You are only young once. However, for various different reasons, young people today are often forced to mature quickly. There is a huge misconception that young people are trying to grow up too fast. While some may be, youth worldwide are often faced with challenges that force them to mature quickly.
In third grade, my father received a two-year prison sentence. Shortly after my father entered prison, my family moved from New Jersey to the Bronx. Everything was different: a new house, new environment, new school. I was accustomed to so much more, but now I made do with much less. At a very young age I was forced to grow up. As the oldest, I had new responsibilities as my mom constantly worked to support us. I helped my siblings with their homework, cooked, cleaned, and made sure they showered for school. I was becoming somewhat of second mother. Without my dad, my mom struggled to care for us. She was only doing this because she wanted the best for us, but I noticed her suffering. She had two jobs and worked almost every day. She was always tired, and hardly had time for anything else. I knew she suffered but only wanted the best for us. Additionally, my new school was much harder and I was far behind my other classmates. I couldn’t look to my mother for solace as she was too immersed in providing and ensuring we survived this dark chapter of our lives. I relied on no one but myself to cope with this situation and the emotions that accompanied it. I knew I had to be strong for my family and I gladly took on that role, but I also acknowledged that I had numerous changes and challenges to adapt to. Along with a new sense of responsibility, I gained independence.
Often, due to the loss of a parent, young people are forced to take on adult-like responsibilities before reaching adulthood. Or due to economic hardships are forced to quit school and work to support the family, which is often true in developing countries. Many are quick to blame the internet and celebrity culture for exposing children to the adult world too soon. However, this is not always the case.
That is why organizations like WYA are so important. When issues such as poverty, unemployment, world hunger, etc. are addressed, young people all over the world can be children again.
Written by a Batch 2 Intern at WYA Headquarters.