The teenage years are some of the toughest we humans have to deal with. Not only are we learning to become adults, but we are learning who we are, what we feel, and what we want. Throw in a huge handful of hormones and social acceptance issues to deal with and well, yes, the teenage years are difficult to say the least.
With two teenagers in the house, who have both faced very different challenges, and two more to come through, I often wonder how today’s teens make it through. They seem to have so many different issues to what I did growing up. The majority are the same – dealing with the hormones, trying to fit in, social acceptance, dealing with school – but with the challenges of social media now such a huge part of every day lives, it’s such a more complicated time to face.
When I was a teen, I had all the normal stuff going on plus a whole lot of other crap that my world faced. Everyone faces different challenges. Mine came in the form of intermittent family problems caused by one member of the family; drugs, violence, mental illness. Most of the time though, it was just a normal teenage-hood, with normal teenage issues. Then when I was 15, my mother was diagnosed with cancer and passed away three months later.
Looking back, it was a lot to deal with. But, at the time, well, it was just my life. I didn’t know any different. It’s only retrospect that I can see why I made some choices I made and did things that I did. Other things can’t be explained, just normal teenage things I guess.
Teenage angst was a huge thing for me, but I wonder if that was normal? Our teens at home seem pretty much happy-go-lucky. Sure they have their issues, and generally communicate well with both sets of parents (step-family situation), we rarely have if any, door slamming, screaming episodes. (Thankfully!)
Me, well, there was occasionally a door slamming or screaming episode. My angst was something I kept bottled up, but when it all got too much, it spewed over emotionally. The only way I got through, and I honestly believe this, is with music.
As an only child, music was pretty much my best friend. I’m not a musician (although do wish I’d put my energy into learning the guitar), but listening to music and breaking down lyrics was my thing.
I was big into Prince, Madonna, John (Cougar) Mellencamp, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi and would sit for hours listening, learning lyrics, wondering what they meant, analysing the beat of the drums, feeling the rush of guitars. It was a sensory experience for me.
Then I hit my tweens and early teens, and discovered boy bands. Marketing works. I was a New Kids On The Block (nope, no shame here), junkie. They were my idols. Fresh faced, singing and dancing boys with catchy tunes and cool clothes (they were so cool back then I promise). My little tween heart was on fire! I couldn’t get enough.
Fortunately, I graduated quickly from me teeny-bopper crushes to again discover what real music was. I found music that fit my angst. Music that was raw, edgy and dealt with issues that were beyond my years but so intriguing and dangerous. The Cure, (especially the album Wish), helped me through some of my darkest times. And some god-damned rock n’ roll to from Guns n’ Roses helped me release my angst and scream at the top of my voice, even if it were only in my head.
Every night I’d take the CD out its ‘Parental Advisory Explicit Content’ stickered case and I’d go to sleep with my headphones plugged into my stereo with Guns n’ Roses on repeat. I was infatuated with Axl Rose. This bad boy. This dangerous, dirty, foul-mouthed lout with long hair and tattoos. So taboo. Living a life totally removed from anything I knew. His voice carried me through my teenage angst as I listened along to the music and lyrics.
I certainly wasn’t a typical Gunners fan. I was a proper, middle-class, mummy’s girl. I dressed nice, was well-mannered and didn’t dare step outside the box that I knew I should be in. I didn’t do anything but try and fit in at school, and not stand out. I didn’t want to be noticed. Yet, at home, alone in my room I let loose. I could be who I really felt like being, or at least, let all the stuffiness and stress I felt by trying to fit in, trying to be normal.
That was how I got through the teenage years. And there’s something about the music that takes me back, each and every time. But, it’s not a bad place. It’s not the angst, stress or pressure that I feel, it’s the release and the freedom of letting go. The music actually now brings me joy, and allows me to actually look back and fondly appreciate that time of my life. I really don’t think I’d have made it through unscathed without this music. I really don’t.
I never did have the chance to see GNR live. I wasn’t allowed to go to their concert in 1993 (I was only 17), and never really forgave Dad forbidding me to go. But now, after 24 years – 24 years of the band’s demise through drug issues, and creative differences, three members are back together and touring in February 2017. Of course I have tickets. I cried to my husband on the phone when I found out they were coming. He thought the dog had died. But it was just pure elation.
I know they are probably past their best, and it’s not the original line up, but I’ll be at that concert next year. More than anything, as a thank you. An appreciation for their music, their words, which I could somehow take and apply to my own life to reach some sort of understanding. A thank you for allowing me to release pent up feelings. A thank you, for getting me through my teenage years.
What helped you through your teen years?