Teenagers have a lot to deal with these days. Keeping your grades up, fitting in to social standards, making friends and losing them. It’s not as simple as it used to be. Society tells you to be self-conscious about your body and worry about other people’s judgments.
We spend the entirety of our teenage years trying to be like everyone else. We’re expected to be beautiful, always smile, have a perfect body and never be rude. But not everyone is and that’s where it starts to hurt.
We are always told, ‘be yourself, but not like that’ and ‘you’re beautiful without makeup, but you still need to wear it.’ Commercials tell us if you’re a US size 2, you’re considered fat. There is so much pressure to be flawless and beautiful while doing well in school, keeping up a social life, worrying about the future, and trying to uphold a happy, smiley temperament.
After a while, it really gets to you. Some days, it makes me just want to hide in my room and never come back out. It makes me not want to talk to anyone or see anyone. I just want to be alone and wallow away in my own anxiety. But the only thing that kept me sane through all of it is my dog Boof.
He didn’t care if I wasn’t wearing my best clothes, if I’d said or done something I shouldn’t have, if I was tired, sad, excited, stressed or frustrated. I could come home every day to a huge grin and a wagging tail and forget about all the day’s troubles. I could cry with him, laugh with him and just play around with him because he totally accepted me as I was.
His ‘in the moment’ energy rubbed off on me and took me to a calmer, more grounded place. He knew my moods and what I needed at any given time. He gave me the gift of feeling free to truly be myself; the good, the bad and the ugly.
I remember one time I came home from school, on the verge of crying and not wanting to talk to anyone. I ran into my room balling my eyes out and collapsed on my bed crying. Boof scratched at my door then jumped up beside me when I let him and quietly stayed with me.
When the time was right and my mood had lifted he looked at me with a half grin, then bounced off the bed, daring me to chase him.
Having my dog around was therapeutic. He let me talk out all of my problems; he wouldn’t say anything and sometimes that’s just what I needed to hear. Nothing. He just looked at me with a face saying, ‘everything is going to be okay’ and I knew it would be.
For me and many of my friends negotiating life as teenager feels like an avalanche of information, expectations, and advice suffocating us. For me the answer isn’t in a Vogue magazine, an Instagram chat group, or ‘how to be a teenager’ blogs. My answer was being with a four-legged ball of fun and love – Boof.
Recently, I lost Boof in a car accident. I am still trying to work out how to get by without him. But I feel that my new puppy, Skipper, carries a bit of Boof’s spirit in his heart. His bouncy personality makes me feel as though Boof never left. I feel confident in saying that I still have someone there to help me through the tough times and to make me smile every single day.
Molly a Shearwater student did work experience at The Echo.