Those Were the Days …

Teenage summers are blithe days of a carefree existence, to be enjoyed, remembered and stored away for later years.

With the start of school vacation, a Zen persona manifests itself in a certain teenager I am acquainted with. This is a deep contemplation that precedes the uncoiling that precedes any movement; an unwashed serenity (perfected by adolescent males); a vacant calm coupled with a gait so unhurried that a corpse could revive itself many times over in the time it takes to get from here to there.

These are the summer holidays; the weeks (all eight of them) stretch endless. The days are a mosaic of overlapping iterations – late nights followed by bleary good mornings delivered at noon, an uninterrupted supply of food, endless sprawls with remote and telephone. Every mumble is incomprehensible except for the phrases Mum can you …  or Mum can I …

Teetering between independence and need, these adolescent aliens, these teenage extraterrestrials, have left but have not yet arrived; their frames are thin and pointy, with bits and pieces sticking out; the mustache a faint down, the musculature a faint bulge; and limbs fold around themselves to accommodate the slouch, the sprawl and the sofa and I comment and he turns with a lazy smile and mumbles Gee, you’re nice !

Social interaction (with like minded beings) kicks off around high noon; they lose themselves in a cursor-driven digital landscape of beeps, bings, blips, tweets, tings and customized ring tones, adroitly navigating SMS’s, MMS’s, Skype’s, MSN’s, Facebook, Twitter and online games; all the while music blares through Skullcandy headphones molded to their heads (Skullcandy: there’s a perfect brand name).

Behold the modern adolescent, communicating seamlessly with an unseen community while (apparently) talking to himself as plans are made and plans are dissed, and wars are fought and daring escapes executed; the morning Zen-ness vaporized, now all animation in the slouched intensity of game play. The reality of assignments, grades, exams and homework has segued into a limbo existence of rumpled clothes, computer screens and virtual worlds.

Eckhart Tolle wrote Life is now. There was never a time when your life was not now, nor will there ever be.

Singapore’s painless broadband accessibility brings a new perspective to The Power of Now (thank you Mr. Tolle for a perfect title and a perfect phrase), where the immediacy of the moment appears to be the undisputed birthright of ever teenager; and it comes packaged in any number of digital manifestations – the Xbox, the iPhone and the PlayStation; Wii and Guitar Hero, the Mac and the PC, avatars and icons, World of WarCraft, Team Fortress 2.

Conveniently, instant teenage gratification does not require words and sentences either; teenagers communicate in screenspeak – a whole new language of letters and numbers that are succinct and perfectly to the point – OMG, NP, TYVM, MOS, VNMOS, AITR, AYSOS, B4N, BI5, BION and the ubiquitous, overused, commonplace LOL. (For the uninitiated – like David Cameron – these translate into oh my god, no problem, thank you very much, mother over shoulder, very nosy mother over shoulder, adult in the room, are you stupid or something, bye for now, back in five, believe it or not). There is hope for nubes aka newbies and/or the confused – learn default teen speak.

Those were the days, they will say; our teenagers, remember those hot days, cool sheets, cold drinks, entertainment just a finger tap away ? Oh yeah. And gym, golf and squash, those movies and overnight beach getaways, Neil Gaiman books, wake-boarding and swimming, friends over and sleepovers ?

The easy rhythm of school-time summers; it generates infinite tolerance for the unwashed hair and morning breath, the stretching and settling and splaying of the legs you are guaranteed to trip over, the awkward bear hugs, appreciative back pats, cheesy jokes, the hoarse guffaws and tonal skids of a voice breaking, trying to finds it register.

Teenage years are (for the most part) remembered as acne and angst ridden, but teenage summers will always remain in the heart and mind as the golden days of a carefree existence; blithe interludes when the hours were long and the sun always shone and life and living was the essence of all happiness.

Photographs by Anita Thomas.

Visit www.singaporeforkids.com

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