On The Flip Side…

Adolescence is something that comes twice in life. 

Yes, I said twice.

I remember adolescence—the heat, humidity and sweat of Maryland summer and discovering that stinky aroma reminding me to take a shower. We enter adolescence and begin to smell. It is true.  Men think of adolescence as the onset of youth— peach fuzz on our chins, hair in our armpits, the thickening of our vocal chords and the deepening of our voices – wanting to spread our wings and not be told what to do by the parents – and the corresponding depression associated with youth. 

The tedious process of becoming a man.

For women, the long-awaited arrival of adolescence is the arrival of that dreaded and cursed monthly menstrual cycle every 28 days (for the rest of your lives), a training bra, learning how to apply makeup, developing a circle of friends, fitting in, and high emotion.  Seems everything is emotional for a teen.  Becoming a woman isn’t any easier than it is for a man. 

If anything, it’s harder. 

As teens, we become goofy, clunky, awkward creatures.  We can be clumsy and reckless.  We sometimes make foolish decisions.  We want to fit in—even if it’s with a bad crowd. We want to be liked. Acceptance.  Our bodies grow at different rates.  Irregular bone and soft tissue growth issues cause muscle cramps our parents used to identify as growing pains.  I remember getting shin splints whenever I ran.  I’d get nauseous for no apparent reason.

Hormones were changing fast and we were along for the ride. 

I recall my mother and the school principal wanting to know why I didn’t want to go to school.  I was sick to my stomach a lot—nothing more, nothing less.  Being stupid clueless adults, they suspected I was trying to cut school.  The principal came up with a school project she thought would interest me – which didn’t fix the nausea. 

No one in the adult world believed I had a sick stomach.

It’s not easy being a misunderstood teenager… 

Adolescence is also about the arrival of our sexuality—the euphoria of sexual desire and trying to understand why we have sexual feelings.  Steamy passion and desires we’ve never had before.  And – the never-ending frustration of having to control these desires.

Yet, we were scared to death of them. 

We all remember because we grew up during the sexual revolution and all that free love though very little of it was free. Much of that depending upon when you came of age. Seems like the late 1960s was the peak of the sexual revolution. Woodstock, aside from incredible music and phenomenal performers, was a huge love fest for those who were daring and excited. Some found their lifelong mates there. One couple comes to mind. Their name escapes me. Woodstock was their first date and a union that would last a lifetime. That was 51 years ago.

Many a marriage began with Woodstock.  

Sex Education just didn’t spell it all out clearly enough to where we could understand why our bodies and desires were changing. It was all just so clinical as it was presented by educators and parents.  Sex was never discussed in any capacity in most households unless there happened to be a Dr. Spock book lying around.  It was impossible to believe our parents actually did it. I began to wonder as a teen if I had crawled out from under a rock. 

Our generation still believes it invented sex.   

For a teen, raw emotions are always just under the surface.  You’re not a child anymore, but you’re not an adult either.  You want your independence, yet you still want to be a kid.  It’s the realization that you’re not a child anymore. Adolescence was a time when we struggled to understand who we were and where we were going. We were seeking some sort of identity and an understanding of where we fit in.  For more popular teens—the cheerleaders, jocks, and honor students—those emotional struggles got buried in the madness of popularity, the demands of a busy social life, and having to have your ego stroked. 

Under the surface, the more popular teens struggled from the same emotions most of us did.  They had all of the same insecurities.  They often segued into adulthood and discovered being an adult was a lot tougher than they ever imagined.  Some committed suicide after high school and college or escaped into an unsettling world of drug and alcohol abuse to numb feelings. 

Some recovered.  Some have not.

Depression is something we go through very much alone even when we’re young, and surrounded by family and people who love and need us.  Those who come from troubled homes and abuse as children haven’t always escaped the emotional turmoil of growing up in dysfunctional homes.  They’ve repeatedly gotten sucked back into the insanity or turned tail and ran for their lives. 

Some never looked back.

If your journey has been anything like my own, you’ve found life has been a tapestry of experiences both good and bad that have molded who you are now.  When we are so very young, we’re at climb power as we grow into a career and gain experience.  Sometimes, there’s no career at all—just a job we go to year after year.  With an ounce of luck and raw tenacity, we begin to level off at cruise altitude by the time we are 40 and can finally appreciate the ride.  If you’ve chosen a very competitive career field, the pressure never ends. 

You just have to keep pressing on and carving out a path.    

