What A Time To Be A Teen

Portraits of American teens, taken by their friends.
Photography by Danny Gurung, Myles Loftin, Paul McLaren, Remi Riordan, Frances Tyska
Tasnia Khan
What A Time To Be A Teen Paul McLaren

17, New York, NY

"Being Muslim in America has changed a lot after 2001. I was really little when 9/11 happened. I expect a lot of misconceptions about me and my beliefs, stereotypes. I don't expect it to be easy being a woman of color in America. I expect to always have to remind people about who I really am, and to remind myself to be proud.

"So much of our education is focused on erasing race, erasing gender, erasing socio-economic status. We're all in this classroom and they want us to think that we're all of equal opportunity, that we're all here, sitting at the same desks, using the same pencils, getting the same math sheets, learning the same material. But they don't realize that when you go home, for every child, it's different. You need to show kids that they're different, but that being different is not bad. When you really look inside America, you see way too many great minds being wasted. And it's so important in this country to have a mind, to have a voice, to not be erased. These little minds are being wasted and they have so much potential. There could be little kids sitting in the projects right now that could grow up and discover a new medicine, make some scientific discovery, become a really good activist. If they're constantly being told that they're not good enough and that they can't do anything, they're gonna grow up and think that's true."

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What A Time To Be A Teen Paul McLaren

"I turn on the news every day and see a new person being hurt because of people’s perceptions of them. My initial thought is always, This is really sad. But then I get to thinking, This could’ve been me. This could’ve been my friend, this could’ve been my family, and I get scared. I sometimes feel like, What’s the point of anything? What’s the point of going to a prestigious school if I can’t even get people to respect me, or look past my skin? I’m not an immigrant and I don’t know what it means to be a refugee, but every day I feel like I don’t belong. I walk around and I’m like, What is my place here?

"I plan on going to grad school. I want to do pre-med. I see myself with a family, all my friends, surrounded by people who want to see me do what I want to do. I see myself being really successful. But I’m worried that on my way to success I will be pushed down. And I’m scared that at some point, it’s going to be too much for me. There are already so many points in my life where I’ve sort of broken down and felt like, This is it, I can’t keep going. I’m concerned that I’m just going to fall or crumble under it and that America, this country that I’m supposed to call home, is going to just let me crumble."

Amani Jiu
What A Time To Be A Teen Paul McLaren

17, New York, NY

"I’ve spent a lot of my younger life playing soccer. The soccer recruiting process is very competitive. Coaches come to watch you play at all your games, so you have to be on all the time. I’m always striving to be good enough and be on top of things.

"Last year I had a mental breakdown with my academic counselor. He was saying, “if you want to be a college athlete you have to be able to sacrifice all this other stuff.” I don’t want to have to do that. I want to be able to study what I want and at the same time be an athlete. I want to be important in society."

What A Time To Be A Teen Paul McLaren

"As a female of color, with everything that’s going on in the news — shootings, the Black Lives Matter movement — I’m excited but nervous. As a person of color you have to be twice as cautious: Watch what you say and how you say it. Watch how you come across. Racism makes people uncomfortable, so obviously people are going to be uncomfortable when you bring it up. You’re the one who has to make change.

"I’m worried about everything. The election. I literally do not understand how we can fathom the idea of having Donald Trump, this racist, misogynistic human, be the ruler of our country! I’m worried about having to work off college debt for a really long time, but there aren’t any jobs. I’m worried about being happy with what I’m doing, about ending up in a rut. My uncle and my parents didn’t figure out what they wanted to do with their lives until late in life. They were stuck doing jobs that they had to do. I hope to not have to do something that makes me unhappy or that I don’t enjoy just to get by."

Briana Alisse
What A Time To Be A Teen Danny Gurung

16, Superior, CO

"Recently I’ve been returning to how I felt as a child. I’ve been thinking more about the now, versus what’s coming next, or what’s already past. Although I think American teenagers do have certain privileges, just existing as a teen can be so exhausting. Apathy gets so much more valued than showing genuine emotion. When I was younger I used to think that teens looked like literal zombies."

Emma Snyder
What A Time To Be A Teen Danny Gurung

16, Superior, CO

"My immediate future includes going to college. After that, I don’t actually see myself sticking around here. I want to travel, maybe even join the Peace Corps. It sounds idealistic, but I want to make friends all over the world, find ways to help others, and better understand
other cultures.

"The worst thing about being a teen is dealing with time — everyone around you is so obsessed with speeding things up, disrupting the natural pace of things. But maybe that’s just my inner Taurus talking."

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Autry Haydon-Wilson
What A Time To Be A Teen Paul McLaren

18, New York, NY

"I’ve been modeling in Los Angeles for the past four years. I’m 5’8” and I get called short. I’ve had to deal with a lot of rejection, which has made me stronger. On set, you see the “token black model” or the 'token Asian model,' and then there are 10 white models. It could be the other way around: all people of color campaigns, or a token white person in a campaign with people of color.

