this is our youth

We tell ourselves stories in order to live.

I’d have to agree with Joan Didion on this one. We, indeed, do tell ourselves stories in order to live. We are constantly hunting after the reasons behind occurrences, patterns within disorder, magic within the mundane. We drown ourselves in fiction, in literature, in the words that explain why we are the way we are. What is life is not one constant, dissonant story in itself? Truly, what are we, if not each our own little personal essay, perpetually being written, scratching out beliefs we’ve outgrown and adding a multitude of experiences along the way? Painful as life is, we constantly have control over the narrative of it. What is frightening is when we lose control, when we no longer are comforted by the stories we tell ourselves and instead lose faith in fiction.

Adolescence is a story unlike any other. Unanimously disastrous, but infinitely different in its disasters. Being a teenager is something you experience once. A brief and brutal period of confusion, of identity vs. conformity. Basically, adolescence is a mess. And we are messy. We, as the confused, but undoubtedly capable, teenagers we are, either choose to embrace the messiness or control it. The common goal is this: self-discovery.

I haven’t any idea what “self-discovery” entails. Is it a definable phrase, even? To many, finding yourself seems to somehow be equivalent to losing yourself. Losing yourself in whatever is accessible; whatever is popular; whatever seems desirable. This, I believe, in the greatest error one can make.

You do not have to aspire to the same heights as others. You do not have to fit impeccably and neatly into the boxes of what others label “maturity” or “youth”. There are so many ways to grow up. There are so many experiences to indulge in. Reckless abandon does not have to be one of them.

I understand the desire to be what everyone would like you to be. I understand thinking you’ll miss out on some emblematic rite of passage if you do not take part in a certain activity everyone else is. I understand it all. I understand the need to be anyone but yourself.

But.

You- solely– control the narrative of this messy life of yours. You control how you choose to participate in it. You do not have to tell yourself, repeatedly, to be what you truly are not. You do not have to engage in the reckless ideals of everyone else.

We tell ourselves stories in order to live.

There is no particular story you must tell. There is only the one you choose to tell yourself. I find myself in literature, in words, in fictional places and people. There is nothing I find greater enjoyment in than finding the reasoning behind the illogical; understanding why we do what we do.

However, there is not always a reason to be found. Not in life, and certainly, not in ourselves. To pretend that we are all alike in our hunger is egregious. Throw yourself into no one else’s story but your own. It is difficult, it is sometimes isolating, but it is the most liberating thing you can do.

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