The Burden of Being Young

Some weeks ago we were walking through the woods – and I suddenly got the flashback of my adolescence. We were visiting friends outside of Oslo and took a walk to the beach. Through the woods which went up and down, with a little river and a bridge over it. This spot brought a vivid memory of a similar place in other woods – in the village where my grandmother lived. I walked there, some 14 years old, and that place seemed just charming to me. Why? Because I thought, it would look perfect in the photo. At that time my pictures could be taken by the old black-and-white analog camera, difficult in use. Why did I want those photos? Passion for photography at such a young age?

No, it was not the passion for art. It was a wish to show something to my classmates. And how did I get inspired? So, there was this popular girl in our class, Irina, and in the back of her day-book (an obligatory book where we noted our schedule, homework and the teacher put our marks into it) she had some chocolate wrapping papers and photos. Yes, we were showing each other the papers of sweets we ate. Asking each other: “Did you try Mars? Did you try Snickers?”

Burden of being young

And those black-and-white photos featured Irina in a jeans skirt somewhere in the nature, over fallen trees and waters. So, when I saw the woods in my grandmother’s village, I knew it would make that perfect location. I just needed some chocolate papers.

I was a teenager in the wild 90s which were really wild in that place which was left after the USSR had fallen. The old big country collapsed, its whole system too, and the new countries were starting a new order of things. Half-politicians, half-criminals were re-dividing the national riches under given circumstances (which were chaotic). Some got really rich. Many became really poor. Both of my parents lost their jobs. My mom started working on the market, selling all different kind of stuff in all kinds of weather.

When our neighbor complained that they had to survive on potatoes and eggs, we laughed after she left. Potatoes and eggs sounded like luxury to us. We were eating lots of pearl barley, the cheapest cereal on the market, with the tomato sauce, that is: tomato pasta plus fried onions. We ate it for so long, that when one December my mom announced: “Ok kids, there gonna be no more barley this year”, we cheered. Only to realize that “this year” was only three weeks left.

So, you can understand, why I never tried Snickers or Mars, so heavily advertised, by the way, in my young years. There was no budget for meat or eggs, let alone chocolate. One year, though, before New Year’s Eve my mom bought some sausages, eggs and cookies. Ahh, that was the cheerful season! And once my mom got a chocolate wrapping paper from Greece (don’t ask me how, long story) – and I was so proud to put it in the end of my day-book. It didn’t make me more popular, but then I didn’t know that being cool was not all about chocolate wraps and photos in the woods.

Now, walking through the Norwegian wood made me all philosophical and asking questions. There was I once – and my classmates competing in how many types of chocolate they have tried. There we have the today’s youngsters who follow bloggers and copy their unhealthy lifestyle of flashy glamour and plastic surgery.

It is a huge theme in Norwegian cultural scene. Or better say, there are two. First, bloggers and their, mostly young, followers. Second, the broader society ringing alarm about the influence of the bloggers. How can they run so much sponsored content without informing about it? How can they influence our kids and deny their effects, calling it “I just have my online diary”? How can they profit on destroying the self-esteem of the young generation?

(I guess, this cry is even louder here in Scandinavia that once could so proudly boast of the advance of feminist ideals. How can it be that their daughters become so preoccupied with their appearances, trying to look like glamorous bimbos? The image their mothers were fighting against, in all their words and old jeans?)

While I don’t want in any way to protect the bloggers and their ways – I ask myself: can we blame it all on them? The weakness of the self-esteem among youngsters? Their wish to copy the best and brightest, no matter whom they find so? Their effort to get approval by conforming the peer culture?

If we didn’t have Instagram, Snapchats and numerous influencers – would our youngsters run around, free and happy? Would they not suffer from social exclusion and low self-esteem and the wish to do anything so that they can feel belonging and social accept?

I was a teen before all this digital craze. And yes, it does things worse. But I ask you: can you remember how it was to be a young person? Even if it was 20 years ago (and yes, it is scary to admit it, and please, don’t consider me a grandmother :))). Because I still remember. And gosh, I am so thankful, I am done with that period. That period of the strongest insecurity, not knowing if you fit in any social circle, an intense urge to belong – and zero ideas of how to do it. If I could find any blogger whose advice I would follow – I would surely do it (including some consumption or boob operation). But – was it better for me without bloggers? There was still this popular Irina and her unachievable army of chocolate wraps.

This is my point. If we didn’t have teen bloggers, would it be so much better? Sure, our kids would not compare their chocolate wraps – but don’t you think, they would find something to compare? Something to feel inadequate about? Something to get the low self-esteem from?

This is my question. Is it, maybe, the destiny of being young? Its karma, if you want to call it so? To fight for your position in the social circles: to slowly realize that you are no kid anymore – and have a tough time figuring out who you are and where you can belong. And do whatever it takes to be cool and get that social accept you need so badly. Black-and-white photos in the woods or glamorous Instagram feed. Chocolate wrapping papers or expensive bags (or lip fillers).

What do you think of teen bloggers and their audience? And what are your memories of your teen years?

 

17 thoughts on “The Burden of Being Young

  1. Lovely post, Marina, I so enjoyed reading about your 90’s memories!
    True, teens would find (bad) influences elsewhere. I also think of the Kardashians who are so popular. Many blonde Finns want to suddenly have dark hair and a bigger butt! 😀
    I remember the social acceptance issue was big as a teen, always calculating who is popular today and who isn’t. Cruel actually! I guess it prepares us for adulthood though. Competing for jobs, dating until we meet someone compatible, etc.
    My 90’s wasn’t glamorous either, though we did have more to eat than you – I felt sorry reading about your meals! Finland was hit with a bad economic recession back then and it affected our family too. All the other kids at school wore nice clothes and I had hand-me-downs that I didn’t get to choose myself! Nowadays I’m very picky about my style! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Snow! It was fun writing about them too :)) I even wished to do more memory posts 🙊
      I guess, it is like you say: preparing the youngs for the grownup life. We are social animals after all, this is our modern type of initiation, so to say 😆 getting into the world of keeping up with Kardashians 😂
      Oh yes, I also had to wear my parents’ clothes (and luckily I considered it cool since I was a hippie). And some second hand stuff. After all I got very peculiar about old stuff. I’d better buy cheap but new Ikea or H&M than in some second hand store. They are trendy here now, but not for me 🙊😆
      How do you feel about second-hand things?

