Wooff asks: I am 15. Recently I have had this feeling of having a fresh start in my life. I have a great life. I am a good student, a good person and I have friends. There is absolutely nothing wrong with me. But I just want to go away to some place else where nobody absolutely knows me. So I can reinvent myself. I always wanted to stay in one place and now that I have, I just want to leave. And I’m trying to disconnect with my friends, especially my best friends. I always try to be positive about everything, but there’s always this new start thing with me. My family used to move a lot and I wasn’t a big fan of that, but now we don’t. I feel like I’m lost. I haven’t told anyone about this, not even my best friends. I have googled about this matter but there is no answer to this. I know I’m not the only person who is going through this but I don’t know what to do. I laugh a lot and have fun but yet I have this feeling of being lost. And I sleep a lot. What should I do about this matter?
Hi Wooff –
I have good news and bad news for you. The good news is that what you’re experiencing is normal and universal. The bad news is that what you’re experiencing is… normal and universal!
Fifteen is a tough age for everyone. Every human that age feels that mixture of excitement and lostness. Every person feels the need to be able to count on the things they need, and at the same time, the need to be free and run away and embrace the world. There is nothing wrong with you at all. But there’s also no perfect solution to the enormous frustration you’re experiencing!
Some might tell you this is a recent phenomenon. Well, if so, I guess they’ve never seen or read Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet or especially Hamlet, both which are about this exact stage in life. More modern stories about it range from Catcher in the Rye and Rebel Without a Cause to Ordinary People and American Graffiti… and pretty much the entire history of rock ‘n’ roll, all those great songs like the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction,” Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and “Like a Rolling Stone.” Or that other one where he sings “I wish I was on some Australian mountain range. I got no reason to be there, but I imagine it would be some kind of change!” Though maybe the most defining one for you (even if it’s three years off) would be Alice Cooper’s song that goes, “I’m Eighteen… and I don’t know what I want! Eighteen… I gotta get away!”
Again, Wooff, there’s nothing at all wrong with you. This is the stage in life where you’re moving from childhood (where you’re relatively comfortable in a world defined by others) to adulthood (where you’ll be able to define things for yourself)… and that’s both exciting and scary! So when some adult tells you you have to stay inside tonight, you keep thinking of all the million things you could do if you weren’t trapped in there. And when that same adult makes you go out into the world, you think of how much you’d rather be secure and quiet at home! And when the adults say you should decide for yourself what to do… you’re totally stuck!
I completely relate. When Handsome leaves me locked in the yard at home, all I want is to get out and sniff the world and find excitement. But if I find myself out away from home, all I want is to find my way back.
But you WILL move out of this. And you will be able to travel. And you will be able to do all the things you want. You will get all the rights that children and dogs don’t have. But just… not yet.
So what should you do? Well, I’d say to start talking about these feelings with your friends, and find out how many of them feel just the same. And maybe check out some of those plays and books and movies and songs I mentioned above. So that, while you’ll still have that frustration, you’ll know that you’re not alone. That everyone goes through it.
In other words, as silly as it sounds, you’re not alone in feeling alone – everyone else feels it too!
(But as always, I’ll recommend that, if you want to feel just a bit less alone, go find a dog. We are so good at connection that we can break through all the alienation you can possibly muster!)
All my best,