Let’s face it, being a teenager isn’t easy. Sometimes, it flat out sucks. Especially in today’s society where some teens are expected to get passing grades, participate in extracurricular actives, help out around the house and work a part to full time job to help pay their car insurance and sometimes, the groceries. And in the background are the voices of people talking about how lazy kids today are and how they don’t know anything.
Is it any wonder that some kids and young adults yearn for something, hopefully not a terminal disease, but something to make them feel like their lives matter, that they matter. The character’s in the best selling novel, “A Fault in Our Stars” are given a wonderful gift. Not the gift of cancer, but the gift of being appreciated and valued. The gift of having parents and friends who don’t take them for granted. The gift of mattering.
I remember a young girl, maybe seventeen or eighteen, telling me that she wished she’d get into a car accident. “Not a really serious accident,” she said. “Just one where I’d get hurt enough that people would come to the hospital to see me and maybe they’d think about how terrible it would be if they lost me.”
Yesterday, I went to the grocery store and found a little girl wandering lost. She told me her name and said she was five. I walked through the store looking for her mom and when we found her some fifteen minutes later, she ran to the woman, grabbed her hand and smiled up at her. Her mom pulled her hand away and didn’t acknowledge her child in any way. Typically, I’m a non-violent person, but I wanted to shake this mother and say, “Hey, look at your kid! Be glad she’s not going to end up on the proverbial milk carton!” But the sad truth is, I don’t think her mother would have cared one way or the other.
If you feel like you don’t matter, if you feel like you don’t exist because the world goes on around you and no one ever seems to stop and just…see you…see yourself. Appreciate yourself. And I know that sucks because we’re meant to be loved. We’re meant to matter to others but sometimes people, for whatever reasons, have blind hearts. They don’t see what’s right in front of them. They don’t see what should matter most.
Since the 1950’s, teen suicide has gone up 600%. This may seem like a random fact to throw in here, but it’s not. Life is tough and sometimes we’re so desperate to get people to notice us, to value us, that we leave. We throw away our own lives and futures because the pain of being invisible, of not mattering, is just too much.
As if life hasn’t been tough enough, now bullies can post on Facebook and Youtube. They can share their cruelty and your perceived flaws, to the world. Parents are busy, some working two jobs and still not making ends meet. We’re all sleep deprived and many of us are barely holding our heads above water. But in the midst of all that shitty chaos, there’s one thing to remember above all others.
You matter. You shouldn’t have to be riddled with cancer and having daily chats with the Grim Reaper to know that. The reality is that our time could be up at any minute. We could choke on a hot dog, get hit by a drunk driver at a cross walk, and yes, our cells could start working against us and turn into that diabolical villain that’s fought with chemo and radiation and…appreciation.
I write for teens because they matter. Because every one should matter. I can’t SEE everyone. I can’t acknowledge everyone’s existence and the importance of that existence, but I can put words together that reach out from the page and can tap my readers on the shoulder and can tell them what I wish they already knew. I can tell them that no matter what is going on in their lives, they deserve to exist. They deserve to be loved. And if those around them don’t see that, it’s not their fault, but the fault in our hearts.