This is my very first essay for PSEO (Post Secondary Enrollment Options) English Composition I class. I was trying to evaluate, in Amish teens specifically, the fact that many seem to feel that they are so weird, and yet they really aren’t all that different from any other teenagers. Hope your enjoy! It earned a B+ (88%) from my teacher.
Amish Teens: Differently Alike
They are so… different! Families clip-clopping past in their grey buggies pulled by well-kept, sleek horses; everyone dressed in handmade, black clothing, with an occasional bit of color underneath black aprons or suits; women wearing strange prayer caps and men out-dated bowler hats; and children going to school in traditional one-room classrooms. Everything about them is strange to modern-day people. They are the Amish, who live a life in society but separated from it—perhaps only surviving because of their church’s community life.
The modern teenager’s life is filled with high school homework, computer games, iPods, friends, and perhaps a job at the local grocery store. Today’s typical teenage girls worry about the latest fashions in clothing and about who is dating whom in school. The boys wonder which friend of theirs will get their license next and perhaps dream of owning a cool sports car. Society’s teens look on the Amish teens with curiosity, but most shake their heads at the thought of ever having to live in such a strange culture. What most of today’s teen do not realize is that while Amish teenagers may have had an entirely different upbringing from regular teenagers, they still go through many of the same emotions and experiences.
These similar circumstances stem from a time called rumspringa when the Amish teens are allowed to “experience the world.” As is the case with many regular teens, the Amish teens will have to admit that there are some in their circles who will abuse these teenage privileges that they are given and some who will not. During rumspringa, Amish teens are really deciding between the Amish church and a life in the world. This decision brings the Amish young person much uncertainty, confusion, and even depression, which really are emotions that almost all young people experience at one time or another.
Rumspringa! It is what every Amish child dreams about and waits impatiently for. This Pennsylvania-Dutch word means “running around” in English. Typically, Amish youth can begin their “running around” period when they reach sixteen years of age. During this time, they are given privileges that often differ quite strongly with the Amish’s unwritten code of law, or the Ordung. Many behaviors that would never be tolerated among the baptized members of the Amish church are winked at by parents and bishops.
Rumspringa practices vary widely, from just attending a local, chaperoned singing with a group of young friends in an Amish home, to having dancing and drinking parties in some secluded area. It all depends on how much of “the world” the Amish young person wants to experience (as well as on negative peer pressure). Some Amish young men feel it quite bold and brazen to parade around town with their horse and buggy, the former’s harness being adorned with ivory rings and the latter being set up with electrical lights and maybe even a stereo system. Still others are not satisfied until they are driving an actual car, forbidden to the baptized Amish, and talking and texting on a cell phone. After completing grade school, the Amish youth are always provided jobs of carpentry, child-care, or maid work within their community. Many Amish, however, as part of their rumspringa, defy their community by seeking work from outsiders, called Englishers, in restaurants, grocery stores, or other such places.
Amish teenagers can experience, if they choose, many of the same things that regular teens experience. Out from under the watchful gazes of their parents and church leaders, they can drive cars, go to movie theaters, listen to music on CD’s, go to parties, and be a part of just about anything that modern teenagers are involved in. As the Amish teens sip from the cup of teenage freedom, some enjoy the taste and some do not. Many Amish young people are content to go to their supervised singings with other teenagers their age. They find it fun and thrilling to be courted home with a secret Amish boyfriend after a singing or social. They obediently follow the rules of their church—sticking to the unadorned Amish buggies, the plain Amish clothing, and the harmless activities with other Amish young people. Engaging in picnics, volleyball matches in backyards, or skating parties satisfies these Amish teens’ need for friendship and fun without participating in degrading activities.
However, there are always the Amish young people who will test every limit that they possibly can, to the point where they could not even be identified as Amish if you were to meet them outside of their homes. These youth often have to live a double life. When at home they act in accordance with their parents’ and church’s wishes, but once outside the home they will exchange their Amish clothing for regular clothing, their buggies for cars, and all their childhood upbringing for the pleasures of the world. Their parties consist of rock-and-roll music, beer, and drugs. Some girls may even lose their virginity and later find out that they are pregnant. The regular teenager may be surprised to discover that, although rebellion can take many different forms, it is present even among the Amish teenagers—whom they may have once considered “sheltered“ and so strangely different from themselves.
Yet, obedient and disobedient Amish youth alike are wondering the same thing: “Is my parents’ way the right way?” In fact, this is what rumspringa is really all about. It is the time when the Amish teens can weigh “the world” and the Amish church in the balance. During this period, the Amish young people go through many of the same feelings and emotions that regular young people experience. They have many hard choices to make. For many Amish youth, the want of further education in high school and college could lead them to leave the Amish faith. Quite a few leave the Amish faith and standards because fitting in with the rest of society becomes as important to them as it is to many of today’s high school teens.
The one thing the Amish person loses when they choose the world—for whatever reason they make the choice—is their Amish community’s support and companionship. If they choose to take a different path before taking their baptismal vows into the Amish church, they will not be shunned or ostracized, but they will lead such different lives from their Amish community and family that they will find it hard to relate to them anymore. Nevertheless, this is a choice that every Amish young person must make for themselves—regardless of the consequences. This in itself presents a terrible struggle to the Amish teens, and they go through much worry, heartache, confusion, and even depression—just as regular teens do.
The Amish young people who do decide to stick to their childhood faith take their baptismal vows around the age of twenty. The reason for this decision often comes from an Amish boyfriend or girlfriend who does not wish to leave the Amish church. Most newly baptized members do marry soon after and settle down to raise a family on a farm provided by their parents. Many go through life contented and never regret the decision they made. However, not all are satisfied, and some choose to leave the Amish church later in life; although they are then shunned for breaking their baptismal vows. The decisions that both Amish teens and any teens make in their early years lay the foundation that they must build on for the rest of their lives. Consequently, carefully and prayerfully consideration should be taken.
Life throws out hard choices and decisions at all teenagers, whether they have a peculiar upbringing or not. Both Amish teens and regular teens go through rebellion, indecision, and anxiety during tough times. Within Amish teenage circles, as with any teenage groups, can be found a “good crowd” and a “bad crowd.” Some Amish may choose to become like the rest of the world, and some may stay different from it. Yet in actuality, everyone is different, but all are God’s children. In His eyes everyone is equal, and He has a plan for each and every person—whether Amish or English, who are so different and yet so alike.