Well; That was easy.
In seriousness, I can only really answer from the limited perspective of a 25 year old.
And I think there’s at least two ways to take the question, partly due to me not really knowing what people mean when they (or I) say, ‘the human condition’.
The first answer is clear. There have always been teenagers, or at least there has always been youthful uprisings. A desire to challenge the grown ups. Which is a big part of teenagerism (which I assume means the state/attitude of being a teenager, as opposed to some kind of prejudice against teenagers, which is more of a media led thing, maybe). I also think that this is a necessary part of history. I kinda like the idea of the ‘teenagers’ being those who see the world as it is, and form the antithesis of the dialectic. Ready to grow up, merge with that before, and slowly affect meaningful change. I am an optimistic materialist, somewhat.
Anyway. What I think we’re really getting at here (and I may be miles off, but it’s my answer, so I’m going to do it my way) is the idea that we have various points in our lives when we relive our teenage attitudes.
I think that at my age (somewhere near the middle of the cabbage) I should’ve had the opportunity for about two cycles of teenagedom. I’m pretty sure I’m nearing the end of my third.
I got a bonus ‘false puberty’ when I started wearing dresses. I basically started dressing and acting out like a young teenage girl trying to learn what actually works. Obviously the physical changes weren’t there, which is pretty lucky for me. But I just threw on and borrowed as many different outfits as possible. Trying to find ways to look sexy and exciting and me. And working out who that me was.
Maybe there really is a cycle.
I guess there’s a part of teenageness that is about realising you are constrained, but that you are also more powerful than that. You realise that there are things in the world you can’t control, but should.
So you rebel, you break out and act your own way.
At least in principle. The other less positive side of modern teenagerism is the kind of tribalism that goes hand in hand with that rebellion. Becoming a punk or a goth or a hoodie (NB, I have issues with all these terms, but they get across my point).
But then I think maybe even that just gives you the next thing to rebel against.
So once again teenagerism is part of the dialectic of the self. You are something, you realise its opposite, and you slowly learn to deal with the two of them together. Becoming more whole in the process.
It’s a theory, and right now I like it.
We reject and rebel our ways into our ‘real’ selves. Which is maybe unachievable.
But it’s us.
Illustration by Anna-Kaisa.