x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Jessica Sanchez of American Idol gives us teenagers a lot to live up to

While Jessica Sanchez may not put a foot wrong, it's hard to live up to her talent.

Finalists Jessica Sanchez, left, and Phillip Phillips perform onstage at the American Idol finale.
Finalists Jessica Sanchez, left, and Phillip Phillips perform onstage at the American Idol finale.

Nowadays there seems to be no dearth of prodigal teenagers featuring heavily in the news. When Jessica Sanchez, the 16-year-old singing superstar, made it to the finals of the TV programme American Idol, teenagers worldwide watched her stellar streak to the top with mixed feelings.

Yes, we're immensely proud of a person who has shown the world what youth is capable of. Sanchez is certainly a great inspiration; it's no small feat for a teenager to battle on in a show that is watched, discussed and analysed to shreds by every person I know. The sheer level of noise the caterwauling audience in the studio managed to produce would be enough to send any antisocial adolescent cowering back into the shadows.

But we have more than enough great inspirations in the world to try to match up to without introducing one who, like us, started out as an ordinary teenager. That deprives us of an excuse to blame our inability to be "great" on our relative youth.

Her achievement has forced all of us mere teenage mortals to reflect rather wryly on the fact that our greatest accomplishment to date may be nothing more impressive than actually remembering to bring down the laundry for once. Sanchez has carried herself with poise throughout her journey in American Idol. It is precisely this dignified confidence, as a friend remarked as I watched the show at her place, that makes one want to sock her on that angelic head.

Teenagers from Dubai, too, are proving their worth in spectacular fashion. Leanna Shuttleworth, from my school, Dubai College, is an ardent mountaineer. At the ripe old age of 19, she reached the peak of Mount Everest last week. That makes Leanna, a remarkable young lady, the youngest British female to complete the Seven Summits Challenge, which requires the climber to summit the highest mountain in every continent of the world. Not bad at all for someone who is yet to start university.

Meanwhile, this paper recently featured Rohan Sampath, an Indian schoolboy, who scored 99.5 per cent overall in his grade 12 exams. That is a truly magnificent result, and no doubt it has earned him some well-disguised animosity from his outshone peers.

The world of a teenager can be an intensely insecure one. It's a stage of life when you're old enough to harbour lofty expectations for yourself, but too young to be able to step back from it all and stop comparing yourself to other people. We sometimes set the bar ridiculously high for ourselves. It is hard not to, in a cut-throat world where parents will even make babies in the womb listen to Mozart to give them a few months of extra music training. That's what we're up against. But every teenager can't become Yo-Yo Ma, or climb Mount Everest, or win a national TV contest. Every teenager, however, can be something much more unique: themselves, which is what we should be building upon.

artslife@thenational.ae