenager. That’s when he realizes that things aren’t functioning as perfectly as he originally believed. There are inconsistencies in the system, unfair hypocrisies, incongruities and distorted priorities. He wants change and what he knows he lacks in experience and wisdom, he’s ready to make up with his stamina, convictions, enthusiasm and energy.


 Then somewhere along the path to maturity, the teen encounters too many obstacles, too many naysayers, and too many people telling him to mind his own business and stop rebelling against what is. His inspiration becomes quashed; his initiative dies. To the outside eye, he may have “settled down” and outgrown his impractical idealism or youthful rebelliousness, but intuitively he knows he’s lost a part of himself.


The Lubavitcher Rebbe saw the years of teens as ones full of an unparalleled idealism and strength that just needed to be channelled appropriately:


The period of adolescence is nestled between childhood and adulthood. Teenagers are overflowing with adrenaline and confidence, feeling: “I want to change the way the world works.” Adults burdened by the pressures of everyday life, convince themselves that this is the way it is, but young people cannot tolerate such resignation.


Youth are rebellious. But rebellion is not a crime. It can be the healthiest thing for a human − an energy that inspires a person to not give up easily, to refuse to tolerate injustice, to not go along with an idea just because everyone else is thinking it.


Some of us retain our youthful drive our entire lives; others never experience it. No matter what our age, though, there is a “teenager” within each of us. In every situation that we find ourselves, we have the opportunity to find the positive aspects of our teenage perspective and harness its power. Bubbling within us is that youthful idealism–that ability to question the status quo, to fight for the underdog and to follow the dreams of our beliefs with undaunted courage and determination.


Let’s not follow the naysayers. Or become one.


Chana Weisberg is the author of several books, including Divine Whispers-Stories that Speak to the Heart and Soul and Tending the Garden: The Unique Gifts of the Jewish Woman. She is an international inspirational lecturer on a wide array of topics and an editor at chabad.org. Visit Chana’s blog “Let’s Go for Coffee” at www.chabad.org/618216. She can be reached at chanaw@gmail.com

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