When the River Meets the Sea: Re-vitalizing the voices of teenagers in Truckee Tahoe
November 8, 2010
TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; When the river flows into the sea, it becomes part of something greater, disappearing into the depths where there is no certainty of where the journey will go. The river is symbolized in Sanskrit as Shakti, the feminine energy that enlivens Shiva, the ocean, which is symbolic of consciousness. As parents, we are connected by our experience of parenting with all its joy, all its mystery and the times we are fearful and uncertain. Our children are their own beings, with souls being colored and carved by their experiences. We are their shepherds; we are their beacons, but they are not us and they do not belong to us. We are charged with being witnesses of their journey to the sea, where they will become part of the greater consciousness of the world soul. However, more teenagers than ever are committing suicide, which is the leading cause of death for teenagers and young adults ages 15-25. We need to examine our role as shepherd: How may we do better?
This population is weighted with cultural expectations for maturity juxtaposed against the realities of each individual teenager’s emotional capacity. Teenagers try to match what culture expects often at the cost of their self-esteem and inner peace. Many teens struggle with body image, sexuality, economic disadvantages, depression and learning problems, and many cannot imagine talking will provide relief or resolution. Those who cannot withstand the pressure from peers, parents, the schools and the culture often drop out of school, use substances to cope with emotional pain, join gangs or, as we have all witnessed lately, they decide suicide is the only way to end the struggle.
Teenagers balance their own expectations with those of the culture, schools and parents to discern the paths they will take as adults. For teens who leave the school system or who are drifting after high school graduation with no clear future plan and few resources, the world can seem overwhelming and inhospitable. There is little time to dream, imagine and to retreat, perhaps cocooning into a chrysalis for a time to let the lessons sink in. There is only the harshness and rigidity of a frenzied pace to know more, be more and do more. Despite the rumbling in their stomachs, their aching heads and emptied hearts, they press on a speeding conveyor belt with no and#8220;offand#8221; button within reach.
Teenagers in our culture are a silenced population. They are given no clear role or voice during their most critical developmental years in shaping the world they will inherit; we offer them no part in political decisions that will impact them as adults and we do not give them enough voice in forums where decisions that will impact their lives are made.
In an effort to meet a growing need for a safe environment in which to talk about anything they feel is important, Andy Hill of For Goodness Sake in collaboration with me and others connected with Challenge Day 2010 would like to hear from teens and young adults aged 14-20. The idea is to develop a group forum created by and for teenagers. Please e-mail Andy@goodnesssake.org or Kimball at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or call For Goodness Sake at 550-8981 for more information.
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