Chapter 1: IT'S TOUGH BEING A TEEN
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
e. e. cummings
Don’t you think that it’s hard enough being a young budding teenager? Well try being ‘more different’ than everyone else. I know almost every teen believes he is different in some form or another, yet many teens try their best to not be a ‘social outcast’ because if you are, then you are DOOMED.
Like many kids my age, and I’ll use that term loosely, as it stretches through many different ages from almost eleven to as old as 16 plus, I was really surprised when I could feel the changes coming.
I was 13 when I started to really notice my body changing, later than some, but definitely earlier than many. Like poor Jimmy Gilmour, who at 16 is still seemingly waiting for that ‘change’ to come through. At 16, Jimmy is still only about 5′2” and sounds like a squeaky mouse who is tumbling through a blender when he talks. Of course not all of us are as lucky as Jean-Francis Labell who at 11 was already walking around with a moustache that rivalled my father’s attempts to grow facial hair.
It was about a week after my 13th birthday that I truly started to notice the ‘changes’ happening to me. My voice dropped from squeaky to somewhere between man and boy and the other usual changes started to progress. Like the other man-children who throughout my life I have called friends, we all basically started changing in some way. Enroute to adulthood, our bodies changed; we got ‘hair’ in secret places; our voices changed, and of course our interests changed. In our hearts we were still kids -- collecting comic books and hockey cards; however in our brains and bodies our interests were changing. We were starting to notice the opposite sex..
I tell you, it is a wondrous and yet very, very, VERY, confusing time to be a verging and bulging youth. Especially the way the so-called adults go on about how the easy it is to be young.
I wonder if any adults actually ever really know just how hard it is, or perhaps they spent their prepubescent youth doing everything they could to block out the horrors of being a ‘blossoming’ young adult.
It seems to me that adults these days paint the past with colourful brush strokes of exaggeration. Their ‘stories’ seem to be bigger; their games more important, their journey to school far more treacherous than ours. Of course I am referring to the bare foot walk that consisted of travelling to school up hill both ways, often accompanied by a blizzard that even happened in the spring and summer months.
“Today’s youth have it easy!” is a line that is constantly heard in my town, uttered by Old Man Jacobs, the former mayor of our thriving metropolis. After nearly 50 years of being the mayor, Mr. Jacobs still gets up every morning, puts on a suit and shuffles down to the local coffee shop to meet with the locals to discuss, “the Generation of Degenerates that cascade through our streets like privileged ninnies.”
Naturally, I am considered to be in this band of misfits that Mr. Jacobs yammers on about, and he feels the need to remind me of this each time he sees me. I tell you, the joke has grown old. As I forge my way through the jungle of confusing changes, I think Mr. Jacobs is on a constant loop of loopiness. He repeats the same old jokes, the same old comments, as his mind plays more tricks on him. He’s like a ferris wheel -- constantly moving but going nowhere.
But wait! I haven’t told you yet why I consider myself to be so different from the hordes of hor-moan-ious child adults that surround me. I am sure that they all have fitting-in problems; boy/ girl, relationship problems and are trying to find themselves in that ever scary transition from having fun playing with toys to being an uncool kid for still playing with toys. The whole thing is just “blah blah blah.”
I know you are waiting patiently for me to finally spill the beans and tell you what makes me different from everyone else. So let me apologize for my seemingly endless ADHD issues and my scattered- brain way of explaining myself. Gee, I guess that makes me more like Mr.Jacobs than I could have ever thought. Interesting.
Anyway, what makes me different is my body. Not only am I having to start to shower more so my B.O. doesn’t make the flies die as they pass me, and accept all that other ‘good stuff’ that the progressing young adult-to-be has to suffer through, I have to deal with the fact that I was born with a birth defect, which has only appeared recently.
I woke up one morning and I noticed something strange with my body. I felt as though I had more quickness in my step. In a weird way it made me seem even more clumsy than normal. I was like Bambi discovering his legs for the first time! It was such a bizarre feeling. Luckily it was the summer and I hadn’t entered the 8th grade yet, so I had some time to try and figure out what was happening to me.
A short while later, after a non-typical, weird accident, my parents decided to take me to a doctor. I was out playing catch with my best friend, Petey Berry. We were just tossing the ball around and were chatting about some of the local girls who were ‘developing nicely’ as Petey put it. Petey then said, “Go long,” and with that he overthrew the football. I ran after it and jumped up to catch it. But instead of my usual, little non-athletic jump that most kids my age would attempt and often fail, I jumped and ended up landing over the fence right into my neighbour’s pool!
Petey was in shock. Wait a minute – PETEY was in shock? I was dazed and a little confused. What I thought would maybe result in a catch with semi-bragging rights, or a quickly dismissed “bad pass” no catch, was instead an incredible leap. I had just cleared a six foot privacy fence, and landed 10 feet away from the fence on the other side, splashing right into the deep end of a pool! And to top it all off I didn’t even catch the football.
I don’t know when or how I did it, but during the unexpected events, I had received a cut on my leg that according to my over-protective mother, needed stitches. She thought I was in shock from the cut on my leg, but that wasn’t it. I was trying to figure out what the heck had just happened. So armed with my mom’s homemade bandage of toilet paper, scotch tape and a bag of frozen peas, we headed to the hospital – Petey, of course, in tow.