Comparison: American teens vs. Amigos teens

For the average person between the ages of 13-19 in the United States, life can take various twists and turns. Some people are more adaptable, others are not. Problems can take massive tolls on some, or none at all. The one agreeable problem, however, is sleep. Ask anyone in the teenage subculture in the continental United States to list their top five problems, and this will undoubtedly be on it, if not number 1. We complain we don’t get enough, or we complain we get too much. We complain when we’re woken up, we complain when we can’t fall asleep. That’s another thing you’ll hear a lot: complaining. Complaining we can’t go out with our friends. Complaining we have to study. Complain about this, complain about that. The worst is when we give excuses about how those complaints are justifiable. Another huge aspect of the teen’s life is social events/gatherings. When we hear about one, we are drawn to it like moths on a light. Parties are the only thing that compare to going to school, and school’s only on the list because our parents make it.

Despite all the misconceptions, school is not as bad as everyone thinks. It’s like having a job, but you’re not being paid for 7 hours of work. School does help with life, and acquiring the social skills that a teen needs to succeed with other people for the rest of their lives. But when we’re with friends in an often stranger’s house, surrounded by people that 90 percent of the time we don’t know, that all comes first. Let’s face it; no one wants to give bad first impressions. Make someone laugh the first time they meet you, they think you’re funny. Make the wrong comment, though, and they will vow to destroy you with every fiber of their mortal being. I’ve been on both sides of that and my preconceptions of the person where either improved or destroyed in a matter of seconds. This applies to everyone, but especially people who you’ll grow up with and possibly work with someday.

The people you’ll meet will vary. Some you will connect with immediately and others will be like the square-peg-into-round-hole scenario. One thing I will say is never try to pretend to alter yourself so you can be like someone else and gain they’re trust. You’ll be caught in a web of lies, and it’ll all come crashing down on you. Once the dust settles, you’ll stand there and think, “If only I had ignored the person, they wouldn’t have driven their wrath all onto me.” If you won’t connect with someone, don’t. It’s as simple as that. For the people you do connect with, though, you have to hang on to them. In the U.S. teenage subculture, we hold loyalty higher then what most people think, but that doesn’t mean we understand it. Despite that, if you stand behind someone, and back them up, then they’ll do the same with you, and your problems will be at a minimum. Don’t be friends with everyone, because you’ll get at least someone angry. Be friends with the people you connect with, and the path to success will be paved clear.

The most difficult problem of the teen years is discovering who you are, what you’re capable of, and how to use your skills to your advantage. It’s amazing how often I hear the people who are extremely talented say they have no aspects in life. If you have skills, use them. Even if everyone says you have a seemingly insignificant skill, that skill may just help you in the near-future.

The teens here are proud, so very often, we’ll take our urge to impress beyond our capabilities. The quickest way to be unwanted is to screw up. Yeah, we’re merciless like that. If you so much as change the way you walk, the people will be all over you, like an old Latin proverb says, “Nothing is faster than rumor”. Business that we have no right to get involved in, we get involved anyway, we hear the details, then more often than not, we twist them to suit our own needs. But aren’t we allowed a few screw-ups in our lives? Not huge, life-destroying ones, but the ones that really don’t affect anyone? There’s nothing wrong with that. We are so quick to judge others, and the teens who say they don’t judge are hypocrites.

The whole thing with people being divided into groups is overplayed. Sure, they exist, but often times it’s hard to detect who’s what. Some people dress unusually, but mainly we just blend in. A lot of those subcultures have blending together, so someone who wears baggy jeans may not be a gangster, or someone with tye-dye shirt may not have a lot of options to wear.

After writing this far, I decided to ask some of the children from Amigos, specifically teenagers, about how their lives stacked up against the American teenager’s. The question I decided to ask were

• What are the three things that you enjoy most about being a teenager?

• What are the three things that you dislike most?

• If you were to pick one thing about teens in general (behavior, misconceptions, etc.) that you wish you could change, what would they be and why?

• Best/worst thing about school?

• What are decisions that you have to confront on a daily basis as a teenager? On a longer-term basis?

Three of them responded: David, Christian, and Miguel. Each had unique answers to the questions, touching all the parts of a teen’s life in one way or another, obvious or hiding in plain sight.

For David, the things he enjoyed most about being a teenager were learning to work, getting smarter, and taking up new responsibilities. The things he disliked the most were changes (both physical and mental), the ease there is to take up bad habits such as drugs and alcohol, and the treatment he is receiving compared to when he was younger, when less was expected of him. The one thing he could change about teens in general was study habits. His favorite part about school was the amount of variety in the subjects there was to offer, and his least favorite was some of the boring classes. The decisions he is confronted with on a daily basis are studying and improving his grades, and the best ways for him to do that. In general, David touched on almost everything that the American teenager has to deal with.

Christian’s three things were his ability to talk to all types of people about interesting things, he is now able to play soccer with the older children, and he is now able to work with animals. His three biggest dislikes are the treatment, his inability to wake up by himself, and he has to wash his own clothes by himself. Christian wants to change his attitude so he could be more on the brighter side of things, as opposed to having a darker approach to situations, something a lot of teens can relate too. His favorite part about school is meeting new people, and the worst is he can easily fall behind and, again, wake up so early. The decisions he has to face every day are his study habits, and how he is going to control his bad attitude.

Miguel’s three biggest enjoyments were the fact he can now carry a driver’s license and an I.D. with him at all times, he can now make purchases by himself, and his access to more knowledge. His three biggest letdowns were the constant influence of drugs and alcohol, the ease it is to rebel against his superiors, and the seeds of doubt in his religion and beliefs, which is another thing that many teens are confronted with. He wants the change teen’s attitude, more precisely so that we take situations more seriously, a huge confrontation in the teen years. His favorite things about school was his friends and teachers, and on the opposite side of that, the difficult and/or boring subjects. His longer-term decisions are the fear of confronting society by himself, and he will have to take care of his home, despite not having being forced to at the moment.

Tommy DeMarco, 15