Teenagers Are Struggling, and It’s Not Just Lockdown
Sharing a new article, plus some news
I hope you’ve been well! I wanted to share a couple of updates with you.
First, I wrote an op-ed recently for the New York Times about the mental health crisis in teens. You may have heard that rates of depression and anxiety have been rising for years among adolescents, and that trend intensified during COVID, unfortunately. I became interested in why—what was driving the despair of these emerging adults, especially over the past year? The answer surprised me. The standard account is that young people’s suffering over the past year was driven by social isolation and the lockdown conditions. But it turns out that there’s another, stronger culprit—the pressure to achieve, which has intensified over the past year, according to research. You can read the full article here.
Second, and on a related note, I wanted to share that I’m working on a new book! It’s about success and ambition. As I imply in my piece for the Times, our achievement-oriented success culture—which largely defines success in terms of grades, credentials, money, and status—is making millions of people miserable. It causes people to lose themselves in the rat race and live their lives according to the expectations of others rather than for themselves. My new book, tentatively titled The Walk Home, will encourage readers to unhook from that culture to define success on their own terms. I’ve personally been searching for a more meaningful model of human accomplishment than the one our culture is obsessed with, and the book will share what I’ve learned and am learning on that journey.
As I research and write this new book, I’ll be hunting for stories of people who’ve succeeded and failed, who’ve found themselves trapped in the success culture, who’ve managed to break free to find their own path, and/or who have learned to define or redefine success for themselves. If you have any stories to share—or know anyone who does—please reach out! I’ll also be searching for biographies and memoirs to read that touch on these themes, so please share any suggestions along those lines, too.
Thank you and until next time.
Emily Esfahani Smith
Author, The Power of Meaning