A lot of people … especially a lot of creative and/or famous types … characterize their teen years as the most painful, horrific time in their lives. I understand this to a certain extent, because it gives their life story a cinematic “Rocky”-esque sense of triumph for whatever success they’ve eked out. But this wasn’t my experience. My teen years weren’t a bed of roses, but they weren’t terrible either. I wasn’t “popular” per se, but I wasn’t unpopular. I wasn’t an object of lust, but I remember a few not unattractive girls giving me hints that they may have liked me-liked me (the fact that I didn’t figure this out until years later is the tragic part of that story). Some people were d–ks to me on occasion, but overall, I wasn’t picked on or harassed. I had friends in different cliques and while I wasn’t a part of any of them, I didn’t feel like I was crashing any party by associating with them. My high school experience was about as average (and as healthy) as one could expect.
My early 20s were a different story. They didn’t completely suck, but my early 20s were, for the most part, a really f–king painful and horrible time. I think one’s 20s are arguably different than one’s teen years. Because when you’re a teenager, as much as things suck, you have a great sense of hope. You haven’t made any mistakes yet. You have the safety net of your parents, friends, hometown, etc. There’s a lot of potential that hasn’t been tapped or realized. In your teens, nothing is expected of you, other than to make decent grades, not get into too much trouble, and to be on a path to eventually become a productive member of society.
On the other hand, your early 20s (especially your post-college years) are when you actually have to deliver on that stuff. You’re either on your own … struggling to make rent / car / student loan payments and having “relationships” with people who are just as confused and conflicted as you are … or you’re back living at home, trying to do the same thing. Neither scenario is conducive to any sense of self-esteem, though the latter scenario is arguably, worse.
If you’re a guy, unless you’ve got some cool job, you have a cool post-graduate field of study (medicine, law, MBA), or you’re still attached to a college sweetheart, your dating life will suck. Most of the unattached single gals your age are typically dating older guys who have established themselves in some respect (For the young guys who want to feel some misguided, but vaguely misogynistic “revenge” for this scenario, the pyramid does invert when you get older … provided you’ve … well .. established yourself in some capacity. If you’re still living with Mom at age 33, let’s just say that you’re going to have to work a bit harder to be considered a “chick magnet”). To be entirely honest and fair about my post-collegiate drought, I can’t say that I was much of a catch in those days. Now that I’m in my more world-weary early 40s, I can say with confidence that most guys in their early 20s are more than a little douchey.
Anyway, the entire reason I bring this up is that this song by Green Day, released during the time of my greatest angst circa 1994, just about epitomizes the malaise of the first half of my early 20s. I’m also curious if other people feel the same way as I do about their 20s … or if they felt their teenage years sucked more. I don’t think I’m an authority by any means, but I do wonder, especially since so many people feel their teen years are the worst years of their lives.
P.S. The latter half of my 20s went considerably better. But that’s another story.