Friends in Strange Places

Ad Aspera Astrada
By Striving We Can Reach the Stars

Cyberspace is filled with teenage angst. Searching for InDivIdual-ity and connection simultaneously isn’t like searching for a needle in a haystack; it’s like searching for a particular needle in a stack of needles. I am dismayed, though, at the seeming darkness and despair of teens today. The school shootings, the Goth fixation, the suicidal pleas for help are a far cry from the “trouble” of my teen years when my biggest worry was “Will dad let me use the car to go to a movie tonight?”

Of course I had my complexes and neuroses, but it turns out that those had nothing to do with being a teenager; they were just me. The things that threatened to undermine my self-esteem (“What if other people don’t like picking their noses as much as I do?”) were actually things I should have been worried about. People got quite annoyed, let me tell you, when I picked their noses.

Recently I saw the following question: “Who was your biggest source of help?I can’t answer that question because my biggest help was the constant, consistent, day-to-day help of parents, teachers and neighbors who took it for granted that children need quantity time and role models. The fact that no one stands out like a lighthouse in a hurricane only proves that my life was filled with those who understood a simple truth: when you can’t calm the storms of life, calm the child (to rip-off a Scott Krippayne song.)

It takes more than a village to raise a teen; it takes an act of God. Sure, I had my moments of feeling misunderstood and depressed. There were times when the village just didn’t have the resources, and I had to find my own help. It was during those times that I found friends in strange places: in books, in nature, even in the stars.

From Dickens, I learned that I didn’t appreciate how good I really had things. From Donne I learned that “No man is an island.” Teens sometimes feel so alone that they try to go it alone, but in looking back we see that we were always “a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” From Dumas I learned that revenge does not heal and from science fiction in general I learned how to dream.

Seemingly so alone on this world, I dreamed of other worlds. I learned the stars and knew the night sky as well as I knew the backyard from which I gazed at them. Of course, like we so often do, when I no longer needed those friends I forsook them. It wasn’t until years later, out at night with my new son, that I remembered them. It was then I wrote the following poem.

A long time ago the stars were my friends.
I’d often lie in fields and look up at them.
It gave me a sense of wonder and awe
to see the same stars that the ancients saw.
Dreaming of the worlds that might circle those stars,
mentally exploring those planets afar,
I’d sail their seas and cross their sands,
climb their mountains, explore their lands.
Their rivers and forest were no strangers to me;
two suns would light up their skies,sometimes three.
Their moons were so bright that it seemed like day,
but then I’d wake up in fields where I lay
and realize it had all been just a dream,
and go back to my world of everyday schemes,
ambitions and strivings for fortune and fame;
I forgot my friends, even their names.
But now once again I see Vega’s bright light,
Arcturus’ splendor and Antares’ might.
I feel a peace as calm as can be
as once again I set sail over alien sea.
A long time ago the stars were my friends;
it’s good to have them back again.

The next time I venture out to greet some old friends it will be with a new hope: “Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight. I wish I may; I wish I might. May I have this wish tonight?”

I wish that each troubled teen will find at least one friend, no matter how strange, who will let her be herself, who will let him shout the things he feels he can only whisper, who will be as constant as the stars.


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