As teachers concerned about young people today, we composed some questions that we felt were crucial in helping us understand their processes of growing up. These questions were given to senior school students with the request that they think about them and give us some written responses. What emerged in their writings was a moving portrayal of a paradoxical age. It demands that we walk a fine line—for here are young people asking us to ‘hold me when I want to be held andleave me when I want to be left’—Eds.

The Questions

  • What influences you the most?
  • What troubles you?
  • What gives you joy and strength?
  • What do you look for from the adults around you?

What influences you the most?

I don’t think the word ‘influence’ is either good or bad. It does change the kind of person I am though. I used to adjust myself (and maybe still do) accordingly to what my friends like and dislike; it isn’t such a problem to adjust to them because, in turn, what I am I seem to like... I’ve been spending a lot of time with my friends lately…There is always some quality that they have and I don’t, and I wish I had it. This is how I getinfluenced unconsciously, without the slightest notion of doing so.

Many things influence me. The media to some extent, movies, newspapers, songs. Mainly the people around me influence me... most of the time I don’t realize when I’m gettinginfluenced or by what.

For me peer influence is dangerous when one is blind to it and accepts it without questioning. (It) is most dangerous when one has acknowledged it but still not done anything about it. In this case the opinion slowly builds and then you start believing in it. For me the opinions of teachers can at times be very influencing, when one does not question it. One seems to accept what (they) say as alwaysright and therefore doesn’t need to be questioned.

I think my friends influence me the most. This has been very obvious and I have tried not to think about friends whenever I do something... I wanted to be accepted. So I’d always think twice before doing anything. Questions would strike me. ‘Is this cool enough?’ ‘Will my friends laugh at me?’ ‘DoI look stupid doing this?’ This even today makes me feel very conscious.

Peers... influence me the most. I think the primary reason for this is that peers influence you as well as are influenced by you. I think a factor that you can influence and at the same time be influenced by is the most influential. The mere fact that you caninfluence them makes them influence you.

I do notice myself getting slightly influenced by the media and the idea of society. But this is not conscious influence. Most often I realize that I’m influenced only after I express my views during a conversationabout various connected issues, and try to track back why I feel so.

Though I would like to be an individual and have thoughts and a mind of my own I regret having to say there are things from the outside world that have an influence on me, on the way I act, on the way I behave, on my relationships with other people andto an extent the way I present myself.

I would like to be original and be my own man but hey, I can’t help being influenced... and the way I dress, sure, that is influenced by the great sportsmen (footballers) and other celebrities who dress cool... and I do pick up certain phrases that I hearthrough the media.

At this moment my whole day and to some extent night also is getting influenced by my examination... the picture of me 10-15 years from now influences me at this point in time. And most ofmy activities are oriented towards that.

The things that trouble me the most are decisions I have to make independently, the paradox of being responsible yet notresponsible and the expectation from the adults around me.

What troubles you?

My relationships trouble me... there are very, very few people I am close to. There are times when I feel I am very hard on myself. When I do things I ‘should not’, think things I ‘should not’, feel things I ‘should not’ it troubles me... a LOT... I have a perfectpicture of who I ‘should be’ and I am constantly fighting it.

Relationships are difficult and in a sense trouble me. The unpredictability of thefuture troubles me.

The things that trouble me the most are decisions I have to make independently. (I am troubled by) the paradox of being responsible, yet not responsible andexpectation from the adults around me.

There are times when I feel I am very hard on myself. When I do things I ‘should not’ it troubles me a lot. This shows that I have a perfect picture of who I ‘should be’ andI am constantly fighting it.

I feel very disconnected from the city. I feel different from everyone there. One side of me dislikes that andone side does not. This troubles me.

There are many other things that trouble me such as when I see poverty and strife. These things trouble me because I see how the material world can cripple people and their ability to live in peace. We deride materialism but we cannot ignore or turn a blind eye towards it. It also stirs up something when I compare my fairly well-to-do lifestylewith those less fortunate.

At the societal level, media hype, political campaigns that contain exaggerated information, an illusion of all is fine with the world troubles me because I know it isn’t true. At the personal level, what troubles me most is betrayal of any kind because ithurts and is bitter.

Things that trouble me are things that I don’t feel right about. This could be things happening to me and to people around me; and things happening to people far apart. Both could be troubling, but Iwould tend to concentrate on the former.

One could consider the war on terrorism... what troubles me is that somewhere I feel the need to be taking a stand on the issue. I feel that if I have don’t have a stand that is almostlike condoning anything that happens.

What gives you joy and strength?

Knowing that I am good at something gives me joy, but what makes me more happy is knowing that I have given my best to something that I amnot so good at.

In the purely physical sense I get joy from eating, playing, but this is often considered... a ‘fleshly sin’. I do notcompletely agree with this.

Joy is got from experiencing fascinating things. Joy is gotfrom satisfaction and strength is got from self-worth.

I get joy and strength when I question, rebel and speak out against what I feel is unjust, have a good day in which therehave been many laughs

When there is nothing on my mind, when I am really quiet— I call it joy because I feel light ... I am happy when I realizethat I matter to the people who matter to me.

I get joy and strength from being with friends, not only going out for movies, etc., but also just being frivolous andlight at heart. Laughter has been a very joyous thing.

Joy comes mainly from the people around me, though I am not so sure I can give them all the credit. Essentially it isn’t hard to find joy in most of your life. There is something that renders you capable of being strong and joyful in any situation no matter how your life turns out. I think this issomething innate to most people.

There are times, crucial times when friends, parents and other adults have been a source of strength. The strength sometimes lies in what you can give the other person, tothe fullest, not expecting anything in return.

What do you look for from the adults around you?

I think from most adults what I look for is a certain openness. . . to relating on an equal footing.

I am looking for answers and I need their help to find those answers. To let go and let me create my mess and pick thepieces up myself.

“Better teach a hungry man to fish than catch the fish for him.” This sums up the role I would like adults to play in my life ... to guide towards a goalrather than provide me with a goal itself.

It should just be any other relationship, and not relationships with ‘adults’.

A letting go—a slow acceptance of thefact that I am no longer a child.

They should hold me when I want to beheld and leave me when I want to be left.

The freedom to be just the person I am without saddling me the responsible yoke of ‘civilizing restraint’ ... A trust in my (what I believe) ‘good nature’, the trust to do what is in my own best interest by which I am not trying to be selfishas my best interests need not always center around me.

I look for guidance, acceptance.

I don’t want them treating people of the younger age as people who cannot contribute to any process and it is a one-way traffic—words and work done for children by the adults. All of us are learners, and in that process, adults must alsounderstand that we are capable of contributing many things.