Voices of our Generation banner showing faces of youth

Author: Brynn Novotny

My name is Brynn. I’m a 16-year-old high school junior, and I think I know a thing or two about feeling invisible. I live in southeastern Nebraska where the population is just under 4,000 and the town/school life are comprised of an “everybody knows everybody” basis. The news coverage from sources other than our local newspaper and radio station typically revolves around high school athletics and drug busts. In the grand scheme of things, focusing only on topics like this, is where the easygoingness makes our voice seem insignificant, especially if it comes from the mouth of an individual younger than 20. Despite what I used to think, teenagers across the nation deal with the same issue: a lack of a reliable voice and representation in the media.

Getting my name out there and discovering my purpose in an impossibly big world, compared to my small town, seems like such an unimaginable task. My age just adds another obstacle to overcome; why would the adult world ever listen to a kid who has not lived in and experienced the fast-paced routine of a larger city? I’ve come learn this sensation of invisibility doesn’t just slide past those big-city teens, either. In a school of hundreds or even thousands, the looming fear of insignificance can become even more inescapable and seep into almost every aspect of your life. You’re just one fish in a sea that lies within the vastly immense ocean – if getting your voice heard in the crowd of your own school is difficult, why even bother with addressing the nation? With this issue found everywhere I look, there’s no clear benefit to living in one place as opposed to the other when it comes to finding solid ground to make a stand.

No matter the upbringing, the origin of this feeling remains more-or-less the same: teenagers don’t have a solid voice in today’s society. All of the decisions made in our country are the product of adults, not us. Sure, we’re going to support a fair amount of these decisions, but we don’t have any pull in making them. And what do we get for the few opinions our generation manages to break through the communication barriers and grace the ears of our country’s leaders? One of two reactions: unapologetically mocking remarks that generously spread both through word-of-mouth and social media or a hollow promise made in a fit of short-lived passion that serves as a vain attempt to rally the non-members of Gen Z to “do better” for the young people.

As nothing changes and our opinions continue to go unheard, it’s time to give our peers a voice. We’re the ones who, in a not-so-distant future, will be stepping into the leadership roles at all corners of the nation and hoping to do better than those who came before us like they did once upon a time. If we have such a big role to play in the years ahead, why should our voice wait? If a goal of ours is to leave the world a better place than when we entered it, doesn’t it make more sense to devote the largest portion of our life to accomplishing this task? Why should we wait until we’re older to start making a difference if we’re ready now?

It’s the feeling of being ready to address issues that concern my life and the lives of others that motivates me to write and share this piece. It’s the feeling of knowing there are countless individuals like me wanting nothing more than to be taken seriously yet remain afraid of distasteful reactions or no reaction at all that powers my words.

To those currently in power, let’s take that desire to “do better” and put it into action by listening to what we have to say. Whether you’re more hesitant to allow room for these bubbling opinions or you’re eager to heed the next generation’s words, simply allowing yourself to be open-minded is such a small yet vital step to an empowered future.

For those in my age group who wish to step up and speak out, there’s no need for hesitation. Find a way to send your message to the world that works for you: organize groups, produce meaningful music, get in touch with your local politicians. The first step, is to take the first the step.

The diversity of the world will keep us from agreeing on every single issue, but we can’t successfully deliver whatever response we have to these issues if we can’t be taken seriously. Being heard is one goal we can stand together for and work towards. To my peers: it’s time to stop being invisible.

This is the voice of our generation.