      Liked by 2 people

    • Never understood why so many Finnish kids were naturally blonde but the adults had darker hair, when I was living there! 🙂 Guess it’s a global thing – we strive for what we don’t have. Having fair complexion is extremely popular in South Asia (including Nepal), and I suffered in my teenage years because of wanting to be few shades lighter and dwelling too much on it! All the popular girls had lighter complexion after all!
      I couldn’t care any less now (thankfully) and actually love my naturally tan complexion, and how it’s so sun-friendly hehehe.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Yes, I guess many Finns want darker hair… also the dream guy for most single ladies here seems to be dark-haired, not blond 😀 But I also have to say that sometimes blond hair turns darker as you age. My hair also changes color with the weather 😂If I spend a couple of months somewhere sunny, it’ll become almost white. But if I have several sunless years in Finland’s eternal winter, my hair gets a very boring dark color that isn’t brown, it’s a bit greyish I guess. When it’s that color, you would need severe treatment to get it blond at the hairdresser’s so I guess many opt for darker hair colors to make it look nicer… I’ve never dyed my hair darker (and never will, it wouldn’t suit me at all!) but the sun does cure this boring grey hair problem much better than hairdressers’ colors! 🙂
        Anyway, I do love a tanned complexion so lucky you! I think the prettiest skin color is probably hispanic and I would love to have wavy or curly hair instead of super straight! 😀
        We all want what we don’t have, you are so right!

        Liked by 2 people

      • And I understand those ladies! :))
        I also love the hispanic image. My ideal since youth has been Enrique Iglesias. then I added Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem to my beauty canon. And guess what guess who, I ended up with the dark Spanish-type man, with the energy and drama included in the package :)))
        We are like these curious monkeys, of course, we just have to wish for what we don’t have :))

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, sometimes I myself cannot believe my luck. I used to jump around saying “dreams come true” (but with the amount of dreams I have dreamt this is not difficult, I guess, I covered every scenario in my dreams, haha).

        Liked by 1 person

      • I find it a part of natural process. All Norwegian kids are blond too, but with the age they change their color naturally. It turns some shades darker.
        It is true that we all want the deficit thing. And why would we want what is easy, hehe? I was so obsessed by the idea of getting artificial tan. I was white as a snow, and tan was all luxury for me. Never happened though :)) Had to accept my paleness))
        While on the other side of globe girls use creams to make their skin lighter. And some kids here get problems from solariums. Yepp, it is a part of being a human kid, I guess :)) Striving for the difficult goals))

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Lovely post, Marina. I enjoyed reading about your 90s memories. Teenage years are such cringeworthy period in most people’s lives. I sure don’t miss any of it. When I was growing up in Nepal. I remember I wanted to permanently straighten my hair like all the other popular girls in the school. It was pretty expensive to do so and my parents would never agree to such extravagence especially since I must have been only about 13. I did eventually straighten my hair (lasted about a year or two) when I went on a trip to Japan, all sponsored by my parents, so I was very happy. My older teenge years were awkward, I was introduced to the metal scene and became quite unsocial and disconnected myself from the popular people and started wearing dark clothing, attending metal concerts, making inappropriate boyfriends etc. I am so glad that the period is over! And I love my naturally wavy hair, and rarely straighten it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Pooja! Wow, so much fuss about the hair. I had strong ideas about my hair too)) I wanted to dye it blond. Good, that I never did.
      Yeah, I agree on this: glad that the period is over))
      And curly hair rules!!!

      Like

  3. First of all, a lovely, honest and heart-felt post. Thank you!

    Second, I relate but also not. I was collecting gum and candy wrappers but not to show them to anybody. I just liked my collection. I would pick them off the ground too. On those rare days when we went abroad, especially to Italy, which was maybe twice a year, I made sure to buy different kinds of chewing gum (plus a deodorant, a shirt, maybe sneakers). We also went skiing abroad for a week each year, which put me in the more well-to-do section. But I never bragged about it and always kept my wishes low.

    I was maybe fifth from the end popularity-wise in my class, and I still know the order how we would be picked for sports teams. It bugged me to a degree, but I was too smart and outspoken and I never wished doing what the popular kids did (smoke, drink etc.) I wouldn’t mind dating though, but the boys I was so in looooove with didn’t wish to have anything to do with me (other than play basketball).

    In puberty I had all sorts of problems, body-wise – severe acne, was overweight, unruly hair, developed too soon – so I put all this behind me early and searched my cool elsewhere. I liked borrowing my parents’ clothes, first my mom’s shiny outfits and earrings, and then dad’s long coat, vests, jeans jacket.

    Third, luckily I don’t have any offspring because I truly cannot imagine having a child growing up in these circumstances. I have a man and it’s quite enough in this regard. :p

    And last, excuse me, it’s not related, I just wish to make sure you know of this, if you’re still in Norway:

    I heard them live last year in Slovenia and was blown away. Such a positive and high-energy evening! Highly recommended. And the name? Dubioza kolektiv. Juhuuu!

    21.09: Rockefeller / John DEE / Sentrum Scene, OSLO, NO
    22.09: KICK Nattklubb & Scene, KRISTIANSAND, NO

    Like

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