Calling All Teens –Take A Chill Pill
With the Cambridge Exams all over and done with for the collective 17 year old population of the country and with the SATs looming overhead like the sword of Damocles, it seems only fitting to write about the imperilment and distress attached to the onuses of pressure. The quest ions on everyone’s mind, why are teenagers more susceptible to this new epidemic and what’s the antidote?
I have the definite answers to neither but in this article, I will attempt to tackle it with all the expertness I can muster. To answer the first, I hold the belief that in this new century of prodigies and poster children, the expectations the world has imposed on me are absolute in their invulnerability. They pose as cruel estimations and challenge the very purpose of existence. What to be, what not to be, shaking me to the core with the hardness of instruction and the claustrophobia that devours me as I fail to see any path but the one that has been presented. All of it is well-intentioned, maybe even healthy but has inevitably steered out of control leaving the average teenager in an undiluted state of panic.
What if I’m not good enough suddenly transitions into why am I not good enough and why can’t I be better. Mind you, these are not self-help questions rather a kind of self-destruction where you don’t understand why you’re not smarter, prettier or better than the person whose body you currently inhabit. The acknowledgement of the toxicity of this subconscious harangue is not the problem because we begin to tell ourselves that we deserve it and that we should have known better than to turn out the way we did. A downward spiral results and the worst part is only that we have designed it for ourselves. Failure is not an option but we have already failed ourselves. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Having diagnosed this infectious thought as the imprint of the external environment, suffice to say, it’s not real. Nobody believes that they are actually unworthy or undeserving or dumb or ugly (both unpopular and politically incorrect epitaphs). These are impressions that the expectations have left on our minds. The doubt that has manifested itself and emerged in all its glory as a physical symptom, a fever, a headache, a stiffness, labelled as “growing pains”. Sometimes, it does not escape the psychological realm ultimately cultivating the seeds of depression.
As a result of stress, 1000 to 1200 teenage students take up smoking daily. 18% of adolescents suffer from depression and teen suicide is on the rise. Increasingly, studies emerge saying that “with teens mirroring adults’ high- stress lives, they are potentially setting themselves up for chronic illness”. Unfortunately, these are not the hormones talking. These statistics were not included just to scare teens into organizing themselves or parents into loosening the reins. It was to shed light on a growing problem that can no longer be shoved under the rug. I know myself to be one of many recipients of this pressure, both academic and social. Is it as easy as saying, “Take a break” or “Relax, it’s no big deal” or “It’s not the end of the world.”? Of course not.
The solution lies in finding myself in the midst of the clutter and the noise. It lies in vulnerability; allowing my truth to be wholly known. It also lies in accepting failure and even going a step further to embrace it.
Finding my purpose won’t be easy. It’s an epiphany that will either come or it won’t. The real task is coming to terms with the person who is being bombarded with the poison. Respecting myself, acknowledging myself, congratulating myself on making it this far. Because tomorrow there will be plenty of people waiting to bring me down, I need to step in and be my own savior.
For me, this would mean complete sedition, the refusal to submit to the expectations that are crushing me under their weight. It is to put myself first and prioritize my dreams above those of others. It is to trust myself to make the right decisions and extract the meaning of expectation to be potential, a drive that will only propel me forward because I control the wheel. This encourages room for optimism and instils in me the hope that I will emerge victorious.
 “Teenage smoking on the rise”, Pakistan Today, August 16, 2013.
 “Teens feeling stressed and not managing it well”, Sharon Jayson, USA Today, February 11, 2014.
Written by Manal Mohsin