This post is part of Fusion's Teen Month series, a month-long dive into the lives, loves, and language of teenagers.
The season of fresh tears/Comes only to those who call
In the year 2000, I was a chubby 13-year-old with a love of velour pants and oversized t-shirts. My parents had just announced that we were moving from New Zealand to Australia, and I was not happy. Maybe that’s what got me started writing poetry. Maybe it was that first crush on a skinny white boy named Ryan*. Or maybe it was just the season of fresh tears, you know?
Whatever it was, I took a look back to figure out what was going through that 13-year-old mind, sending my poor mum off to find the box of journals packed away in her garage somewhere. She came back with some gems of teen ingenuity:
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With Silverchair’s Neon Ballroom on constant repeat in the background, there were a few things on this teen’s mind in the early 2000s, at least if we believe the poetry: mostly boys, bullies and…trees?
The journey had been long, painful/But it was a prize worthwhile/of those tedious efforts/across blazing hot sands/and hazardous mountain peaks, she had roamed/in search of one other, to make her whole.
The classic, crossing-the-desert-to-reach-your-beloved moment. The one that every sensitive teen has to face at some point. More likely, the skinny white boy named Ryan* was actually a pretty insignificant detail in a moment of burning angsty glory heavily influenced by Shakira's "Whenever, Wherever."
But there were more skinny white boys named Ryan* to come, and they inspired just as much epic devotion in stacks of journals all the way through another seven mortifying years of teen poetry.
There were late nights writing poetry and reading it over the phone to my best friend, in exchange for her own (slightly better) poetry about boys, bullies and in her case railing against the overbearing evangelical church. There was a spot on the back porch to sit with the cat and write about feelings.
Things that set off a lot of feelings: the school bus, the shopping mall, the park next door. The steps behind City Hall where I went through a brief phase of smoking menthols with some other teens before realizing cigarettes made me cough and I hated them. Not winning student elections, although I didn't actually run in them. Running at school in general. 9/11. My love for Depeche Mode.
And definitely mean girls. One who was probably the target of The season of fresh tears, part two:
Who knew, but you/that deep inside your soul/so deep that even I could not reach and see it whole/there was a deep trail burning/a plot preparing to reveal/to all, including I, who loved you/how your heart was depleting.
Why? Oh, why? And yes, the word "deep" appears three times in that poem. But this teen was worried about bigger things, too. Like how our thoughts are filled mainly with idiocy, and the trees are suffering because of it:
Look at these things we've built/destroying trees and hills/we've killed the things which god wanted to live/The purpose of our exhistance/has drifted far away/and our thoughts are filled/mainly with idiocy.
Which could partly be blamed on a developing obsession with this Jeff Buckley song about how society is, like, totally messed up, and the sky is a landfill.
Some teenagers actually write pretty good poetry, less reminiscent of Shakira lyrics circa 2001. But there is something to be said for figuring out boys and bullies and trees in journals full of free verse. As one thirteen-year-old once wrote, truth–it is a beautiful word.
* something like Ryan, anyway. Sadly skinny white boy's actual name is lost forever.