When I was a teenager, I thought the happiest teens must be the ones who didn’t get acne. Or the ones who got excellent grades. Or perhaps the ones who had a lot of friends or a great wardrobe. Now I’m convinced I had it all wrong. Certainly clear skin, honor roll status and solid friendships help a kid feel better about himself in the roller-coaster teenage years. But it seems that teens who are passionate about an activity (excluding texting and other forms of screen viewing) may be the ones who are the happiest of all – or at least the most resilient.
Recently at my son’s high school baseball game in a neighboring town, I was prepared to be impressed by the powerhouse opponent his team faced. And I was not disappointed (except for the fact that my son’s team lost). Sitting in the bleachers, I wondered how this town always seemed to produce top notch sports teams… They did back when I was in high school and they continue to do so today. They even have music blasting over loud speakers in between innings…. And an announcer who would sound great at Fenway Park.
That announcer, my daughter pointed out to me, is Johnny, a boy she went to preschool with, fourteen years ago, who she remembers, happens to share her September 11th birthday. Now Johnny has a commanding voice and is doing what he loves: announcing at sports games. He’s been doing it since fifth grade, when he happily volunteered to fill in for an announcer at a Mighty Mites football game. Now a senior, he and his best friend Luke (who started up a sports advice site http://www.streakadvice.com/) will attend college in Alabama in September. They will take different routes to attain sports-related careers but they have already booked air time to host a sports radio show on campus this fall. Now that’s passion.
Even if a teen happens to love the challenge of reading Shakespeare and doing complex math problems (and I’m sure there are some who do), having a passion outside of school hours could make some of the daily challenges of high school – the coursework, the teen drama, the acne, the moodiness – feel less burdensome. Finding a passion could even lead to career ideas or opportunities. I went to high school with a girl whose love of sewing beginning in seventh grade home economics class, eventually lead to a successful career in fashion design.
A friend of mine was uncertain about her son’s interest in auto mechanic work. She and her husband earned advanced degrees and are now professionals working in medicine and law. When their son and a classmate from his vocational high school scored the highest in the state of Massachusetts in an automotive repair competition last year and qualified for a competition at the national level, she finally realized this type of hands-on work was his passion.
But what if a teen doesn’t seem to have a passion?
Not knowing what one’s passion is, is similar to not knowing what careers are out there. There are probably many that are suitable for each individual but until they are discovered, they can’t be tried.**
At my kids’ high school, an Ultimate Frisbee club has formed because enough kids expressed an interest in it. Where was this game when I was in high school? It’s obvious to anyone driving by, that these kids love their game.
Do my kids have passions? My tween enjoys soccer, lacrosse and cooking (breakfast food, that is). My son plays baseball, hockey and golf. And my soon-to-be college student enjoys singing and lately, scrapbooking. Will they make careers out of these passions? Maybe indirectly. Maybe not at all. Their passions may even change. But they may add some much-needed relief when life gets bumpy.
** Check out this site for hobbies you and your teen may not know about: