Saddam, The Beatles, and Ewok Ice Skates Are Coming, but Sometimes Pictures Are Not Enough

April 8, 2010

The greatest and most important problems in life are all in a certain sense insoluble. They can never be solved, but only outgrown.
• Carl Jung

Much of my work as an artist and writer focuses on the blending of verbal-visual genres. I cannot say what I want to say using only one medium. I’d fully intended to insert pictures today, but then I found something that reminded me of the importance of other kinds of ephemera to evoke a particular time or place.

I’m working on an exhibit, “Flaming Youth,” that focuses on teenagers and societal views of adolescence across time. As I begin each Collectory project, I start with a file folder into which I put quotations as well as pertinent images. “Flaming Youth” long ago became a bookshelf full of related materials since I’ve been working on gathering things for almost two decades. I have books and videos and majorette boots and old yearbooks and a letter sweater and lots and lots of stuff that I’ll use as part of the exhibit.

Mostly stuff just accrues until I begin working actively on a particular show. Sometimes things fit into more than one category. The essay I’m including today was filed with another exhibit, “The Arts of Peace,” and I found it serendipitously while searching for something else. Life is full of such accidents.

I wrote this essay in English at the start of my junior year of high school many years ago. Note that I have used “he,” the universal convention at the time, even though I am a young woman writing about my life. I have also used “one” rather than the more personal first person—the only teacher markings on my paper remind me of these conventions when I accidentally lapse into I-ish-ness while expressing my thoughts. Even as a teenager, I loved semi-colons:

I’m Glad I’m a Teenager [I suspect from my response that this was an assigned topic. And shouldn’t the assignment have been “One Is Glad He Is a Teenager?”]

I’m glad that I’m a teenager? Why should I be? The teen years are not the carefree years they’re supposed to be. The teenager is not “happy-go-lucky.” He can’t be. Why. . . . .because, for one thing, the teen years are in-between years. One finds, if he is a teenager, that there are many things he is to old to do; yet, on the other hand there are things he is not old enough to do. If this is not enough to frustrate the teenager, he finds that he must grow up in a world his parents made.

The teenager of today has never known anything but war or threats of war; he has grown up with fear of Communism embedded in his mind. No wonder our teen years cannot be our happiest years when we don’t even know if we will live to see the end of them. This is not our fault.

The world isn’t in the state it’s in because of teenagers. Yet the teenagers of today will be the adults of tomorrow; we will have to try to straighten out the mess made by our parents. This is enough to worry us, but still people try to insist that teenagers don’t care. One begins to think, from reading the newspapers, that all teenagers do is get into trouble.

Our main problem is the fact that teenagers are old enough to worry about the world situation, but not old enough to do anything about it.

I am still trying to figure out the world and my place in it. I am still wondering how to make a difference. I still feel that most of the things that happen in the world are beyond my control. Sometimes I feel as though life is perpetual adolescence with increased responsibility and accountability and a heightened awareness of the consequences—intended and unintended—that accompany every choice. But perhaps that’s maturity.

Do you prefer to communicate using words or images or a blending of both?

Adolescents are not monsters. They are just people trying to learn how to make it among the adults in the world, who are probably not so sure themselves.
• Virginia Satir (1988),
The New Peoplemaking


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