Away game

It’s not easy being a teen

Sophie Speer

Sophie Speer

Photo by Tom Angel

It is 1:30 in the afternoon. Forty high-school girls crowd into a school bus, yelling and choosing seat partners. We are on our way to Redding, a full two hours away, for a series of volleyball games. I sit down and lean my head against the cold window, stressing about the class I am missing and the mess in my room that won’t get cleaned today.

As a freshman girl at Chico High School, I struggle to find time to do homework, attend volleyball practice and games and maintain my friendships and home life. I also face peer pressure, exhaustion and stress. Did I mention the pigsty that is my room?

I hope you don’t assume teenagers have it easy. Sure, we don’t have to pay bills, but we have to endure people’s cruelty and unkind rumors. Yes, we don’t have to go grocery shopping, but we do have very busy schedules that leave little time for sleep.

We do, however, have something that many girls in previous generations did not have. The young women of today have complete freedom to choose any path in life. We aren’t constricted to just being a nurse or teacher or secretary. I can be an astronaut or a prima ballerina (well, if I didn’t have such big feet), a neurologist or a construction worker.

Take volleyball, for example. I wouldn’t have been on a volleyball team, or most likely on any sports team, if I had been born in 1945. Women in earlier generations had very few opportunities when it came to interscholastic athletics. It wasn’t until 1972 that Title IX, the law that gave women’s athletics equal funding, came into play. The amount of girls doing interscholastic sports has since quadrupled.

I drift back to reality. I have my CD player handy. It’s useful for blocking out distractions while I try to study. Music is a huge part of my life. Before I got into volleyball and sports, my first love was singing. I have sung many types of music and performed in front of thousands of people. I have a great appreciation for the work that goes into making really good music and having a great voice, so the music I listen to is quite good.

I am assuming (though I may be wrong) that many adults think teenagers listen only to either hard rock or candy-pop such as Britney Spears. Many teens do listen to hard rock, but I don’t know one person who owns and listens to Britney Spears CDs. By the time we are 13 or so, most girls know who their role models should be and who deserves their respect. Britney Spears is not someone who fits into either of those categories.

My role models aren’t the actresses and models who invade my sight through media. My role models are the women in my family. My great-grandmother, for example, was the first postmistress of Canada. Both my mom and her mother have raised families successfully. Nana, who has six children altogether, offers unconditional love to her four daughters, who range from a childless big-city-dwelling lesbian to a cloistered right-wing nun who believes that women working outside the home are ruining society.

My mom is the “normal” daughter—married, kids, the whole story. She’s also a first-rate registered nurse who works nights in the Intensive Care Unit at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.

On my father’s side, my aunt Catherine is one of the most widely known prison-law attorneys in California. My other aunt and her two daughters are all beautifully artistic. My older cousin, Carmen, published a book of poetry at the age of 16.

These women are diverse, and I feel that I have the ability to do anything because of them. I know that I will always be accepted by my family, no matter what path I choose.

We arrive at our opponents’ school and burst out of the bus, spirited and confident. As I pull up my kneepads I shine confidence and am ready to win. During the game my team works hard, playing our best. When the ball is out of our reach we dive for it.

Usually girls aren’t thought of as that competitive, right? You see the guys who are football players, and they are the definition of competitive. But if you look past the area of sports, girls are almost more competitive than boys. We compete about nearly everything, from our bodies and our hair to who is the most athletic and who can get the guys. It can get tiring, because sometimes I just want to be me and not have to worry about what other people think.

Our team leaves the gym to grab some fast food while the varsity plays. The bus stops and I groan: I have a choice of McDonald’s or Burger King. I’m sure many females can relate. We get pressured to look a certain way through teen magazines and MTV, then are surrounded by foods that will not help us achieve that model’s look. When I leave campus to go to lunch with my friends, my choices are thin-crust pizza, thick-crust pizza or a sub sandwich and chips. I’d much rather have a salad and soup.

I feel frustrated because society places such a high value on looks. This was true years ago, also, but now the clothes that are in style don’t leave much room for the imagination.

We start to head home, tired but still buzzing. Girls gossip about who is asking whom to the next dance and which teacher is the most boring. We have friendships on the team and little cliques, subtle but there. Somehow the social dynamics never get in the way of our game play, which is something we should be proud of.

It’s 9:30 and dark when we reach Chico High School. Just before arriving we start singing our alma mater at full voice, having plenty of school spirit but ready to go home. I see my mom and walk to her, my greatest role model. I know it sounds corny, but when I am an adult and have the freedom to be whatever I want to be, I want to be like her in that I want to live and love and always be happy.

I think my hopes for the future are the same as any other girl’s from any other generation. The one thing that hasn’t changed is that women still want to be content and fell like they are in a loving environment, and I don’t think it ever will.

Sophie Speer is 14 years old. With the exception of six months spent in Boise, Idaho, she has lived all her life in Chico.