the worst thing that ever happened…as told by a teenager

I volunteered with teens for over 9 years and worked professionally with them in some capacity for 6.

I’ve spent a lot of time around teens.

And they bugged me some times.

One of the most annoying scenarios I would run into was around relationships. Specifically a break up.

“HE WAS THE LOVE OF MY LIFE!!!!! HOW DO I GO ON?!?!?!”

“You’ve known him for 2 weeks.”

“ITS TIME SPENT TOGETHER!! NOT JUST HOW LONG I’VE KNOWN THEM!!! THIS IS THE WORST THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO ME!!”

“You’ll get over it”

“NO I WON’T!!! I LOVED HIM!!! I FEEL LIKE I’M GOING TO DIE!!!”

My initial reaction would be to roll my eyes and talk about how this isn’t really a big deal (I got better over the 9 years, I swear I didn’t always suck). Life will get so much harder and this won’t even register in a few years (like I got a loooooot better).

What I failed to realize at the start was that this break up was in most cases the actual worst thing that had ever happened to them. Their teens. For the most part their lives had been good and they hadn’t been involved in a lot of pain and suffering. Sure it would come with time like it does for everyone but they had yet to experience most of it.

So they reacted like anyone would to the worst thing that has ever happened, they had a meltdown.

From my perspective I couldn’t get my head around it to start. Why was this such a big deal? Didn’t they see how hard life is and how much ‘real’ pain is coming. Such a sunny disposition for someone working with youth.

Part of that was my experience. My life got complicated when my dad was diagnosed with cancer. I was 12. I didn’t have a teenage experience without the reality of life and death hanging over it. So break ups were hard but my dad could die at any moment. Break ups were in a different perspective for me.

And this is so easy for us to do and it doesn’t just apply to teens. To see a situation through our experience not the experiencer. To, like I did as a young youth worker not see that while in my context this experience may not be the worst for the person experiencing it, it’s the literal worst thing that has ever happened and they need the space and freedom to have the experience.

They can’t place their experience in a context they’ve never had.

It’s their experience not ours. We just love.

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