By Kara-Leah Grant
Its the time in ones life where the excitement of emerging opportunities is tempered by the continuing constraints of home life.
Its the time when you still dont know who you are, or who you want to be, but you know you dont want anyone else telling you their answers, especially your parents.
Most of all, its the time in your life when you suddenly feel all grown up, but everybody else thinks you are still so young.
For Whistlers teenagers, its a time when they still appreciate all the wonderful things about growing up here the mountains, the powder, the active lifestyle, the fresh air, the forests, lakes and mountains, and the joys of small town living, like safety and community.
But its also a time when Whistlers homogenous culture, the constant influx of tourists, the Disneyland atmosphere and the sensation of being trapped inside a bubble create a suffocation that weighs on teenagers and encourages thoughts of escape to the much bigger world out there.
These are the thoughts a group of Whistlers graduating students shared one Friday afternoon during last period on a perfect spring day. Only three of the students are recent arrivals in Whistler, most of the rest have been here since birth. Their discussion of growing up here is like any other discussion of life in Whistler it centres on affordable housing, career opportunities, monster mansions and tourists.
The teenagers are very aware of the reality of the town they live in and their comments are thoughtful, and thought provoking, revealing a world far removed from the stereotypes that have crept up around Whistlers high school students.
They say a big part of being a Whistler teenager is the weight of media scrutiny that rests upon a number one resort and Olympic venue. Whistlers party town image, which lingers despite the increasing push to make Whistler more family-friendly, combusted with a sensationalized report in the national media last year, and led to an erroneously held belief that drug use was a problem at the school. It wasnt true, but long after the media moved on, the students were left to deal with the aftermath.
"Whistlers (adult) party scene may be full of drugs," says one student. "But this high school is probably cleaner than most schools in the city."
The students and teachers at the school were frustrated at their inability to fight against the negative impression the report left. But untrue stereotypes dont only spring from misleading newspaper reports. The towns high profile also feeds into the problem.