TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. - Adolescence is harsh, even under the best of circumstances. Experiencing it firsthand was bad enough; witnessing your own children navigate its treacherous waters, 21st century style, can be even worse.
Despite a seeming ability to be "connected" 24/7 via technology, teenage alienation is rampant. Helen Bansen is a Truckee teen who is trying to make it better. Bansen, a Truckee High School Class of 2012 graduate, now attends University of California, Davis. She spent the summer before college compiling a wonderful resource called "How to Make it Better" as project to receive her Girl Scout Gold Award. Bansen defines alienation as emotional isolation or dissociation.
"There is nothing worse than being set apart from people you just want to relate to. Preventing alienation is something that is very close to me, having had experienced alienation first hand, and having seen the toll it can take on your life," writes Bansen. "I want to create a book that will show people that they aren't alone, that they have the power to improve their circumstances for themselves."
The primary impetus for writing the book was rooted in the tragic suicide of a close friend of Helen's: "It made me heartsick to think that my friend felt so alone, and I wanted to do something about it ... Everyone always tells you that things will get better someday. I got tired of 'someday.' I want a book that will show you how you can change your own world, so that you can be happy and connected to people that make you feel good and help you to do the best that you can."
Toward that end, Bansen interviewed 10 classmates, who each told their very raw and heartfelt stories about feeling alienated. Some of the stories have neat and tidy endings, others chronicle ongoing struggles. All the stories include extensive lists of potential resources, mostly local or online.
As a teen librarian and parent of a teen, I was most struck at the honesty and willingness of the participants to tell their stories. Many of their stories brought me to tears. Beyond the stories themselves, it was especially great to see the prescriptive nature of the resources available locally. What worked for them may help other Truckee-Tahoe teens well into the future. Bansen has generously donated three copies to the Truckee Library, where they will be available for check-out. On behalf of our mountain community, I would like to thank Helen Bansen for getting tired of "someday" and for doing something about it.