When I was 15, society didn’t consider me responsible or mature enough to drive a car, see an R-rated movie, or be at Mall of America after 7 p.m, among other things. But apparently I could handle the responsibility of life guarding and all it entails, including knowing how to properly operate an AED or treat a diabetic emergency, essentially leaving me responsible enough to save a life. When I tell adults of my responsibilities as a lifeguard, they think I’m joking. Despite what they think, just because I’m a teen doesn’t make me a reckless juvenile.
The typical teenage stereotype depicts us as rebellious, slightly unintelligent, pop culture-obsessed, and generally a bunch of rabble-rousers. Sure, there are teenagers who fit that profile, but those are the exception, not the rule. Most of the teens I know are able to make rational decisions when given the chance and have evolved beyond the maturity level of a sixth grader.
When I walk into Target without an adult, workers seem to think I’m an escaped convict. Store clerks subtly follow me around the store as though it is simply a matter of time until I completely explode, start shoplifting, and generally trash the store. I’m clearly not on the edge of a nervous break down—I just need some Q-tips.
And now that I have the privilege to drive a car, I am constantly badgered by adults and radio ads telling me that “teenagers drive like they’re missing part of their brain.” Because of this, I actually drive very cautiously, as do most of my friends. Fresh out of Drivers’ Ed, we know the rules of the road pretty well, for example if you divide the speed limit by ten, that is how many seconds the yellow light will last. But when I get in the car with my parents they roll through stop signs, don’t signal, turn into the wrong lane, speed, et cetera. Sure, I may be an inexperienced driver, but I’m not the one who drives “like they’re missing part of their brain.”
My peers and I are capable of feats of maturity that some adults wouldn’t conceive possible. From the simple act of not robbing and/or mugging every person I pass, to juggling school with ACT classes, sports, and extracurriculars, not all teens are trying to cause mayhem, and some of us are even trying to learn how to be productive members of society. I’m not saying that as a teenager I know everything, but I know more than most give me credit for.