"Being a young person working in an industry with a lot of adults, I needed to learn how to take myself seriously. You go into these auditions and every girl looks the same. I look really different. But I model and act because I love the art of it. At first I thought I should change myself, but now I realize that I am good at what I do. I hope that one day I get recognized for how hard I work at my art."

What A Time To Be A Teen Paul McLaren
Linus Fletcher
What A Time To Be A Teen Remi Riordan

18 Montclair, NJ

"All of my interests are things that I don’t want to be taught how to do. I want to make my own mistakes — mistakes that possibly other people haven’t made, leading me to discover things that others haven’t. I don’t care about making new lifelong friends for the sake of higher learning. I partied enough in high school. I’m ready to go right to work and discover how easy my life has been so far and embrace the challenge.

"But I am going to college because of the fear of missing out. It’s hard to want to stand out and not go. I’m going with an undeclared major because my school offers that. In 10 years I see myself in a capitalistic world where I’ll gladly buy things for the low and flip them for the high. Ballin’ or buried."

Stella Maris Bock
What A Time To Be A Teen Frances Tyska

18, Viroqua, WI

"I’m very privileged to live in America. I’m lucky to have a house and food. I personally enjoy living here so much because I’m biracial, and there’s all these combinations of cultures colliding here, creating new, wonderful things.

"In the future I see myself pushing people’s idea of art further and challenging the ideas of what art is and how it’s perceived. And I would just like to challenge the idea that everything young women do is hyper-sexualized. It drives me nuts."

What A Time To Be A Teen Frances Tyska
What A Time To Be A Teen

"I’ve started paying attention more — social media is helping me with that — but the political turmoil recently feels like a lot. There are shifts happening: racially, politically, in gender. All these new ideas are starting to circulate. Everyone has the power of thousands and thousands of human brains in their pockets. That’s different than going to the library."

Amani Marshall
What A Time To Be A Teen Remi Riordan

18, Montclair, NJ

"Starting college is basically like starting a new life. For me it’s also a move across the country. I’m excited to start a more independent part of my life, and hopefully a successful part too. In ten years I just hope I’m happy and living comfortably doing something I enjoy.

"It’s a privileged and confusing time to live in America. A large part of this country, and most of the people in charge, are struggling to understand that Black Lives Matter is about empathizing and acknowledging black humanity. A lot of the social problems we struggle with aren’t improving at the rate they should be."

Anisa McGowan
What A Time To Be A Teen Myles Loftin

18, New York, NY

"Adulthood is a fat slap in the face. For so long I was doing things on my own because I was strong minded, so I wanted to handle things myself. But now it’s like, okay, you’re 18 and expected to do it yourself. I’m much more conscious of the moves that I make now. You don’t get a pat on the back for handling your shit anymore. And if you don’t handle your shit then you’re really in trouble. I feel so tired of being an adult. I literally don’t have anybody to turn to. I can’t ask my mom to do things for me, I can’t ask my dad to do things for me. There’s no second option, there’s no fallback. That’s the thing about adulthood that’s gross and disgusting."

Mackenzie Thomas
What A Time To Be A Teen Remi Riordan

17, Montclair, NJ

"In 10 years I see myself with a writing job in New York. Hopefully I'll be making people laugh. I tend to let things wash over me, and I don't take advantage of all the opportunities presented to me. So I feel like I won't be a huge part of America's future, but hopefully I'll be able to make a small mark. I hope to one day write some smart material that changes society’s view about funny women — women in the comedy industry."

Eddy LeRoy Jr.
What A Time To Be A Teen Myles Loftin

18, New York, NY

"I hate the idea of being humble. I am not humble in the least. Consumer markets profit off of our insecurities. They make us believe that something is wrong with us and that they have a solution to fix us. Fuck that. It doesn’t sit well with me. The idea of 'humbling' ourselves, or downplaying and belittling ourselves to make others feel more comfortable, is not OK with me. I want people to know that it’s OK to trust themselves. I am not going to humble myself, and I won’t allow anyone else around me to do so."

What A Time To Be A Teen Myles Loftin
What A Time To Be A Teen
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"Millennials or Generation Z — whatever we are called, it doesn’t matter — we’re a fucking force. We’re calling out the old beliefs, and showing the world that just because something has been tolerated in the past doesn’t mean we have to tolerate it."

Darryl Riley
What A Time To Be A Teen Myles Loftin

17, New York, NY

"I like the future to be unexpected. I like not knowing what I’m going do or where I’m going to be. America is constantly changing. I see myself staying in New York and capturing the essence of the underground scene before it may go away. Because everything’s getting gentrified now, the bars and the clubs that all the cool kids used to go to back in the ’90s are turning into coffee spots and condos."

Evergreen Wildingway
What A Time To Be A Teen Frances Tyska

16, Viroqua, WI

"I’m worried about Trump becoming our next president. I can see America becoming a better place, or a worse place. I’m getting ready.

"I've never really known what I wanted to do with my life, and I always thought that was okay because I'm 16. Right now, music is what I want to do with my life. I'm excited to leave this small town that I've been in my entire life. To get out, find my group of people. People like me. In the future, I'm worried about not being able to figure things out in my life. Like if I never reach contentment."

