Have you ever thought about redesigning your day? I’ve certainly found myself wishing my commute were shorter and have fantasized about what I could get done if I could fast forward through certain parts of a meeting. As a mom, I’m always trying to find the right balance between work life and being present with my young daughter. I expect these pressures, though; I’m an adult; It comes with the territory of being a working mom in Silicon Valley. As part of our work in teen mental and emotional well-being, we recently hosted a workshop with Bay Area teenagers to learn about their priorities, stressors, and support systems. I was shocked that many of the things I struggle with in adulthood are what they deal with as teenagers.
We asked teens how they might redesign their day – no limits. One young woman said she would teleport everywhere because traffic is so bad and sucks up so much of her time. (I hear ya on that one, girl!) Almost everyone said they would eat dinner earlier, so they could start homework earlier, and have more time to relax and go to bed before midnight. (Yep, I’ve had the same exact thought as I’m just getting dinner in the oven at 7:30 at night.) Another young woman scheduled out her day and when we added up the hours, her day totaled up to 48 hours. She literally needed 48 hours to do everything she needed to do in one 24-hour day.
Let’s take a moment to put that into perspective. This girl is 15-years-old, a sophomore in high school. She isn’t old enough to drive, to vote, to even see an R-rated movie, and she’s already thinking about what she needs to do to get into the college of her choice – volunteer hours, summer internships, keeping up her GPA, joining the right clubs, having the right balance of academics and activities, oh and don’t forget about keeping up with friends and having a social life. That’s a lot to manage.
We also learned that social media plays a big role in keeping up with friends. Snapchat and instagram were ways to both keep up and communicate with friends. We learned that family is a big support system for these teens. Quite honestly, that was one of the few things that actually felt like a positive report from this focus group. As a mom, hearing what these teenagers were dealing with alarmed me. The stressors seem more intense than when I was in high school, the pressures and competition are out of control. It makes the need to address their mental and emotional well-being seem even more urgent.
I was amazed and grateful that these young people were so willing to be open and honest with us. To talk about really vulnerable things with strangers. I think they hope that sharing their stories will help make it better for others. And if this experience helps them write a kick-ass college admissions essay, then that’s ok with me too.