Yesterday I had the rare privilege of watching over eleven hundred young Americans take the Oath of Office at Induction Day at the United States Naval Academy. The new midshipmen pledge to “well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which (they) are about to enter.” One of these plebes was my daughter, Natalie, who was fortunate enough to be sworn in a second time by her grandfather, a class of ’64 USNA graduate.
It was hard to hold back tears as this band of “kids” marched together up the stairs of Bancroft Hall — away from those who love them and into the intimidating unknown. In total silence, thousands of well-wishers held our collective breath as we waited for the mammoth wooden doors to slowly close and slam behind them. Moments later, cheers rang through the air to mark the beginning of another Plebe Summer wherein teens will turn from civilians to midshipmen during seven grueling weeks of “pressure with a purpose.”
Needless to say, the past few days have been a myriad of new experiences and emotions and my mind is buzzing with thoughts. Thoughts about my own sweet girl as I wonder, “Is she scared?” “How hard will they be on her?” “What is she doing right now?” along with more worrisome thoughts that take me a bit deeper. Teens on the Rise was a phrase that kept running through my mind yesterday as I watched a thousand plus teens ascend those steep steps. This morning I googled the phrase to prolong my time in bed mostly, but also to see what would come up. It was ironic at best. According to Google our teens aren’t rising at all–well at least not in the way we might be hoping. Pause here and google it– if you dare.
Or I can just paraphrase. For starters: “Teen Depression is on the Rise,” “Anxiety in Teens is Rising,” “Mental Health Issues on the Rise Among Teens,” “Teen Obesity on the Rise,” “Teen Suicide Rates are Rising,” “Obsessive Eating Disorders on the Rise Among Teen Girls,” “Social Media linked to rise in mental health disorders in teens,” “Teens Stress is Rising Higher than Ever,” and so it goes. Page after page of bad news for our teens. It’s enough to give you a knot in your stomach for days. This morning as I took it all in–this juxtaposition of what I witnessed yesterday versus what I was currently reading–I felt nothing but calm. True, there are some pretty serious things going on out there, but I know for certain all is not lost.
As a confidence coach for teens, I spend a good portion of my time each week chatting with this unique branch of society. Every single one of them has a gleam in their eye and is quick to smile and laugh. Despite difficult circumstances in some cases, I have found that the majority of teens have an innate desire to feel and find joy. They tell me about their hope to transcend their challenges and of their sincere desire to love and accept themselves. They regularly surprise and inspire me and I am proud of our teens; I choose to have faith them. The eleven hundred young people who sacrificed much and worked so hard to attend the US Naval Academy might be the exception in experience, but they are not the exception in spirit. Our teens were born to rise and I love being there beside them as they step toward the edge to take flight.