I enjoy listening to music while I write, and I've been listening to my I Heart Radio station for Hozier lately. "Take Me To Church" is an amazing song, btw, but it was actually a different song that caught my attention recently.
A line from and Iron & Wine song, Such Great Heights, had one line that really stuck with me and got me thinking.
What was the line?
"Everything looks perfect from far away."
Not only did I find this to be rather poetic in the overall concept of the song, it struck me how true it is, and how common of a theme this is in Young Adult literature. I think this is something pretty much everyone has experienced in life. On one side of the coin or the other.
How many times have you looked at someone and thought their life seemed so perfect? It's not, of course. No one's is. But it looks perfect from where you're standing. Maybe that inspires you, maybe it makes you jealous, but either way it has an effect on you in most cases.
But what about being on the other side? Things may be going well for you, or your life might just appear to be raining down gumdrops and lollipops. Other people see what they perceive your life to be and have those same reactions of jealousy, indifference, or inspiration to do better.
Those reactions can have a lasting effect on a person no matter what side of this line you're on. Being judged, knowing you're being judged, can make you want to shout at people that things aren't what they seem. Maybe you're struggling with some serious issues and nobody knows. Perhaps your world is falling apart and there's no one there to help because everyone thinks you've got it all together. And if you're the one looking on and letting your perceptions run away from you, it can either get you moving on a better path or drag you down into bitterness.
This happens with adults on a regular basis, but these types of perceptions are often dealt with in YA because not only are emotional reactions strongly reacted to with teens, YA characters are brash and make stupid decisions and fall apart over something that shouldn't have been that significant all the time. YA is all about figuring out your place in the world, and we try to puzzle it out by comparing ourselves to other way too much.
For some, they realize the futility of constant comparison as they age. Some never do, and it shows. Take a page out of your favorite YA/coming of age novel and experience lives you'll likely never live. Learn from their experiences and failures, and then do your best not to repeat them. This is one of the reasons I love reading so much, you get to experience a hundred lives outside your own. Science even backs up the idea that kids and teens who read are more well-rounded and empathetic.