Being a teen is hard.

But you already knew that, right? School and homework, grades and friends, applying to college, dealing with parents, fitting in, just trying to be good enough. But it’s not just that. It’s because there’s this thing underlying everything which makes it harder than it appears.

Everything we do, we do for the first time. The first time you drive a car, the first time you vote, first job — and even more significant, it's also the first time that you begin to understand. You understand what you do, what you experience and how it affects others in a way that you have never before. You understand the way that science works, the way people think. You understand your responsibilities as a person.

For the first time, you understand love and joy. But you also understand how people hate other people. You understand sadness and mourning. You become self conscious for the first time.

And for every new thing, you have to figure out how you’re going to react and how you’re going to move forward.

In the last month, I have had to do a lot of learning. I had to learn how to deal with losing a loved one, and how to let go in order to help someone I loved. I’ve had to balance giving my emotions the attention they deserve, in tandem with all of the responsibilities that I’ve taken on. I have done a tremendous amount of learning, including learning how to accept support from my friends, my family and my community.

If you are an adult reading this, I want you to know that I understand that you were me one day long, looooooong ago. And one day I will be you. When you recognize that, I hope you will have patience and remember when you had your firsts. Consider that having had these experiences and "turned out alright," you may not be able to empathize as well as you think.

If you are a teen reading this, I want you to know that it is hard. While each of us has unique circumstances and responses to them, we can all try to understand and learn together.

That's why I'm excited about Nu?Detroit. This is a space where we can observe, share and advocate for things that matter to us and know we won't be stuck at the kids' table.

If you have something you want to contribute here — prose, poetry, visual art, video, music — email me at benji@nu-detroit.com.

To all of the firsts, past, and yet to come,

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, shehecheyanu, v'kiy'manu, v'higiyanu laz'man hazeh.


Benji Stern is a junior at Bloomfield Hills High school. He is the president of his BBYO chapter, involved with YFTI and serves on the Jewish Fund Teen Board. He is a staff writer at the Hawkeye and is directing a school play.