lørdag den 19. december 2009

USA Today Teen Panelist Essay

I am a sophomore at Nathan Hale High School in Seattle, Washington. I have friends from all walks of life and believe that I would be perfect for your panel. I do not play any sports, although I had a brief stint with the lacrosse team my freshman year. I am a big fan of the entertainment industry. I have very diverse tastes in TV, movies, books, theater, and music. I cannot say no to quality entertainment, whatever the genre. I am obsessed and fascinated by pop culture, and I love reading the newspaper and magazines.

That's the beginning of an essay I wrote in 1997. I was 15, and applying to be one of USA Today's 'teen panelists'.
The world of teenagers is very different from how it was in the fifties and sixties. Most males are concerned only with sex and drugs. Females seem mostly concerned about how to avoid them. Of course, there are the few lonely souls who dare to be different, but they are labeled as 'weirdos' or 'faggots' and are generally ignored. To be popular and successful as a teenager, one must be willing to conform to what the media and their peers tell them.
It's utterly horrific, obviously, and the most surprising thing about it is that I got the panelist position. Based solely on the 'strength' of this essay. I was one of USA Today's go-to teens for like two years outta this. Shit's still on my resume.

Looking back on my panelistship (complete with overly artsy photo shoot), I sort of built up my essay in my head. Like, it must have been good for the journallati at USA Today to send me from Pacific Northwest obscurity to their gossamer pages, right? I must have expressed something incisive, or creative, or clever. Or at least grammatically fucking correct.
In this age of single parents and families in which both parents are working, the role of mother and father begin to mean less and less. Oftentimes parents would like to be home with their kids, but can't, because they have to work a double shift so the aforementioned children can keep ordering pizzas and watching cable.
It's genuinely terrible, and it only gets worse from there.

Maybe the scariest thing about modern technology isn't the triviality, or the ubiquitousness. Maybe it's the permanence. If this essay wasn't saved on a 12-year-old hard drive, I never would have read it again. It could have remained, in vague worthwhileness, in my head and my nostalgia.

We forget the extent to which we construct our childhood from input far more diverse than its actual events. History, movies, other people's recollections, aborted friendships, it all gets folded in. The pictures and texts from my childhood seem like some sort of alternate reality to the upbringing I keep in my head. It's easy to forget that it's the other way around.
My goals for this year are pretty simple. I want to get my licence (drivers) and get the heck out of this hell-hole we fondly call Nathan Hale, and the dungeon we fondly call High School. I am sick of all the b.s. politics, the pandering, the social ladder, and assignments intimately describing myself to someone I hardly know.

Accomplishing these goals will involve drivers-ed and Running Start [that's the early college acceptance program I left high school to go do the following year]. The only thing that will make this year any different from last year is that there will hopefully be less creeking. [I got thrown in the creek behind our school. A lot.]
That's from another essay I found, another 'describe yourself' exercise that I was apparently getting sick of. I've only made it through about three of the files--bad writing is so much worse when it's you--and the main thing that strikes me isn't the thudding cliches or the inorganic metaphors, it's the deafening bitterness. I had completely edited this trenchcoat-mafia shit out of my adolescence.

Looking back, I had it pretty great. I had friends who liked me, teachers who challenged me and parents who went to bed way before my curfew. Why was I so eager to get away?

I liked it better when 'youth is wasted on the young' was just a cute saying, and not a conclusion supported by 48 megabytes of Word Perfect files. I don't know if I'll make it all the way through them, but the only thing I keep thinking is, 'Thank God I didn't keep a diary.'

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