Getting older March 9, 2013Posted by Teen Atheist in Ask Teen Atheist, family, friends, issues.
All throughout my youth, I dreamed of becoming a writer. I wrote all the time, about everything. I watched TV shows and ranted along with the curmudgeons on Television Without Pity about what each show did wrong, convincing myself that I could do a better job. I flew to America with a dream in my pocket: I’d study Dramatic Writing at NYU (because Philip Seymour Hoffman went there!) and become a television writer. I knew I could do it; all I had to do was want it badly enough.
Then I got to America, and found that there were millions of other people who were better writers than me. I realized I wasn’t a great writer after all, just an OK one. So I stopped writing.
It sounds a little sad — I’m sure it’d break the heart and hubris of my 17-year-old self — but I’m okay with it. It’s part of getting older. I’m thankful to be able to both recognize my limitations and accept them. Sure, it’s a little scary to suddenly not have a clear idea of what I want to do anymore, but part of growing up is learning about myself through experience.
I reread old blog entries on occasion, and I cringe a little (so much anger and drama and rambling in my teenage heart!), but I’m still proud of it. I’m glad I managed to capture the emotions in the eye of the storm, to document every moment of rejection from my parents. I’m only sorry I ran out of things to say, and sorry that I still have letters from teenage atheists out there that I haven’t responded to. When I stopped writing, I also stopped writing back.
So, teens and teens-at-heart who still check this dead blog, I’d like to tell you a bit of I learned in the process of getting older. I’m not much older, at 23, but I’m old enough to finally understand that there’s not really a point in life where I will be right about everything. (Don’t tell my 17-year-old self that.)
Things I Know Now:
- I can’t tell you if you should come out to your parents or not. But if you suspect your parents will lose their shit, there’s no shame in waiting until you’ve moved out to tell them. You’re not a coward, you’re their child and you shouldn’t have to deal with that conflict and potential abuse if you don’t feel prepared to handle it. Besides, it’s not like you were honest with them about your discovery of porn.
- If you’ve already told them, or if they found out, and they’re not handling it well, stay calm. If they try to throw every argument in the book at you, keep this response handy and repeat as necessary: “I’ve made my decision, and I am happy with it.” If they object right away, say, “That is your opinion. But I’ve made my decision, and I’m happy with it.” The calmer you are when you say this, the more effective it’ll be.
- Google is a useful tool. Read more about atheism. Look up forums and discussion groups where you can talk with and befriend fellow atheists, and laugh with them about how shitty your parents are being. Sometimes it helps just knowing you’re not alone.
- Being part of the atheist online community is a great way to befriend people of all age groups, which is an experience I recommend for all teens. Now, a lot of older people will either insist or imply that they know better than you. They’re not all right, but they’re not all wrong either.
- Telling your friends can be nerve-wracking, but that first time you find a friend who reacts with just, “OK” — it’s a pretty awesome moment. (And “Me too!” is even better!)
- Sometimes you’ll have friends who don’t agree with you. That’s fine — it’s pretty hard to make friends if you refuse to talk to anyone who isn’t an atheist. Just appreciate what you have in common with them, and accept that even if they’re wrong, they will never let you convince them that they’re wrong. I had a Republican roommate for a year, and the reason we got along well is because we never talked about politics. (Also, she owned the apartment, and cut me a HUGE break on rent. Good people.)
- That said, you can be a little choosier when it comes to who you date. I’ve found OKCupid to be a great way to meet fellow atheists, but don’t make an account if you’re not 18 yet!
- If you really have to, here are some questions you can ask a believer if you feel like being a smartass.
- In your teens it feels like your atheism is the biggest part of your identity because you have to defend it so often, but there will come a day where it’s just another part of your life. It gets better.
- You don’t know everything. You will never know everything. But keep learning anyway.