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01 April 2013

Teenage memories

For Adolescent Literature my class watch the movie Thirteen, a 2003 American made film about a thirteen year old girls descent from her semi-well adjusted, but far from perfect, life. After the film my class had a discussion about the film. Both the film and the discussion did something to my emotions. I had to sort out my feelings, not sure from where they were coming. Issues that I thought I had dealt with perked up. I realized that despite globalization, there is something my life in Belize will completely merge into Americanism.

First of all, I left the United States when I was 12 years and 6 months old. While I was six months behind the main character of the movie (who is hardly a protagonist), we had very many similarities. Tracey is from the L.A. area of California, and urbanization was played into her rebellion, but really, she is not much different then my twelve year old self.

With this ever present in my mind, I was quite shocked when a couple of my classmates claimed that bad parenting was an prevailing issue in the movie. I was shocked! Defensive. Angry at them. Can't they see, that Tracey's mother, Melanie, is doing the best she can under the circumstances? Don't they realize that she is on the road to recovering? That as a single mother, she is doing pretty good  to balance her family's survival and compassion? She is a cool mom, who cares for her children, and tries to allow them to be their-selves. It is unfortunately a series of events breaks down the communication between her and her daughter, who she loves very much.

Then it hit me. Just like my twelve year old self was much like Tracey, my mother is so much like Melanie. Awesome woman, taking on the world, without the support of a good man, with limited finances, and a down to earth perspective of life. The type of woman who is in the state of recovery. Recovery from what? Substances, broken heart, the traps of materialism, empty promises. These are the great women who have made mistakes, learned from them, is making up for them, AND making the world a better place for not only their children but others. My peers seem to think that Melanie's compassion was a bad thing. That taking in her homeless friend, who is not recovering from her own poor choices, is a sign of her neglect. Maybe it is. But I understand something....while life may not be prefect, it never pays to allow our dysfunctional to stop us from lending a hand.

This mentality is very different from what I understand to be a thought pattern of so many people around me. While Belize has so many culture groups that it is dangerous to say "this is how Belizeans think", it seems that Belizean tend to give out of abundance in their own life. While people in my neck of the woods are very friendly and helpful, their is a certain line that is drawn when personal sacrifice has to be made. Added to this is a certain loyalty to family. While most people here would do anything for a family member, any extreme sense of loyalties to anyone outside of the family seems to be off. So when Melanie left her daughter in order to go to AA meeting with her friend, many of my classmates were lost. It seemed like a betrayal. When Melanie opened her home to that same friend, even though her daughter's outrageous acting out is at its peak was simply unjustifiable.

While the movie was more dramatic then I prefer I personally liked it. It steered away from the typical Hollywood version of American life. It sort of painted the realistic picture that I remember, not the picture-prefect is told by other movies and reinforced by the missionaries and Peace Corp workers that flock Belize. It shows the undesirable, but authentic side of the US. The down-to earth, friendly but imperfect and have nothing to lose but my relationships attitude is what I remember about living in rural California as a child. The lack of pretense is both refreshing and shocking. Virtues are over looked, and the neat, sterile world that post-colonial Belize want to embrace is does not understand that.

Before you think that  I am nostalgic let me say this. I am glad that my mother movies us to Belize. I was saved from the products of my rebellion when we moved here. As I mentioned earlier I was creeping towards destructive behaviours that are typical of American teenagers. In the words of Trey Teufel "Few adults who grew up in American society can claim to have made it through adolescence unscathed". Because my mother moved me to a new world, I was unscathed. I don't why but somehow between living in the jungle and facing the unapologetic chauvinism of my rural neighbours chilled me. Then later moving to Santa Elena, joining a great Youth Group. Encountering God, Learning to pray about my hurts, and not act on them curbed my need to be bad. Reality shifted for me. Without the social programmes that exist in other countries, the results of substances abuse, pre-martial sex, petty thievery and lying were not masked. I had no desire to engage in such behaviours. I learned about the power of virtues and I learned how to express my teenage search for identity in save activities, such as education, odd jobs, trips to the river, helping out a friend, going on excursions with the youth group, Bible studies etc. 

I don't care what the media says. I am glad I grow up without the pitfalls of a materialistic, individualistic society.

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