I am a teenager.
I haven’t spoken about it before now because I wanted to have just one space where my writing wasn’t read through the prism of my youth – or, rather, older people’s ideas of what young people are like. I have spent far too much of my short life responding to ‘did you really write this yourself or did someone help you?’ or ‘this is good… for someone so young’ or ‘you’ll change your mind about that when you grow up a bit’. I would like my writing to be judged on its own merits, not on older people’s silly ideas about how a teenager can write.
But it’s irritating to keep modifying references to my own experience in order to keep up with people’s expectations, or to escape the contempt so many display towards younger folk. And there are some things I would like to speak about but can’t without bringing age into it. Whether it’s race, disability, or some other part of the way one goes through the world, it’s a difficult thing to keep setting aside bits of oneself. It’s not fun to make myself go into pieces for the reasons I have been, and I have found myself to be compromising my integrity.
Anyway, it’s been an interesting experiment, especially the reactions when I out myself to readers, something I initially wasn’t going to do but, well, it’s a bit difficult not to when you’re meeting someone in person! Speaking of which, thank you for the kindness those of you who have known about this have displayed to me, particularly in continuing to treat me with respect and in keeping this under wraps. But the experiment is over now, and that’s a relief.
If it’s a surprise to you that I’m a teenager, maybe this would be a good opportunity to examine what assumptions about the blogosphere, who writes and on what topics and so on went into that. If I lose some authority or respect in your eyes because of my age, that is your problem.
I would appreciate it if no one now makes comments to the effect of ‘you write like you’re much older’ or ‘you’re very mature for your age’. I have put up with enough of that patronising rubbish regarding my writings here and elsewhere. I realise these comments are kindly meant, and at times I get a kind of pleasure out of them. I’ve thanked people for them, even though sometimes through gritted teeth. And I’m sure many other young writers experience such comments differently, but for me they contain some very harmful ideas about what young people can be. As though we have little of merit to say and we’re not good at saying it, as though young people are not part of the community of writers, as though anyone who fits your perceptions of an older norm is exceptional or ideal or better. I do not write well for my age, in the same way I do not write well for my race or my gender. I write what I write because I love to, and because I care about the world; if I write “well” that’s because it’s something I’m good at and it’s something I’ve worked hard at. That’s not age specific. Sure, with age comes more experience and practice, but I’d rather it not be the major lens through which people read my work, besides which those things manifest differently from person to person. This is the first time in my life I’ve been able to write outside of that box. And it has felt fantastic. But I think it would be better to write as myself on my own terms.
I didn’t want to talk about age because I wanted to be respected for my writing. But now I want to use my voice as fully as possible, and I am not going to let other people’s expectations inhibit me. I think that is quite as valuable as the work I’ve done. This way I can take a fuller pride in myself. And should your view of my writing change for the worse because of my age, I don’t care to have your respect.