I was thinking about teenage emotional wellbeing when I came across my old school leaver’s book. You know, the one where all your friends write how distraught they are to part from you? Except in mine, I found a whole load of sentences like these:
- “I should really hate you ‘cos…”
- “Although you have been annoying…”
- “…not including the cruel comments I receive from you.”
- “Although you have been an annoying bastard…”
- “…you’re always taking the piss out of.”
- “I forgive you for being such a brute…”
- “You have been horrible to me over the years but…”
- “You are a sexist pig but…”
- “Although you piss me off…”
- “Despite being an annoying bastard…”
- “Despite that fact that you always make out that you hate me…”
- “When I first met you I thought you were a prick.”
- “I misjudged you! You’re actually [alright].”
- “Although you’ve been an arrogant asshole…”
Which wasn’t exactly how I remembered things. I thought I was hilarious, witty and irreverent. Turns out, failing to be a comedy genius wasn’t a victimless process.
‘Make-do’ teenage mental wellbeing
In the absence of any other help or advice, it was also my way of coping. Like pretty much everyone else that age, I didn’t feel comfortable in my skin so making people laugh deflected attention while, ugly though I know this sounds, making others the butt of those jokes presumably helped me feel stronger than them. Because otherwise, I felt I just didn’t measure up.
Looking back through that leaver’s book, it’s clear just how much we were all struggling to deal with our own emotions. I’m sure mine isn’t the only one filled with insecure, laughed-off compliments. I know that’s what I wrote in everyone else’s book too. My school friends were the focus of my life and yet none of us could bring ourselves to write, unfiltered and uncensored, exactly what each person really meant to us. How had that fear overtaken us already?
So, as I look through a list of names I haven’t looked at for many years, I realise they’ll never know how big an impact they had on my life. I should have told them, but it’s tough working out your teenage identity.
I looked up some of the old names I came across. I didn’t find as many as I’d have liked but was really saddened to find at least two of them are no longer with us. Far too belatedly, my thoughts are with their families. x
DISCUSS: Has the advice and experience for teenagers moved on at all?