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August 27, 2011

Teenhood Today: People change, and you will probably, too

People change.

When contemplating what my final column in The Daily Star would be about, I realized that my final words should sum up everything I have meant to say in the past two years. I thought for hours and then realized that two words described teenhood today: People change.

It has been one year since I graduated high school. I have been a teenager for almost seven years, and for four of those years I was subjected to what was previously known as "the best years of my life."

People change.

When you're in high school, it's everything. Over the past two years I have dwelled on the psychosis of the everyday teenager, as well as organizations and actions that affect teen life.

The influence of others is always upon every teenager. Those who say they are not subject to peer pressure are influenced elsewhere _ parents, work, etc.

Everything comes down to being told what to do and who to be. Even though teens think they know everything, when it all comes down to it, their real hunger yearns for adaptation to new, or more popular, lifestyles.

In the first years of our schooling, we're all taught the Golden Rule: Treat others in a way that you would like to be treated. It's funny how off track we've come from that very simple lesson.

People change.

I have spent years analyzing and observing the world of the everyday teenager, and if there's one important piece of information I could relay, it would be that teenagers are terrified.

The social agenda that teens have to keep up with to gain acceptance holds so much value and significance. The pressure over possessions and actions is almost endless. Nice clothes, texting, a significant other, etc. _ all of these things supposedly put you in the right crowd. Maybe it's just that we've lost track of what "right" really is.

Well, teens, I'm here to be the rain on your parade. When you're in high school, it's kind of like everyone there is your extended family.

You're expected to get along and be friendly. At graduation, you might even feel a sense of endearment toward your classmates.

At my high school graduation, I remember reciting one simple, yet powerful line from my speech: "These people are my best friends."

At that moment, I realized how much of an influence every one of those people had had on me. I had always thought that it was my parents or teachers who shaped the person I turned out to be, and in a way, they did. Parents and educators teach us lessons that we can't learn from our friends, and in that way, they shape us all.

It was them, though, that made me who I was, and when I realized that, I was both amorous and disgusted. How had I let a group of individuals define me for so long? At the same time, though, I had to wonder how I would have turned out if the influence of such wonderful, or terrible, people was absent. It was in that instant that I was my own person, and continue to be today as I incessantly try to sort through my upbringing to find my true sense of self.

People change.

I moved away right around this time last year, and since, nearly every friend I had from high school has abandoned me. Of course, this isn't the case for everyone, and I still have some very close friends from home. It was just hard, and will continue to be difficult to understand why people I spent every day with, laughing and contemplating life, would turn their backs on our relationship while never looking back.

Change is inevitable. It's so rare to see people keep their best friend from 12 years ago into the next decade. When we want someone to be close to us, we try to impress them to attract them. The greatest thing I've learned about friendships, though, is that the best ones are made through people you don't have to instill effort on to gain. Friendships are very much like romantic relationships in the way that if you're trying very hard, and the other person isn't, it's not really worth the effort you're putting in, let alone the friendship itself.

What I'm trying to say is actually what I have said all along: You absolutely cannot let others influence you. Whether they influence your actions or your personality _ it's all rubbish if you can't be who you want to be around them. Besides, I can guarantee you that in a few short years, they'll want nothing to do with you. So, teens, ask yourself: Who do you want to be? Yourself, or a conglomerate of everyone you've known? Then again ... is there a difference?

Dan Clark, a 2010 graduate of Afton Central School, is a sophomore at The State University at Albany. 'Teen Talk' columns can be found at

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