Perhaps, your career has been the time-honored profession of raising your kids and making a home, which really is the most important career there is because you’re shaping young lives and keeping a home for your family.  Being a homemaker is surely the most thankless profession there is short of being a police officer or career military.  Rarely are you thanked for anything—especially when you have to say no. If you’re raising kids alone or married to someone who’s gone a lot, you have the enormous challenge of doing nature’s toughest job alone.  And, God help you if they’re all sick at the same time and you’re not feeling so well yourself.

Young people coming of age have long been pressured to go to college and seek “honorable” professions to make their parents proud and maintain status in the community. Such is an unfair expectation because this is not always what young people want.  I pen this wondering whatever happened to honorable trades and the teaching of trades—which don’t call for a college degree.  Why aren’t high schools teaching trades anymore?  Whatever happened to teaching young people professions that will serve them well in life?  Not every person born to this apple has to have a college degree.  Have you ever found yourself seeking a good plumber, electrician, carpenter, landscaper, brick layer, roofer, concrete finisher, construction contractor, siding installer, appliance technician, or heating and air conditioning specialist? 

They’re becoming harder to find in this college-bound society.

These are many honorable trades that have always paid well and are virtually recession proof because things always break.  Toilets stop up.  Refrigerators quit.  Furnaces break down when it’s 20 below outside.  Air conditioning quits when it’s 97 degrees with 80% humidity. Cars quit in the middle of busy intersections.  I’ve never heard of a layoff at a plumbing and heating business or an auto repair shop.  There’s always a need for good tradesmen—people who know how to fix things.

This goes for both male and female. There’s not a darned thing a man can do that a woman cannot do even better.

When I graduated from high school, the last thing I wanted to see was another classroom. I hated school.  I went into the Air Force to learn how to repair jet aircraft.  My college was the United States Air Force where I was taught a trade—aircraft maintenance—and even attended college. I got out of the USAF with visions of a high-paying airline mechanic career. There were no jobs to be had. The house was full.  Ironically, I got out of the Air Force and became an automotive journalist—and without a college degree.  It was the training I received in the Air Force and via hands on experience that qualified me to be an automotive technical writer.  I’ve been mentored by great editorial types who showed me how to be a writer.

You never know where life experiences will take you.

Earlier, I mentioned adolescence comes but twice in life and here’s why.  Our adolescence in youth is where we transition from being a child to being an adult.  Adolescence returns when you crest the age of 60 and your mind and body begin to change again.  Our senior years are a return to adolescence.

The intense sexual desire we had at 16 doesn’t have the luster it had a half century ago. It has a very humbling effect on what we think of ourselves. For men, it is especially difficult because our libido has always been a measure of our manhood. For women, menopause brings issues that make sex more challenging than it was in youth. And, damned those stinking hot flashes and sweats in the middle of the night. At our age, sexual moments are fewer and seemingly more special because they become so rare. And, so goes nature.

Many of those same emotions and feelings associated with adolescence in our youth seem to return in our advancing years.  We were getting hair.  Now, we’re losing hair.  We were growing stronger.  Now, it’s challenging to get out of a chair.  We were looking forward to the future.  Today, we’re reflecting upon the past.  Time used to drag on when we were in school or in church.  These days, time seems to roar by at dizzying speed.  Back in the day, we wondered where we were going.  Today, we know where we’ve been. Back then, we couldn’t get enough sex. And now, we’d sooner go bowling or watch old sitcoms.  When we were coming of age, we were afraid of dying.  These days, dying is less of a concern—we’ve lived our lives and it’s all good. Thank God for our longevity.

As we enter our twilight years, feelings we remember from long ago manifest themselves with startling reality.  It’s all so familiar.  It was never easy being a teenager.  And now, it isn’t easy morphing into our twilight years. 

It isn’t easy being a senior citizen despite that token 20% discount at Denny’s.

If you’re 60 and beyond, the best advice I can impart is to find new purpose. Never Lift…always seek something new. There’s plenty of need for volunteers with civic organizations who could use your experience.  Mentor those going through adolescence who seek direction just like you did a lifetime ago.  Hanging with young people keeps you young. 

Perhaps you seeking something that will line your pockets.  Go do it.  Don’t go do something you dread going to go each day.  Go do something you’re going to be passionate about. 

Whatever you decide to do, never back off the throttle.  Continue reaching.    

One thought on “On The Flip Side…”

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