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American Jewish Teenager

American Jewish Teenager

A peek into the psyche of a 21st century Jewish teenager.

by

You’ve seen me around town.

I’m your prototypical Jewish teenager, voyaging through the strange sea of adolescence. Don’t be fooled by my blank stare or my un-engaging affect; beneath the surface simmers a whole array of thoughts and emotions. Just take a closer look…

If you want to know me, feel free to check out my Facebook profile. It’s quicker, simpler, less challenging, and, quite simply, much cooler than having a real heart to heart.

Until proven innocent, I may consider you non-existent, at best, or guilty, at worst – depending mainly on my fluctuating moods, which depends mainly on the whims of my ever-digitalizing social life (read: did she accept my ‘friend request’ or not). Indeed, my self worth feels proportionate with the amount of cyber “friends,” “fans,” and “followers" I’ve managed to amass.

Once we’re on the topic of moods and emotions, I generally like to simplify the terminology as such:

:-) = I am happy.

:-( = I am sad.

: - I = I am indifferent. (And this is usually the face I show most often).

:-O = I am surprised (a.k.a. “OMG”)

You get the idea.

Earning my trust and attention is a strategic skill. I’m happy to hear words of wisdom from caring rabbis, so long as they can first win my confidence with a jump shot, guitar riff, or good sense of style. I’m proud of my Jewishness, so long as it can be identified with Matisyahu or Bob Dylan. The state of Israel may have been an inspiring novelty for my parents, but to me it’s all about Kosher KFC and the Inbal lobby.

Related Article: Hit & Run

ADHD are the initials of my generation. I’d like to thank my parents’ generation for inventing Ritalin to slow down my otherwise speedy, scattered brain.

Unless you can show me a YouTube clip to demonstrate your point, I’ll probably have a hard time following. ADHD are the initials of my generation, and I’d like to thank my parents’ generation for inventing Ritalin and Adderall to slow down my otherwise speedy, cluttered, scattered brain. I guess it’s the least they can do to combat the insanely over-stimulated society they helped create (with good intentions, of course). I can’t believe there was really a functional world without Internet access just a few years ago. How did anyone get by before cell phones, GPS, Google and iPads? It’s strange that while I have access to the most advanced contraptions and cutting edge devices, my generation is showing symptoms of declining mental stability. Seems counter intuitive – don’t you think?

My parents may have studied and worked hard to achieve the lifestyle they currently enjoy, but I’ll figure out some way to keep the cozy lifestyle without putting in all of that extra dirty work. There’s gotta be some get-rich-quick strategy, and I’ll make sure to implement the required procedure (so long as I can do it from my iPhone). If my parents had to spend days in libraries to research what I can instantly access via Google, why can’t I, likewise, accelerate their notion of a long and laborious road to success?

I’m not as respectful or revering of my elders as they may have been as youngsters, but this doesn’t really bother me in the slightest bit. Chill out adults; when you take yourselves too seriously, it’s hard for us to play along. Granted, “respect” isn’t a prime part of my vocabulary, but I’m slick enough to pit my parents, teachers, and therapists against each other – and, so, my strategic “triangular operation” has earned me the right to deride any form of authority. You may call this manipulation, but I just think of it as maximizing on opportunities. When the authorities openly point fingers at one another, I naturally feel a sense of entitlement. Like I was wronged and you all better figure out who messed up. Works wonders when I’m in a jam. Sounds bratty? Well, then, it’s for the parents/teachers/counselors to figure out where the blame lies. And until they do, I’ll be my own Master of Ceremonies.

I can’t stand being preached to or lectured at, but when sincerely and honestly engaged, I’m all yours.

Although I like to “chill,” I’m driven to succeed down the road. Regardless of what my report cards may reflect, I’ll “make it” – in some shape or form. I’m not sure how much of this drive comes from parental expectations, social competition, genuine aspiration, or plain old go-getter Jewish-genetics – but it’s probably some combination of these and many other ingredients.

I can’t stand being preached to or lectured at, but when sincerely and honestly engaged, I’m all yours. I know when I’m being talked down to, probably better than the one doing the talking.

Related Article: Talking Teenagers

For better or worse, I’m skeptical, cynical, and suspicious. The Internet and media have exposed my childhood to grim realities from which my parents were probably sheltered. I’m not smarter than them, per se, but I’m certainly more technologically savvy, and experientially curious.

I'm not as dumb as some of my teachers believe and I’m probably not as smart as I think I am, either. Humility isn’t one of my favorite practices. I love the trait in others, but haven’t yet matured to see its appeal for myself.

I’m too cool to get inspired or emotionally animated, but catch me in a dark room full of Jewish peers, singing one of those slow Hebrew songs that I generally feel proud to mock– and you just may discover an unexpected soft spot. Don’t force me into that position, because my emotional network is too guarded to be manipulated. But with the right time, place, and company, it will almost naturally evolve.

I’m American, I’m Jewish, I’m a teenager – three confusing roles that seem contradictory and complimentary, simultaneously.

I look at pop-culture with a mixture of admiration and suspicion; the glitter certainly catches my attention, yet something inside refuses to see celebrity icons as true heroes to model. But that doesn’t stop me from becoming one of their millions of Facebook fans. Identifying with something – anything – gives me some glimmer of a defined sense of self – and that, my friend, is gold for any teenager.

Superficiality irritates me more than anything – especially when I see it operating within myself.

I’m American, I’m Jewish, I’m a teenager – three very confusing roles that seem contradictory and complementary, simultaneously.

I think. I feel. I’m aware.

During this strange and bizarre stage, I embark on my lifelong search for whatever it is we humans search for – and I’m not even aware of this immanent quest as it unfolds within me.

This is my Google status, my Facebook status, my Twitter status, and my Emotional status. In other words, this is me.

I’m a 21st century American Jewish teenager.

Nice to meet you.

Published: October 31, 2010


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Visitor Comments: 61

(58) larisa, January 29, 2012 7:48 PM

teens

Hi! We all know that teenagers are immotinal, Irretobilote so high, but they have to understend "The Father from above wiching us." It was very beautiful artical. Thank you.

(57) Esther, June 7, 2011 10:03 AM

Great!!!!!!!!!

No words!!! Amazing

(56) Anonymous, June 3, 2011 5:56 PM

so..

i've got a question to all you "i've gotten past those troublesome teenage year-ers": How exactly do we get out of this rut?

Rivka, July 23, 2012 2:13 AM

I've been there

If I could go back and talk to myself as a teenager (I'm 28 now, B"H), I would tell myself, - G-d Loves You. - Don't worry so much, one day you'll be an adult with balanced hormones. - I know you don't seem to trust any adults, but if there's even one you think you might be able to trust, talk to him/her! Once you get the stuff off your chest it doesn't weigh on you so much and you can start to move past it. - If you are confused and unsure, try to help others who need it - a younger child, an elderly person. Do acts of lovingkindness (Chessed) to others; this will keep you going and give you fulfillment when you are feeling empty.

(55) s, December 7, 2010 6:55 PM

WOW

LOVE IT!

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