I started this reflection about current anxieties plaguing graduating high school students, and it quickly became a letter to myself as a teen. As a graduating high school senior, I loathed myself and my body, was angry about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and feared global warming.
Dear High School Graduate,
I offer some advise for you. You may like it, or you might not. It seems too simple to be the truth. I am asking you to believe in yourself and your abilities despite the craziness and unnecessary expectations of the world. Once you see through the façade of fairness in our systems and society, you can’t help but feel jaded, angry, or even apathetic.
Those who see the injustices of the world might feel betrayed or depressed in the day-to-day mundane or often violent lifestyles that families have built. In this sad reality, you must have confidence and care about who you are because if you don’t care about yourself, no one else will. You are ultimately autonomous in your actions, so believe in yourself, love all that you are, and do what you think is best for you.
As a teen prescribed anti-depressants, you will also learn that a pill cannot and ultimately will not solve your problems, your thinking, or attitude. I am telling you that in spite of the anger that you feel towards yourself, others and the world, you must channel that energy into good. In fact, it is normal and expected to be upset about violence and inequality. You will learn that anger, depression, and apathy are cured through everyday gratitude and alternative action. This might sound too simple or cliché for you right now.
Furthermore, do not stop questioning authority and systems that you believe are unjust. Only by opposing what is unfair, can we think and act in ways which will make the world better. The freedom to question and to speak to power is truly American.
You will learn that your generation has been given the “impossible” tasks of growing up in the age of “global terror” and “catastrophic environmental destruction”. We have no choice but to take positive action in our day-to-day lives, buck the trend of self-imposed austerity, pollution, and economic enslavement, and to create a new era of civil and environmental rights. Make the world proud, graduate!