Teenage Years

Teenage Years

The best and worst part about being a teenager is negotiating my identity in a constantly changing cultural landscape. A space where it is difficult to live up to the filtered expectations set-up by the go-getters, beauty bloggers, and influencers. The millennial mantra of our generation“everyone is free to be who they want to be,” is pervasive and touted religiously.  No one tells you the emotional reality behind finding yourself without giving into socially constructed identities, hashtags, and talking points. No one tells you about how to deal with the various cultures which I exist in as an Arab, Muslim, Female, American, Jordanian…it goes on. When asked to sum up my teenage years, the gears in my mind constantly turn to try and figure out how to explain them. There have been many ups and downs in my life up to this point. It has been and continues to be an emotionally overwhelming time.

Balancing life between school, family, and friends is difficult. Yet, the most troubling of my teenage years so far has been grappling with self-confidence. I have defined myself and success by those around me. Working in an Honors and AP environment is competitive, and from the outset I felt at a disadvantage. Not because, I was incapable of getting high grades. It was the fact I could not shake the feeling of not belonging there. My teenage angst was rooted in how to be like my fellow classmates.  I admired their work ethic and focus, things I believed I lacked. When minor hiccup occurs, I eat myself up about it. Negative thoughts crept in creating a tempest in my mind. Unfortunately, the effect of such thoughts resulted in constant meltdowns. Positive affirmations did not work. It reached a point where I unwittingly created a foundation for fear in rejection and failure.


When it came time to apply for scholarships, I applied to Questbridge. A friend encouraged me to apply and not be discouraged if I was rejected. When I learned I did not make it through the first rounds of the application, I was devastated, though Questbridge asked me to apply to their second round. All I felt was sheer disappointment and consistently questioned my intellect. Downtrodden, I did not bother applying again. I did not give myself the opportunity to succeed.

Not once did I look back and positively reflect on the accomplishments I earned. Not once did I think that I was worthy to be among my accomplished friends. It was not until I realized while reading, I found myself laughing, engaged and happy. I had to remind myself why I was in those classes in the first place and it is because of my love for constantly learning. Whether it is in book or in life, knowledge and personal growth are important to me. I may have not applied again to Questbridge, but I learned not to put myself down again. It is a slow transition, taking a lot of mental effort, and is long-term habit to practice. There are those telling you, you are free. I had to understand this concept for myself. Freedom, for me,  meant removing the mental barriers I have created. Taking the responsibility of pushing through and allowing myself to fail and to learn and to grow. I am challenged by new ideas, opinions, religions, and events that are shaping who I am now and the future me.

The cultural landscape will continue to change. I will continue to have moments where I lose confidence in myself. What I have learned and what I hope others will learn is how to pick oneself up after these moments. Practice a moment of gratitude and move on. You will meet people who are more talented in a certain area than you, but never discredit yourself. Life gets harder, how one deals with its obstacle, rather than the obstacle itself, is how we are defined. Practice self-love and know that you are and forever worthy of your dreams. Also, take it easy, life is hard, so don’t add on to it.