Why do teenagers feel alienated?

Rach asks: I am nearly 19, but I don’t feel like I am as grown up as I should be. Almost every day, I’ve always questioned myself. Who exactly am I? What do I like and dislike? I just feel like everything is the same and nothing seems excited or satisfied for me. Is it because of my character, always being alone, not talking much and drifting apart from people?

Hi Rach –


The fact is, you couldn’t be more wrong.  You sound exactly like a perfectly typical 19-year-old human to me.


Adolescence is a tough time for all persons, and some people hit it earlier than others.  But it’s pretty much guaranteed that there will be some point when any teenager feels the way you do.  Yes, some might hit it at sixteen instead of nineteen, but it’s also really common for teens to stay in that feeling of alienation and self-doubt for five years or more!


It’s no accident that many of the greatest works of literature are about just this.  Shakespeare’s Hamlet is the most famous, and deservedly so.  But more modern works like J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, or even Twilight and The Hunger Games deal with this same feeling.


Some might call this simplistic, but hey, I’m a dog, so what do you expect:  When humans are children (if they have a good childhood), they believe the whole world makes sense.  Their parents and teachers have told them the truth, they have a view of the world that they believe is completely correct, and whatever goes wrong is due to their flaws, or to “bad guys” out there.


But then humans become adolescent, and lots of things change.  They start paying more attention to what other kids their age say and believe.  And they start to learn that maybe their parents and teachers weren’t always right about everything.  Maybe they start to question their religion, their politics, even their own existence.  And once that gets going, everything seems haywire.


And here’s the big deal about this: the teenagers are most often correct!  It’s great that they’re questioning all the rules and beliefs they were brought up in.  This is how they become adults who can think for themselves (and not just obedient clones of their parents).


So Rach, you’re just where you should be.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t have some suggestions.


First, it sounds like you’re feeling isolated and lonely.  Maybe this is a good time to take the risky chance of making some new friends.  Probably they won’t be the same friends you had five years ago; and that’s okay.  Who’s out there who has similar interests to yours?  Who’s wearing a t-shirt with your favorite band on it, or reading your favorite book?  Are there groups at your school or in your community that deal with issues you find interesting?


You say that being alone is part of your “character.”  But I don’t know if I agree with that.  I spent the first few months at my home all alone, except for Handsome and his human friends.  This was because my veterinarian had said I should avoid being around lots of other dogs, so as to not catch some really bad diseases.  Then, on my six-month birthday, Handsome took me to a dog park.  I was so excited – running around, eager to play with all the dogs… and not one of them played with me.  I didn’t know how.  It wasn’t my “character;” I just didn’t know how to go after what I wanted.  But he kept taking me back, and bit by bit, I started to learn what dogs to play with, which ones not to, and eventually, which one became my best friend and boyfriend for years!


But it did take time, and it took trying and failing and my feelings getting hurt.  And if I had the choice, would I do it again today?  In a Second!


Now I have lots of posts on the AskShirelle.com website about how to meet and make friends.  And you might want to check some of those out.  But the first, and most important, step in this is for you to realize that you’ve changed.  You’re not the person you were before.  And that’s why you’re feeling so odd and dissatisfied.


In other words, Rach, the problem isn’t that you’re not grown up enough.  It’s that you have been growing up, and you’re still doing it.


And in my opinion, the best way to live is to never stop growing up.  Or, as that singer with the funny voice who Handsome likes so much sings, “He not busy being born is busy dying.”


So get busy, get born, and create a new life like nothing you’ve ever known.


You’ll be so happy you did!





About the Author

Leave a Reply 0 comments

Leave a Reply: