Teens have the hardest job in the world.
I say that with complete honesty and sincerity. It’s hard to be a teen. Every moment is full of confusion. You think you should have answers, but the questions you’re asked rarely make sense.
Adults question what you want to do with your life and then dismiss your answer, saying few teens end up in the career they originally planned to study.
If adults think any answer to the question is wrong, why ask it in the first place?
It took many years, but I now know the answer, at least more than I did previously. Adults ask that question and others like it because the awareness gained in forming an answer to a complex question is often more important than the answer itself.
You’ve helped me learn that.
Over the past 10 years, I’ve had the honor of sharing my perspective on the teen experience and have provided what limited insight that I can from a viewpoint that is rapidly distancing itself from the moments you’re living today.
Writing every other week about teens and the challenges they face has kept me feeling young and connected me to both my past and future in ways that are hard to imagine, let alone describe.
Now it’s time for me to step away, but before I do, there are final thoughts I wish to share.
With every column, I’ve had people assisting me, some knowingly and some so far removed they may still not know, nor ever know, how much inspiration they’ve inspired.
First, I must thank the editors I’ve served over the years. It began with Carole Norris Greene, who gave me the opportunity to speak with you and who encouraged me to focus on the inspirational successes of specific teens around the world.
When Carole retired, Rhina Guidos stepped in and challenged me to focus on more personal stories. Finally, for the past year, Anna Capizzi has tweaked and streamlined my words as all good editors do, to ensure the presentation you read matches the vision and inspiration in my head.
Over the years, many friends have inspired my thoughts, whether we still remain connected or not. For those who appear in memories of my youth, I always tried to accurately reflect the true reality. Those moments are precious to me and impact me still today. Any mistakes in recollection are solely mine.
Finally, for most of my tenure as a columnist, I’ve been blessed to work in a field outside of Catholic News Service in which I consistently interact with teens and youth. Observing their experiences always reminds me how much life has changed from my time as a teenager, but also how much it remains the same. They will continue to inspire me.
Moving forward in the years to come, I will once again relive the teen years from yet another perspective. When I began writing this column, I was a new father with a 1-year-old child. Today, my daughter will soon become a teen herself and my son, born several years into the column’s existence, is more than halfway there as well.
While I will no longer be writing to you, I intend to continue sharing my perspective with them. I’m sure my thoughts will be met by much eye rolling, but think it’s important for every person, teen or not, to constantly hear a voice that says, “You are not alone.” No matter how dark it feels, no matter how much pressure you face, you are capable of handling everything that comes your way.
Teens have the hardest job in the world, but as I go, let me share with you the one thing I know with absolute certainty.
You got this.
Erick Rommel works for a nonprofit youth organization. He can be reached at Erick.Rommel@gmail.com.