The misery of being young in America today


I grew up in a quiet place. Our house was on a road that had no name. My brothers and sister and I rode our bicycles, played Zelda and Monopoly, and built forts in the woods. As a teenager I read Stephen King and John Milton with equal enthusiasm, picked up Led Zeppelin LPs at the local thrift store, got bad grades, and wrote novels and poems on a typewriter. Taking a desultory interest in politics, I read a lot of antiwar.com and became a Marxist. I fell in love reasonably often. The “future” was not something with which I ever concerned myself, except in a dreaming romantic sort of way, and it certainly never occurred to me that anything I did or did not do would have any bearing on whatever my life would be even a few years hence.

My children are growing up along more or less similar lines, I think, though I do hope that they will at least be spared the pains of enthusiasm for the author of Capital. My 2-year-old rides her tricycle and swims in the orange and yellow leaves in our front yard and occasionally watches a Disney tape.

I wonder how common my girls’ experience will be among other children their age. Because if the reporting of our papers of record is any indication, millions of children in this country are absolutely miserable.

The New York Times reported recently that hospital admissions for suicidal children have doubled. Some 40 percent of teenagers have said in recent surveys that they “felt overwhelmed by all I had to do” in the past year. Overwhelmed by what? By an anxiety about their futures that it is utterly alien to my experience and, I suspect, that of millions of other Americans my age and older who grew up outside major metropolitan areas and were not solidly middle class.

I knew lots of sad children when I was growing up, but theirs was a private misery of a sort that has never been too remote from human experience. They were miserable because they were poor, because their parents took drugs and drank too much and beat them, and because in all likelihood they were going to be bad parents for more or less the same reasons to their own equally miserable children in a few years’ time.

The misery of these kids today is a different sort of affair.

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Source:: Lifestyle – The Week

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