I’m reading Marjorie Corbman’s A Tiny Step Away From Deepest Faith (Paraclete Press, 2005). Marjorie was 17 when she wrote the book (she’s now about 18). She speaks eloquently of her own spiritual journey and reflects on the longings of her generation. “We aren’t happy,” she says. “We take Zoloft and cut open our flesh and do anything to assure us that we’re here, that we feel, that our experience is valid and tangible. There’ something sick in a culture where prosperity is chased by suicide. We’re bored and lonely and we don’t care about anything anymore, while we still worship everything. Our emotions are not silly and they are not immature. On the contrary, they are surprisingly mature, and though not all of us have the eloquence to describe the depth of our feelings, nevertheless we feel strongly and in pure concentrations. The problem is not, as has been posited, that we are shallow, but that we cannot be shallow, that our inner experience is too strong to deny; too loud and too demanding.”
Many I’ve talked to who have read the book have a hard time believing it was actually written by a teen. I’m sure Marjorie has been hearing this a lot from readers. She is remarkably well-read. She is able to “hit the nail on the head,” approaching her questions without the superficiality I so often hear in media and in movements. Her depth comes, I think, from a willingness to stand alone, to disagree, to find what is really true for her, not just what is “supposed” to be true.
And like me, she ended up in the Orthodox Church. She wound up there through a route that is at once completely different from my own and achingly similar – a desire to dispense with the superficial and with posing and to immerse myself in the real and authentic.
But I wanted to talk about teenagers. I’ve got three now, my third child having just become 13. I’ve named my daughter Jane for this blog. She’s 18. My 16-year-old son could be Maverick. (Sometimes I’m filled with pain when I think of him – yet he’s so amazing, compassionate, kind and brilliant. He’s choosing a path that would not be my path for him. Really, he’s only trying to figure out who he is, and what his place is in the world.)
My youngest teen I’ll call Taran. He always strikes me as a visionary, mulling things over, drawing about them. He used to mumble all the time, but now he’s beginning to speak out, to talk back to me even. I call him on it, but I also like it.
My 9-year-old I’ll name later. He’s got his own personality and story, but today I’m talking about the teens.
Jane is with me today as we’re in Canada on a trip. She’s waiting patiently for me to finish so we can go shopping. (We went shopping yesterday and I concluded that I don’t need new clothes; I need a new body.)
The problem is that a teen is at a crossroads where he or she must separate from his parents. It makes me wish I was more shallow so that my teens could separate from that.
Now that I’ve written that, I see a bit of what’s wrong here: I think I’ve arrived. I think I’ve reached the pinnacle of spiritual understanding and that if my teens would simply follow what I’ve learned, they’d be all right for the rest of their lives. I’m afraid that if my teens do not simply listen to what I say and do it, they’ll wind up with a superficial understanding of the world. I’m afraid they’ll reject searching for meaning because it’s what I’m doing all the time. And they want to be less like me, not more.
Somehow I haven’t got it quite right here and I think it has something to do with trust. But sitting here with my daughter waiting for some actual time with me, I think I need to just go shopping and talk about the shampoo we just bought and the new skirt and the shoes. There’s something there that I am missing.