The Right Amount Of Hope

Charles Dickens said, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” Of course when Dickens said it, he meant to describe England and France during the French Revolution, whereas I am using this oft-used quote to describe a different, if similarly harsh period. Adolescence. Adults look back over this time of their lives with a mixture of amusement and nostalgia, a sense of “Boy, was life a piece of cake back then”. Their minds have successfully skirted over the paralyzing doubt and insecurity, the worry that your quest for self-identity will be ever-unfulfilled and that nagging suspicion that the world is going to swallow you whole. Instead they remember the parties, the laughter and staying up late and worrying about exams or how popular you are.

Don’t get me wrong. Teenage has its upside. You’re already warned by adults that this is going to be “the best time of your life”, so you have a built-in excuse to enjoy life to its fullest. You go out with friends, you laugh so hard you cry; most are lucky to enjoy freedom without the responsibility that accompanies that freedom in adulthood. You’re young, you’re carefree, you’re allowed to make mistakes. It is, in that way, the best time. You have the right to explore, to discover yourself and the world around you.

And that brings us to the downside. The hardest thing about this period of life is that you’re in transition. You’re old enough to have lost that childlike faith in everything – you no longer believe your parents are perfect, you have figured out that in the end good does not necessarily triumph over evil, that family is not the ideal you imagined it to be. You have figured all that out – but since you are not exactly an adult yet, you are not sure of what the world is really like, because if it isn’t the fairytale you were told it was, where monsters are killed and love conquers all, then what is it?

Teenage, in my opinion, is so difficult because on the one hand you see that things don’t turn out the way you want, that life isn’t perfect, but on the other hand, there’s this part of you, a small voice inside your head that whispers “But what if it is?” Hope. That’s the problem. Teenage is all about figuring out the right balance between hoping for the fairytale and accepting the fact that the fairytale is not likely to come true. Striking this balance, that’s no easy task. Maybe that’s why this transition period exists, so that we have time to figure out the amount of hope we’re going to take with us into the world.

At the end of teenage, hopefully, we will have figured this all out. Or at least have begun to. Maybe we’ll accept the fact that people are going to sometimes let us down, but that it is alright to keep trusting them because sometimes they won’t – sometimes they’ll surprise us by exceeding our expectations. Maybe we’ll learn that people aren’t perfect but that all of them have some good in them that is worth searching for. Maybe we’ll discover that real life is much more complicated, much more sweet and bitter, much more rewarding, much more interesting than any fairytale ever could be and maybe, in the end, that will be enough.

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