Yesterday a shocking new Stats Canada study surfaced in the media. It found that lots of Canadian teens aren’t exactly hanging out at the pool hall, smoking pilfered cigarettes while wondering who to ask to the prom.
Instead, an incredible amount of them are a bit more like Michael J. Fox’s Alex Keaton in Family Ties: hustling around the locker-lined halls carrying attache cases crammed with important papers.
Get this: 39 per cent of surveyed teens “felt under constant pressure to accomplish more than they could handle.” A whopping 16 per cent considered themselves workaholics.
Workaholics. At age 16, 17. Fifteen, even.
It’s not that I don’t get this. When I was a teenager, I was the founding editor of the high-school’s first newspaper, in a couple different bands, on students’ council, in school plays and doing a few other extracurricular things. I remember being tired. I remember catching the early bus and the late bus and walking home, exhausted.
And now that I’m nearly in my mid-30s, nothing much has changed. Well, the clarinet has gone by the wayside, but I’m still hustling to make a living while planning several projects to humanize my city and not taking much time to feel happy about it all. It was the same in my 20s: working, trying to get my writing published (and to get editors to follow-up on their promise to pay for said writing), all the while postering nearly every single night for various activist campaigns. I lived off coffee and cigarettes and rice and beans. My adrenals were held up by scaffolding. And the word no was not, well, is not, in my vocabulary.
Today’s teens don’t know how to say no, a quoted expert said yesterday.
I’ve been thinking long and hard about this lately. Finding myself exhausted much of the time, I’ve been contemplating this longtime trend of being too busy. For me, it isn’t so much that I’m doing too much. It’s that I’m not recharging my batteries. I’m not going inside myself. I’ve forgotten how to day-dream. Poetry has been swept into the corners like a floor-full of dust.
This, I think, is the problem with today’s teens, a problem that no study in our current system will ever point out, a problem with society in general. It used to be that people worked all week and then recharged on their sacred day, the day when they contemplated their relationship with something larger than themselves, or ran off into the woods to catch frogs or sat with their family or embroidered or went fishing. These days, we don’t get that. We don’t stop. We keep on going. We are always external. We work to get, instead of to give.
And that kind of busy can never, ever last.
Thanks for your comments, Amber 🙂
I wonder if it’s not so much teens being unable to say no, so much as not understanding that they have the choice to say no.
It seems to me that EVERYTHING that people do these days is something they HAVE to do or NEED to do or their whole lives will go down the drain. Under that kind of pressure and reality perspective, ofcourse you can’t say no. Saying no doesn’t even register as an option.
There’s so much in our culture that say’s go go go. Reach for the stars, but only those who are willing to go above and beond will get there. Only those who are willing to be the best and esentially be workaholics will achieve success. If you don’t say yes to this, your life will never be what it could be. You’ll never reach your full potencial if you don’t grab this opportunity….
Under this kind of pressure to achieve what our society deems a successfull lifestyle, of course teenagers aren’t able to say no. They aren’t even able to ask themselves the question “Can I say No?” Because our society has the constant answer to that question blairing in their face. “Not if you want to make it in this world, Sonny.”
I think Cris in her above comment said something really interesting. She said, “why not let kids be kids. Let them be over extended later in life when they’re older and need to be to survive.”
Well with that kind of attitude you can’t expect that not to filter down to our kids. Monkey see, Monkey do remember. And we’ve got ourselves and our kids convinced that it’s a dog eat dog world out there, so they better start now so they can be the one to end up on top.
I think Lauren is right when she said many of us have lost our sacred day and thus the time to analize, deam, appreciate, and all those other good things to help us make changes in our daily lives so we can not only survive, but prosper.
We need a cultural attitude change to get this day, this time back. As it is with us always saying yes yes yes, go, go, go. We don’t even have the time to stop and look at us saying yes, yes, yes, go, go, go.
Under this kind of life style is it really any wonder people feel constantly stressed out, drained, over extended and unable to keep it up? Well duh!
Thanks for commenting, Cris… Actually, I’ve been reading on the front porch and then the couch for a couple hours now… Bliss…
I know a lot of people, women mostly, who can’t say ‘no’. So they say ‘yes’ to everything and then complain bitterly about being overworked. (Not you, Lauren..you complain quite poetically!). And yet, isn’t it better to be busy and enjoy life, frazzled as you are? Isn’t it saying ‘yes’ that sometimes brings us the most interesting and eye-opening experiences?
I think it was Tina Fey, SNL alum, who said that her father told her to “just say Yes” when opportunities presented themselves, because you can never tell where they might lead. And that’s how she ended up doing comedy. Getting paid to make people laugh. Too cool!
So who did these workaholic teenagers learn their ways from? From their mothers, who push them into soccer & drama & tutoring & p/t jobs. Gosh, kids need to be kids! Let them be over-extended later, when they’re older and need to be to survive. Forget about “giving the kids every opportunity I never had.” Me, I had the opportunity to catch frogs & go canoeing & have parades & float in the lake & walk through the forest & live without electricity every summer at the our cabin for my entire childhood.
Wow, do I miss those days.
Perhaps tonight, I’ll say NO, flat-out NO to something I need to do, and just go outside, lay on the grass & look at the stars for a while.
Why don’t you?