Teenage years are tumultuous to say the least.
Being a human is hard, but being a human teenage girl is falls into an entirely different league. Teenage years are times of insecurity, rebellion, wild emotions, and just trying to figure yourself out. Those feelings, and the expression of those feelings are more than enough for any teenage girl to handle.
I made some pretty dumb decisions at sixteen. I would love to be able to go back and yell at myself. “Clara, just be better!” I look back on my past actions and feelings with a lot of questions. Why did I act the way I did? Who the heck did I think I was? I’m sure my parents feel the same.
Every wave of emotion or altercation felt like a huge deal. But when I look back on the insecurities, feelings, and hardships that filled me up at 16, they mostly seem microscopic. I stressed about winning sporting events and friends and dumb boyfriends and my parents yelling at me and looking a certain way and being able to tell the lie to go to the party where so and so’s parents weren’t home next weekend. These worries were nothing. They were what a teenage girl should worry about.
Sixteen-year-old girls aren’t supposed to have to worry about their alcoholic fathers abusing them. They shouldn’t have to worry about caring for their younger siblings or finding a husband and having children. They shouldn’t have to relive the trauma of being assaulted or living on the streets. They shouldn’t have to feel feelings of such overwhelming self-hatred that they self-harm.
But they do. As I get to know the students of APSA Dream School better, I’m hearing more stories about the student’s backgrounds. They aren’t easy stories to hear, and truly empathizing is getting harder and harder. I am extremely fortunate not to be able to relate to many of the difficult backgrounds these girls come from. I can listen and be there for these girls and their unfair stressors, but it’s been difficult accepting that I can’t really change any of the things that they shouldn’t have to worry about but do.
In our short time here, I can encourage the Dream School girls to focus on things they should think about. They should be able to get an education, they should dream boldly, they should be able to have fun, they should learn how incredible they are, and they should know that they are loved.