My younger sister called me today, her tone immediately recognizable as that perfect outrage only 17 year olds can achieve. She’s angry at my mom, who is making her do things like… clean up after herself around the house. And it’s official: I am no longer able to sympathize with the impassioned, wrongheaded arguments of teenagers.
When I was at my parent’s house last Christmas, they had just cleaned out their storage space, which meant that they had boxes and boxes of old things they wanted me to sift through, throwing away what I could. I found so many things I had forgotten about – my “happy book” (a small notebook where I listed everything in my life that made me happy – it was something one of my best friends and I did for about a year, and my list was well over 1000 by the time I stopped); an ornate notebook full of letters that my other half and I wrote during our sophomore year; yearbooks; essays I wrote for english class on topics like “Art vs. Craft: An Interdisciplinary Analysis” and “A Disapproving God: The Eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg”; and, of course, the obligatory 7th grade diary. It was fun to read through my old essays (and oh my god, proof that I’m getting less intelligent as I age) and my letters, but the real find was definitely the diary. Mostly because it was a good reminder that I used to be a crazy person.
What part of the brain is it that’s so underdeveloped in teenagers? The frontal lobe or something? [Hang on, googling…] Yes! The frontal lobes!
Researchers studying the brain say the last section to develop — the frontal lobes — may not mature until a person is age 25 or beyond.
“The frontal lobes are sort of the executive center of the brain — the part of the brain that’s responsible for planning, organizing, anticipating the consequences of one’s actions,” said Elizabeth Sowell, a UCLA neurophysiologist.
– ABC News, Teen Brain Blamed for Reckless Driving
Ah ha! Well, that certainly explains a lot. My diary was full of all sorts of ridiculously dramatic statements – “I HATE HER!” or “Why doesn’t he just LOVE ME?!?!?!” Reading it now, from the point of view of a person who considers herself, if not perfectly rational, at least consistently so… well, obviously, I laughed at myself. But I was also kind of shocked. I really didn’t remember having all of those out of control feelings, those thoughts that were so clearly not rooted in what was actually going on. I didn’t remember that I used to be unable to take a step back and see the world from others’ point of view.
All of which I tried to keep in mind tonight as I talked my sister down. There were some tears (hers) and some tongue biting (mine), and I really did try to be sympathetic as she railed on. Seriously though, when did I start siding with my mother against my siblings???
Ah well, at least she comes by her dramatic teenage crazies honestly.