I mentioned last week that one of my stories is featured in the WRITE FOR TOHOKU Kindle e-book. (Go buy it and help the Japan recovery effort.) That stroy is about an experience which reminded me about the similarities in humanity despite how different individual cultures.
As a teacher in/ resident of Japan I get to see a lot of the differences between the teens here, the teens in America (I lived there for a couple of years and all), and the teens in Japan. According to culture shock theory, when you first go to a new country, you notice all the differences, but after a while, you start to see similarities.
One defining factor of teenager-hood is how close teens are to their friends. The most important person in a little child's life is probably their mother or another member of the family. Adults are often closest to their significant others. But teens are almost always closest to friends their own age- especially school friends. I see this all the time in my schools. Maybe, it's even more true in Japan than in the West. In Japan, you're a part of your "group". As an adult, that's your company. But as a teen, that's your school.
WHEN YOUR BEST ISN'T ENOUGH
Teenagerhood is full of all these times and things where you have to push yourself to the limit. In my island, we sit an exam at 11 (ish) to decide what secondary school we'll go to, which in turn kind of decides the rest of our lives. In Japan, my kiddies have an exam at 15 for high school. It's not so bad out here in the bush, but it's probably super competitive in places like Tokyo and Osaka. All over the world, teenagers must puch themselves with great grades/sports/extra-curriculars to get into college.
But sometimes you lose. Princeton can't take a million applicants. All the teams can't win the championship. Sometimes you get really close and then you fail.
And the sort of heart-wrenching disappointment that comes with that is universal.
TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL
Two of my favourite students have dropped out of school. Not my school- I only teach up to middle school. But they went on to high school and only lasted a year. High school isn't mandatory here, but most people tend to go in the country areas. Anyhow, these two kids turned up at the festival today. They've both got their hair died this bright brown, almost orange colour. One of them has an earring and wears his hair host-style- you know the super-styled Japanese man-hair.
I remember some of the people who didn't continue onto 6th form (16-18 yrs old) at home doning this exact same thing. Like I'm not doing school, but I'm cooler than thou.
HERE, BUT NOT
The idea for this post came to me at a dance festival at one of my elementary schools. The teachers, parents and I are all dancing. All the elementary students are playing the drums for the dance. And pretty much every student who's passed through the school in the last 6 years, and is now in Junior high or High School is on the sidelines.
The JHS/SHS students don't come over and dance. They don't watch. They sit in their own corner and chit-chat.
And that reminded me of something I've seen teens do all over the world. Put in the effort of getting dresed and leaving home, only to completely ignore an event when they get there. Seriously, if they wanted to chill, thye could chill anywhere. I have no explanation for this, and I'm pretty sure I did it as a teen too.
So there you have it, just a few of the things I've seen in the two hemispheres, and therefore assume to be fairly universal among teens. What's a defining act of teenager-ism in your mind?