Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Living Past the Angst
The last months of 2012 brought a host of trials to the Ghost Clan. Some will pass into the ether as if they never existed while others will haunt us until we can reconcile our own failures or forgive ourselves for bad decisions. One thing that hit this writer hard, however, was the depth and the visceral reality of what it means to be a teenager.
As I watched my child struggle with the pressures of making decisions at the age of 15 that could forever change his life path, I thought, “My god! How did I ever survive it?” I’ve always said that there wasn’t enough money in the world to entice me to relive my childhood, especially my adolescence, but living it through my son gave that sentiment a whole new meaning. We tend to romanticize teenage “angst” and talk about it with a sense of nostalgia or condescension, but there is nothing romantic about what my kid is going through.
It’s insane! We stuff their heads full of what we think is important information and ask that they “learn it” in the most ridiculous ways, test them using the most ludicrous methods and demand that they perform because their life and the funding life of the school depends on it, then ask them to decide what they plan to do with their entire life, eternally punishing them for mistakes or minor lapses in judgement, all while their brains are swimming in hormones and growing new synapse connections at the rate of a rocket breaking through the atmosphere. How does anyone survive that?
So far, my little Ghost Clan has managed to hack our way through it, but it ain’t pretty. As I struggle with my current WIP, I realize that I can’t rely on my own memory of an angsty adolescence as a point of reference because time has warped my sense of urgency and, surprisingly, healed some of the insecurity that is essential to that experience. So I write these characters with a fresh look at their hell. Determined to get to the “real” heart of it, I mark my son’s experience and learn from him what my soul struggles to remember because it has worked so hard to forget.
What kind of “wake-up” have you had recently that is influencing your writing?