I was told that high school would be the absolute best. There would be nothing like it. It would involve partying, valuable knowledge, love, sex and choosing my path. I was told that I should soak it all in or else I'd wake up one day and I would be 40 years old, combing my few leftover hair strands, wishing I could go back in time using the "Back To the Future" DeLorean. One day, as an adult, stress and anxiety is supposed to bite you on the ass. But not as a teen.
High school hasn't been the fairy tale I dreamed of. It's been a draining and stress-filled environment. If I'd known at the time that what older individuals were telling me was a complete lie, I would've slapped them across the face.
From the moment we step onto the high school scene, anxiety bursts through our chests, restricting our breathing. It's a constant battle with our surroundings and within us.
"Who are my friends?" is the first question asked. We don't know anyone when we enter, and often we still don't many people when we leave. Many of the faces we pass in the halls are fake, and those we don't invest in for some reason aren't worth our time.
"Who am I?" is the second question asked. The battle within begins, one we never faced in middle school. The intellectual side and the street side in me are in a constant tug-of-war, trying to break out. They wrestle with each other, when they should just join sides and conquer high school.
"Where am I headed?" is the third question asked and hardest question to deal with. The road I'm travelling down, will it be one of success and fulfillment -- or self-destruction? Only two terms can describe me in the future: university scholar or burnout. Four years later and I'm still asking these questions.
We all deal with these problems, every single adolescent of my conquered generation. We're trying to overcome this stress, when we're still learning how to do our own laundry (hopefully we've all mastered that skill by now, although the young man who I sit next to in Writer's Craft hasn't seemed to). We don't know how to hold a steady minimum wage job and a successful relationship at the same time. "I love you" and "Can I help you?" are phrases that cause restlessness in our beds at night. We can't master both those phrases while also writing a 1000 word essay that could make or break an English semester. It's not possible, or rather, it's unfathomable.
This anxiety that in the past made it hard for me to breathe -- and hard for me to process what I was even doing at times -- has died down. No longer do I wake up in the morning with a pain in my chest for fear of seeing my ex-girlfriend, or sweat on my brow because I yearn for something more to help me start my day. No, those days are gone, replaced by brighter ones. This is not to say that my anxiety has disappeared completely, but it has been abridged. What about those of us who don't have means of dealing with our anxiety? What about those of us who don't know what words to say?
This stress, this insidious wrench in our hearts and brains that never seems to disappear, must be dealt with. If not, we will be adolescents overcome with depression, mental health problems, eating disorders and an impossible road back to wherever we were headed. Modern society has to realize the stress we are dealing with and take it seriously. It is not a joke, not a mirage, not a cry for attention. It is us trying to succeed in the way our parents imagined (or for some, become the complete opposite of what our parents had hoped).
The biggest step, the one we all must make, the one I'd once thought was as impossible as crying tears of diamonds, is acknowledging our stress. A number of young adults find this to be their biggest problem. It is the one that I personally find most beneficial. The day I finally opened up to my siblings and my mother about everything that was tearing away at my insides, was one that changed me for the better. I'd like to think that this day was the one that influenced my transition into becoming a man.
So many of us don't have anywhere to go to deal with our anxiety, and this is one of the things that must change. An open environment must be created, maybe by establishing trust in family members, older individuals who have experience, or any trained professional who can help. Sometimes it helps to be "no holds barred" just like the great Hulk Hogan.
In all seriousness, identifying our problems can help to cure our stress. Telling someone about the fact that you're worried about pregnancy, or troubled with school, or want to tear your parents heads off, is beneficial. The first big step to relieve ourselves of this burden is to recognize it, and then to get help from figures of authority or of knowledge. Once everyone realizes the fact that stress must be taken seriously, we all will have taken the first big step towards making our lives more manageable.