Simone Rembert
What A Time To Be A Teen Remi Riordan

17, Montclair, NJ

"In 10 years I will hopefully have a cool apartment, no student debt, great friends and lovers, and no kidney stones. I feel excited, because I’m young and dumb, and haven’t spent enough time in Trump country.

"I worry that my generation isn’t very sincere. We’re such proponents of irony and emotional detachment. The last time I said something with full sincerity was probably 2008. After seeing Interstellar, I’m beginning to believe that at some point, we’ll all just get really sick of technology and reject scientific advancement for the sake of human interaction. I’m mostly down with that. A world without social media would be good. But I hope we keep the space program. I’m trying to live in space."

Alli Umhoefer
What A Time To Be A Teen Frances Tyska

18, Madison, WI

"Maybe I won’t be in America in 10 years. If someone asks “Why do you like America?” I really can’t think of something that I would want to brag about. I feel safe here, but I don’t like that thought because I think our safety comes at the cost of others, in other countries. Like drone strikes.

"Ideally I’d like to pursue art restoration, work in Italy, and restore old churches. I can see myself happier there. Italians just seem to enjoy each other’s company more. But there are a lot of opportunities that would keep me in America. I’m very optimistic. There are a lot of choices. I just signed up for classes at University of Minnesota. I know our education system is good. It’s too expensive, but it has the status.

"I’m excited about living alone. I’m excited about what I’m going to learn. I think everyone feels at this age that they know everything, people have their solid beliefs, but I’m excited to have my beliefs challenged."

Anzie Dasabe
What A Time To Be A Teen Myles Loftin

18, New York, NY

"I’m a southern belle from Texas, born and raised, and I just moved to New York. I’m on my own for the first time. It’s terrifying but liberating in the most amazing way. Getting to decide when I come and go is amazing, but going out requires money and being a broke student makes going out just a little bit harder. Thankfully I live in a city now where there’s a lot to do on a budget."

Vimala Hile
What A Time To Be A Teen Frances Tyska

19, Madison, WI

"Our government is fucked up and our country is really fucked up. A lot of deep issues are all bubbling over. We’re in for a deep dive, at some point. Or a big turning point. Black Lives Matter is so important. White people need to realize that they have privilege and just get over their shit. That’s so much easier said than done.

"If I’m looking at my personal future in America, I’m a little doubtful. I want to be taken seriously. For me, that equals success. But I don’t know if I’m going to be. My future is dependent on if I have enough money to accomplish what I want to accomplish. Nothing is guaranteed. Applying for college right now — the debt? My parents never made a lot of money and we don’t have money saved.

"In the next 10 years, I can see myself living in Utah. I don’t know why. You’re surrounded by natural beauty there. I want to have kids at some point in my life, sharing love with other people. I don’t feel very 'modern' saying that — I think it would be just good."

Kalia Jones
What A Time To Be A Teen Danny Gurung

16, Superior, CO

"Being a teen is messy. When I was younger I clung to how movies glorified being a teen so perfectly. Sometimes I still wish life was like that. Being a white teen now in America means needing to accept you’ve been born into naïveté and access. You should use it to help others, but you need to learn when the right time for that is, when it’s your turn to speak. Looking toward the future, I’m just trying to graduate high school, and hopefully go on to pursue a career in the sciences.​​"

Zahra Morgan
What A Time To Be A Teen Remi Riordan

17, Montclair, NJ

"I’m not really sure about what I want to pursue in my future. I only speak about it in vague terms. I feel optimistic. I know I probably shouldn’t, but I can’t help but look forward to my future with a positive mindset. I sort of feel like the world is my oyster. I’m excited to find something I’m passionate about and pursue it. I’m excited to meet new people and be pushed outside of my comfort zone. I’d like to challenge the idea that all of poor white America’s problems stem from the presence of minorities and immigrants in our country. It’s the wealthy, greedy people in power who are profiting from their struggle."

Raina Bock
What A Time To Be A Teen Frances Tyska

16, Viroqua, WI

"I live in a town of 4,000 in the Midwest. To the people around me, I'm the most diverse thing they've seen. In the future, I'm really hoping that the things that define my image — like sexuality, race, gender — don't define my life like they did for people 10 or 20 years ago. And I'm one hundred percent set on getting out of Wisconsin. As far away as I can.

"As I get older, I’m concerned about losing my sense of self. Between when you're really young and when you're a teenager your interests get narrowed down, and you lose a lot. I've already lost a lot of interest in things I used to be passionate about. Learning in a classroom has been really hard for me. But I have this underlying will to learn, and I think that once I find the right way to do that, I'm going to have a lot of fun.

"A lot of the things that freak me out are also super exciting for me. The idea that the internet didn’t exist when our parents were kids is absurd. I’m so excited to see how internet technology progresses. On the other hand, it’s pretty undeniable that we should be a lot more careful with it than we are now."




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What A Time To Be A Teen