TEEN LESSONS THAT STUCK FOR LIFE!
By Jim Paredes
(This article appeared about two months ago in a teen magazine called NEXT. I thought it would be good to share it with the young visitors of this blog. If you don’t think it applies to you, I promise a more adult entry next time.)
I remember being a very confused teen with angst written all over my face. I was a very intense young man who worried constantly about everything—from my pimples, my low grades, my “awkwardness” aggravated by self-consciousness, to my constant lack of money. Furthermore, it seemed I was almost always thinking of sex, or at least imagining having the ideal girlfriend. Looking back at how I was able to tide through my troubled teens, I zero in on a few things that made a difference. These were things I did which shaped me in big ways. Somehow, as I embraced them with passion, they gave me solace then and wisdom later on. Here are some things I must have done right as a young man then.
1) Reading—I always liked reading as a kid. But I took to it in a big way after I was assigned to read Pierre Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye in high school. I thought it was a book written for me. Then I started reading anything I could get my hands on—even books by Ayn Rand and Nietzche. To this day, I am a voracious reader sometimes devouring 5 books at a time. It has helped me grow emotionally and intellectually and it has expanded me in all ways.
2) Learning the guitar—This is a big one! The Beatles had the greatest influence on my generation. I loved the Beatles and I memorized every song they had. I felt that they spoke for me. Learning musical chords and expressing my moods and emotions through music gave me a rare glimpse into a parallel world where I could talk without words. I learned to not only play the guitar which made me popular and gave me confidence but also wrote songs which helped me cope with my teen angst! Music has served me and my family well as it not only gives me great satisfaction to this day but pays the bills, too!
3) Having had a deep spiritual experience—I hated retreats that a Catholic school upbringing forced on me. But I remember spending a weekend with my classmates in the very first Days With The Lord sortie. This intense religious experience gave me an anchor that helped me cope with the loneliness. I felt His presence and I KNEW there was a God watching over me. While my religious beliefs and convictions have changed since, I would like to think they have for the better. My acceptance and tolerance of other religions has spurred my spiritual growth and understanding of my own faith.
4) Having close friends of the opposite sex—I had two intense relationships in my teens. At least at that time I thought they were intense. I can only look back now and smile at what seemed then as very serious love affairs. There were many good things I learned about women and the sexual attraction and tension their presence brings to men’s lives. It is important that we know how to handle them. This is truly a life skill that requires never-ending learning throughout life. And I don’t think we can ever master the subject completely! My early relationships with the opposite sex as a teen gave me valuable insights on the meaning of love and the importance of friendship plus a deep appreciation and respect for women in general.
Reading, music, spirituality and relationships “saved” me from burying myself in self-generated angst as a teen. Sometimes, I wonder what I would have been if not for Pierre Salinger, John, Paul, George and Ringgo, that religious weekend and the first girls I loved who weren’t my sisters!