06/08/2015 12:18 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Most of My Friends Have 'Evolved,' But I Feel Like I Haven't

My name is Valeria and I am a 17-year-old. I'm still too young to be watching Game of Thrones, but too mature to be a Justin Bieber fan. I can't leave the country on my own or drink alcohol. My parents take me to school every day, which I am one year away from finishing. Now, maybe you are thinking to yourselves "Those must be the best years of your life" and "You have your whole life ahead of you," but truth is, I'm not so sure I do anymore.

As you all know, life has its stages. We are kids, teens, adults and in the end we grow old. When we are little, our hobbies are pretty much figured out: You should learn to do all the basic human things, destroy everything your siblings own, embarrass them in public and so on.

Adults should find a life partner, have kids, a job and do something that can make them escape their reality and feel elegant at the same time like tennis or yoga. And the elders? Well, they should live it up until the end, so the cycle of life completes -- like those old women in the cosmetic ads. Oh, I so want to become one of them.

What about us? What about the 15 to 18 year-olds? What should we do? The first answer -- or the one my therapist and my mother love to use -- would be to stop worrying and enjoy the present without any responsibilities because there will be lots of them later on. But how can I do that when there are teens like Lorde who are the same age as me and have made it? And all of those other examples, too.

  • Nick D'Aloisio stopped attending high school regularly and developed and app that was later sold for $30 million at age 16. Doesn't it sound like a great plot for a Nickelodeon TV show? The Struggles Of Teenage Millionaire.
  • Juliette Brindak launched a social networking site at age 16, inspired by writings she had done when she was 10. The site is now estimated to be worth US 15 million.
  • But perhaps the greatest example of young strength and success is Malala Yousafzai, who last year, at age 17, won the Nobel Peace Prize for her humanitarian work. She is an activist for female education.

Sometimes I open my Facebook feed and I find the same things my sister in her mid-20s does: pictures of couples who recently moved together, some about to be parents (a living episode of 16 & Pregnant), and others are already starting their careers. At the same time, I'm buying Ann Taylor suits to make believe to the world and to myself that I'm some kind of successful prodigy teen, when I actually spend most of my time at home, fascinated by the existence of vampire TV shows and Alexander Skarsgård's face. I am, though, a good student and a decent daughter, but not a million dollar worth businessperson.

So the issue to me here is, most of my friends have "evolved" and I haven't. My rational part knows I have my whole life ahead like they all say, but I find myself thinking "What am I doing with my life?" as if I was a 40-year-old divorcee, and I haven't even met a good guy yet.

And I get anxious. I can't stop feeling as if there's something I'm missing. I have many wishes: I'd love to do something great, leave a mark on the world, but mostly be happy. I, too, want to be the voice of my generation -- don't worry, Lena. I admire you like a sister but I'm not so sure we belong to the same generation. But how can I do so? What's the right path to achieving everything I want? Some years ago, an academic degree could get you anywhere. Now, it's not enough. You have to stand out and be really lucky to get the job of your dreams.

There's also this strange and hard to find combination of being successful and happy at the same time, and I'm afraid I won't be able to have it. That's why I know what I'd love to do (in case you haven't already noticed, I want to be a writer) and yet I will start college next year to major in business because truth is, I want to follow my dreams but I also want to live in a nice apartment and go on yearly vacations abroad.

I've been with my therapist for 10 years now -- yes, it's a lot -- and this is one of the things that she can't help me figure out. Every time we try and talk about this subject, she blanks, nods, and says, "We will see later."

Well, I don't want to see later. And that's one of the main reasons why I'm writing this piece: because writing makes me happy and also, if it gets published, I can leave my anxieties behind for a second and feel like for once, I'm doing something right.

valeria laura rigo

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