Master: I’ve been….
Teenager: Please don’t tell me that you’ve been travelling many years, or how long the road is, or how many times you fell. Oh… I’m sorry. That was rude. I don’t know what made me say it.’ Do you want me to go?
Master: Do you always say what’s on your mind?
Teenager: No – but there’s something about you that makes me want to.
Master: Sit with me for a while, child.
Teenager: I’m not a child. Not anymore.
Master: So what are you?
Teenager: I’m a semi-adult, but in my head I’m an adult.
Master: That’s an interesting concept. What makes you think that?
Teenager: My parents do, because they are so childish, always correcting me, not happy with what I wear or what I’m doing. These things aren’t important.
Master: What do you think is important?
Teenager: Being happy. Being free.
Master: Are you not happy now?
Teenager: Sometimes, but it’s difficult being a teenager. Everyone expects a lot from you, but still treat you like a child. They tell you to act like a grown-up, and then tell you that you are being immature. It’s all very confusing.
Master: And being free what does that mean to you?
Teenager: Free to live my own life. Have my own bedroom without having to share it. Having my own money so I don’t have to ask my parents for it. Go out with my friends and not have a curfew. Lots of things.
Master: Freedom comes at a price and it comes with responsibilities. Are you ready for that?
Teenager: I don’t understand. How can freedom come at a price? Freedom is being able to do whatever you want to and whenever you want to. It doesn’t mean having responsibilities. It means you are free to be whoever and whatever you choose to be.
Master: Perhaps. Tell me – why are you here?
Teenager: My parents think I could learn something from you. Apparently you’re the fountain of all knowledge and wisdom. Rolls her eyes. The Master laughs.
Master: Not quite. Whatever wisdom I have has been learned on my travels through life. None of us can lay claim to knowing everything, or be full of wisdom. There is always more to learn.
Teenager: So you can’t tell me anything that I can’t google. You can’t tell me when I’ll stop feeling lost or confused or mixed up. And those words don’t even begin to describe how I feel, how a teenager feels.
Master: True. I can’t tell you because it’s your journey, not mine. I don’t walk in your shoes so daren’t begin to tell you how you should feel. You’ll find the answers and many you already know, but you have to acknowledge them. Often we ignore the solutions because it’s easier to see the problems.
Teenager: You mean like working out a maths problem? Numbers are exciting – adding, subtracting, multiplying, working out the equation and getting the right answer.
Master: Why don’t you apply that process to your life. Create a formula that keeps you happy and your parents. Use numbers and equations that make sense to you.
Teenager: But there are so many different ways of working out a maths problem and not everyone will understand it, my parents certainly won’t. They just don’t get me. It’s as simple as that.
Master: You mean that they don’t understand you, or you think they don’t understand you? Perhaps they know more than you realize, understand you more than you realize. They were teenagers once. They remember what it was like.
Teenager: It was easier for them. There was no social media, and what you wore wasn’t important. No-one cared about any of that stuff. You didn’t need to compete for ‘likes’ or ‘loves’ on Facebook. Everyone was the same. No-one dissed them.
Master: Have you spoken to them about all this?
Teenager: No point. They wouldn’t understand. They’re too old-fashioned and so ‘not cool’.
Master: I have a question for you. If you receive a gift wrapped up in glossy paper and tied with colourful ribbons and bows, do you notice that? Do you think about the time and love that went into wrapping your gift, or has your mind jumped ahead wondering what’s inside. Do you rip the paper off and discard it?
Teenager: Of course. That’s just paper. It’s what’s inside that is important.
Master: When you open the box how do you feel when you see what’s inside?
Teenager: That depends. If it’s an ugly pair of jeans and not the latest designer pair I wanted, the ones my friends wear, I want to cry. I want to rip them up and scream. But I can’t do that because it’s rude. I have to smile and say Thank You and fake-hug everyone, and then go to my bedroom and cry.
Master: What if you opened the box and saw the jeans you wanted inside. How would you feel then?
Teenager: That would be so cool! Then I could look like everyone else. I wouldn’t stand out.
I would be normal.
Master: So you want to look like everyone else?
Teenager: Of course. Who doesn’t?
Master: When you go to school you obey the rules like everyone else. You sit quietly in your chair and listen or study. You form orderly queues when you move to another area. You form orderly queues when you go to the dining hall. You don’t run in the corridors.
Teenager: Sure, but that’s so the teachers can control us. As soon as we step inside the school we remove our personalities and our feelings. We become little robots who obey our teachers. But it’s not fair. None of us are the same. We’re all different.
Master: You wear the same uniform as everyone else at school. When you go home you change into another uniform so you can still look the same as your peers.
Teenager: I don’t understand. Only dorks would wear a uniform at home. I don’t.
Master: You want to wear the same jeans as your peers. Probably the same trainers. You all look the same – so how is that different from a school uniform?
Teenager: I never thought of it that way. What if I customize my clothes. That would be cool and then instead I would still be different from anyone else.
Master: You want to be different now? Why?’
Teenager: Only sometimes. I want to be who I am, show people the real me. It’s confusing. Then when I think about that it scares me so I just follow the crowd. Do what they do. Say what they say. Act like them. That way I’m normal, part of the crowd and accepted.
Master: So all the things that make you feel normal are the same things you object to. School uniform, orderly queues, sitting quietly in a chair, not running in the corridor.
Teenager: You’re confusing me.
Master: The confusion is in your mind. Just work out the equation. We need rules and regulations in life. We need boundaries. They help us stay on the right road.
Teenager: How does anyone know if they’re on the right road or not? Even SatNav gets it wrong. Anyway, adults who keep on about ‘the right road’ it’s just another form of control. They’re always changing their minds and arguing about stupid stuff. And they think I’m immature.
Master: If you had to cross a large field and you saw it was full of holes, what would you do?
Teenager: Send my brother across first and count every hole he fell into. Get him to fill the holes. Then my way is clear. Or walk along the perimeter wall. Or build a rope bridge and swing across. There’s always a solution.
Master: Earlier you said to me about unwrapping a gift – ‘It’s what’s inside that is important’.
Apply those words to what’s inside you – inside your heart? Look at the world around you with clear eyes, without judgement. Don’t perceive everything as a problem – see it as a solution.
Stop focusing on the unimportant stuff and instead create a beautiful picture, one that is true to your feelings, one that is uniquely you. Respect your parents. Respect and trust yourself. One last thing – please don’t send your brother into a field full of holes.
‘The joy of youth never leaves us. Our bodies may weaken, but our hearts still beat to the music of life.
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