Wednesday, January 05, 2011

What's Awesome about Teen Angst

I should be doing something else right now. I just got off a conference call and I’m moving into my next task for the day. I took one, deep meditative breath and it hit me. It hit me like a ton of bricks falling on my head and I don’t want to work. I want to write. I want to stew. I want to hold myself in my own arms for a few moments.

I just got smacked upside the head with one of my biggest personal epiphanies, literally out of no where. All the nasty arguing and eye rolling I did with teachers in high school and college (not to mention my mom), is not evidence I was a terrible kid that needed to grow up. I can feel myself now, rolling my eyes at Mr. Germanese or huffing in disgust at Carl Gudienus, and even as I feel that, I can see the huffing and eye rolling was a manifestation of a deep longing for information.

I was so unsatisfied for so long. I couldn’t really verbalize it, I just felt put upon by the universe and all the people in it. I was… unhappy. I wanted more but I was so unclear and unspecific about what I wanted BECAUSE…. I had no role models!

I had no way to picture what I wanted so it was just a deep, unabiding frustration. Like soaking in a stew of discontent. Arguing, bitching and whining – inelegant as it was - was the only way I could think of at the time to express my desire to be taken under someone's wing and shown the magic and miracles of the universe.

Like a toddler unable to "user her words", I threw tantrums and flailed my arms – trying desperately to explain something outside of my linguistic capabilities. I think it was the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss who pointed out -- there is no word for 'art' in Navajo-culture because for Indians everything is art and that the Chinese don't have a word for “no” because “perhaps” is as far as they will go.

Like a Chinaman stuck in a land of NOs, I had no words to describe my frustration or loss. I only had a vague hope someone could explain what was going on. Why did I want more? Why did I feel so small and incapable? What were the rules of this strange land? And more over, why the hell didn’t anyone else acknowledge how weird everything was?

In some ways I had culture shock due to some internalized knowing I needed to know more. And yet I was in a world where I couldn’t’ access it. Books helped. As did one teacher who gave me a glimmer of hope that this "more" I was looking for was out there. Still it was out of reach.

No one gave me what I wanted. No one outstretched their hand and said here… let me show you. Maybe I never met anyone that “knew” how to find what I was looking for. More probably my frustrations shut them out of sharing the lesson. And yet, I see now, I did the best I could. Oh how I want to grab that girl and give her such a huge hug – she tried SO hard. How could no one have heard? I mean, it was an IMPRESSIVE showing made by this inner longing.

You know who took my hand in the end? Me. There really wasn’t anyone else and so I’ve grabbed my own hand, I’ve become my own mentor but my tough love for myself hasn’t always been very loving. For instance, it never occurred to me to love those eye rolls and nasty comments until today. It never struck me that without them, I couldn’t have created a road from my sleepy traditional home town to this mecca of possibility, wonder, love and compassion.

Freedom – total freedom – comes from seeing yourself for who you are, letting go of the need to fix anything, and opening your arms to the journey knowing total safety is yours for the asking. That’s what I’d tell my angsty-teen-self.

Keep rolling your eyes baby girl because that is – believe it or not – the path to your truth and freedom.