Walking into a Shopping Mall, I saw a teenage girl, sitting on the stairs, almost leaning, and talking on cell phone continually…
“You’ve been lying, all the time…,” She seemed to be doing all the talking, uninterrupted. Just a passing side glance, I could notice her South Asian look.
A few steps ahead, and I could clearly hear, “I am going to kill myself, if…”
Not sure of what she said after If… I turned back. She was a girl in her mid teens, with tattoos, piercings and dressed a typical teen, with a clear Canadian accent.
I had to gather some courage to walk up to her and ask, “Can I talk to you for a minute?”
She was shocked, and gave an angry look.
I faked a brave smile, “I know you are upset. I was concerned; when I heard you say you wanted to be dead.”
She put off her phone and bothered to reply, “Yes.”
“Lets go to Tim Hortons, have coffee, and talk.” She kept walking without actually hearing me, but just complaining about various situations in which he’s cheated.
“I understand. I know it’s tough.” I was carefully watching my words, not to sound indulgent, or make it worse for her.
Her cell rang again. She replied, “F*** you, why the hell are you calling. Go to hell.”
“Do your parents know about him?”
“They know that I have a boyfriend, and they don’t really like it. They don’t care how I feel.”
“Well I care, that you don’t harm yourself and that should share with anyone you trust, will understand you.”
“Yes my girl friends know it.” I could feel she got a bit calmer.
“See, life is not easy, and such turmoil comes in the life of every teen. I may have also gone through the same in my teens. But anything that doesn’t kill us makes us wiser.”
She was listening to me for the first time.
“I know you will get over this. Everyone does.”
“Yes, just be strong, and don’t think, anyone or anything is worth ending a life.”
She was reluctant to share her friends, parents or her own number. So I offered if she would take my cell and call me whenever she felt really bad, or angry. She readily saved it in her cell.
While still queued up for coffee, she said, that she needed to go, and “Its okay, I was just a bit too angry.”
”I want you to call me, if you ever get so angry again. Or share it with a friend or a counselor in the school. Let me hug you, if you don’t mind.”
She smiled, we hugged.
She turned back, in a totally desi accent said, “Thank You Auntie.”
This happened almost 5 months ago. I never heard from her, nor do I know of her well being. Just a gut feeling that she must have moved on.
Talking to some desi colleagues, they wondered how I actually dared to intervene in a rebellious teenager’s issue, without being shouted back.
Almost a month ago, in a meeting, a friend, working for a Youth and Children’s charity, actually raised a serious issue of a trend of South Asian teens leaving home, due to extreme family pressures, and then rebelling against the culture, not willing to be identified as South Asians, out of vengeance. Adding to the gravity of the situation, it is hard to find SA families, willing to house them for rehabilitation, or even get Psychologists and Psychiatrists of SA descent who will be culturally sensitive in understanding their issues. They ultimately end up hating their ethnic identity.
With reference to the above incident, a friend recently, requested me to talk to a rebellious girl, who had made ‘various threats’ to her mother, but the family does not want the issue to go out of the house.
I offered to talk to the girl, (who was in her late teens), first. Although initially very reluctant and arrogant, she agreed to share that she was jilted by a boyfriend, and the parents instead of supporting her, taunt her for not listening to them, and “You deserved this,” attitude.
She began, “I hate my boyfriend. I hate my parents too.”
Me: “I understand, but hate is such a drain of energies. Stops you to see the logic.”
Her: “And f*** my parents tell me not to love.”
Me: “If hate blinds good things, love blinds faults too.”
Her: “WTF, shall we become a vegetable then?” And continued about her parents, “They are haters themselves. They don’t even love each other.”
I was clueless. However I realized instead of sermon, I needed to show understanding. And I repeated the same thing which I had said to the above girl, to my own kids several times, or almost to anyone in this situation, young or old:
“Such turmoil comes in the life of every teen. I may have also gone through the same in my teens. But anything that doesn’t kill us makes us wiser.”
The mother, had a list of complaints against her (one of her 3 children), of being very disobedient and “we did a great mistake bringing them here.”
Her tone was harsh, and she did not want to soften her attitude and that “if she did not listen, we will go back”.
No amount of explaining to “be understanding to your daughter in her troubled times, to win her back”, or that “they have rights too, and we can’t force them to our way of thinking” didn’t seem to work at all, so I chose to talk to the girl again.
The girl this time was much softer, and she did promise that she will not harm herself, or her mother. She agreed, “Okay” with a promise to call me back, or go to a counselor, if she felt enraged again.
However, it’s been a few days, and I haven’t heard from her either.
Looking back I was wondering we often call teenagers ‘stubborn’ but in my experience, even with my own kids, they are easier to handle, than the grown up adults. Only if we considered them as individuals and made efforts to understand their problems. They may seem trivial or impractical to us, but in a teenager’s life, such issues hold great emotional weightage.
I wonder if its the teenagers more stubborn or the adults?