Day 107 Question 107:
What do you think of youth in today’s society?
So yesterday my sister called me when I was on my way to the gym. She told me she had some news about my old high school in NY. A couple that my sister went to high school with had a daughter together (the couple didn’t stay together) and on Sunday night this 16 year old girl committed suicide. My sister didn’t know the details but to her understanding the young girl had attempted suicide before (I am not sure how many times). My sister and I talked for quite a while and both of us have had our bouts with bad anxiety but we both agreed that suicide had never been an option….not even during the hardest times of it. I said to her, “What could be going through the mind of a 16 year old girl for her to take her own life?” I would be almost certain that an investigation will be done to make sure that any form of bullying was not part of the cause.
I started to think about youth today and all that they face. I started to think back to when I taught Teen Outreach Program classes (7-12th graders) and how different those kids seemed to be from the way me and my classmates were. I could be in complete denial though and when you are those ages you really have no idea how you are acting. This is not a pity party for the youth of today. This is me believing the capabilities that these young people have…..the thing is….a lot of them don’t know what gifts they have. It takes a long time for the human brain to fully mature. It is rare to find a middle or high school student that acts completely mature….even the smartest kid in the class doesn’t always exhibit the best social skills. Youth are awkward because they are changing. They are unsure who to follow….hell I am 33 and I am still unsure of exactly what I think and feel about everything. I never thought I would want to work with youth (especially the middle school age youth) because I always found them to be defiant, rude and they just never seemed to absorb anything. I then realized that this was the age group that needed the most support and the most mentoring. I thought about who and how I was at those ages and I would have done anything to have had some positive role models in my life to guide me in finding my passions and to make me truly believe that looks and weight do not make me who I am.
I think the youth of today face many challenges and with the rapid advancement in technology and the media harassing us and telling us how we have to look and act there will be difficulties…..but I have a lot of HOPE!!! Our youth are our future leaders and although they may be snarky, they really have a lot of drive. I could say they are lazy because of all of the technology but so are a lot of adults! The youth have a crazy amount of potential….they just need a push. I truly belief that in your tween/teen years you are molded in a big way and your self-esteem is in overdrive….whether your outlook be positive or negative. At these ages kids need to hear the truth and I will always support in your face learning but they also need reassurance and they need to know all that is good about them….because they may never know.
I have 2 nephews (9 and 11) and they are like night and day. The 11 year old is a determined, born leader and the 9 year old is a free-spirit dreamer. I am sure you can guess which one gives my sister and brother in law a run for their money ;0) Although they are different they both have these amazing qualities about them. The 9 year old may not be able to focus all of the time but he has this natural curiosity about him. I don’t get to see them often at all because 1000 miles lie between us :0( The last time I did though was Easter of 2010. I remember sitting in the computer room of my parent’s house. We had the pull out couch pulled out and him and I were sitting on the bed (mind you he would have only been 7..almost 8 at that time) and I just started to talk to him. I asked him questions about his life and I asked him about his interests and what made him happy. We talked for about 25 minutes with no interruptions and one would have never even realized there was a 24 year age gap between the 2 of us. I got down to his level and showed interest in him and he loved it. He is a kid that needs extra attention and love….he has the sensitive gene that runs in our family. He is so lucky to have the big family that he does with so many cousins and aunts and uncles around (even though at times he loves to just do things by himself) because some kids don’t have that at all. Other kids don’t have the love that they deserve at home…they are treated like a piece of furniture….they exist but don’t serve much of a purpose. ALL KIDS MATTER….ALLL YOUTH MATTER!!!
My other nephew, the 11 year old, is a beautiful child. I tell my sister and my mother all of the time that I hope he holds onto the qualities that he has for the rest of his life. This kid is so driven and so passionate. He plays baseball and he was elected president of his school homeroom, he is a Boy Scout and plans to continue until he is an Eagle Scout. Being his age and working his way through middle school and into high school, he could easily start having a big head but this kid is so grounded. This kid has such a good head on his shoulders. This kid cares so much for other people and he would give the shirt of his back if a friend was in a bind. This kid will be a success in life….I don’t have a doubt in my mind. He may succeed financially but that will be insignificant because his modesty will always shine. I don’t say these words simply because I am biased either. I can spot a natural born leader from a mile away….no matter age, color or status.
It would be easy to say that youth are doomed. It would be easy to say that youth are just a bunch of lazy kids that feel entitled to everything. It would be easy to just brush this age group under the rug and wait to deal with them again when they are adults. I don’t see it that way though. I can’t lie and say that some youth haven’t driven me up the wall and their sense of entitlement has made me want to scream and shake that whole attitude out of them….but that would be too easy and would solve nothing. I ache to work with youth. I ache to talk to groups of young girls and tell them how beautiful they are and find out their strengths. I ache to be a part of these young people pursuing dreams that they never thought possible. I ache to be a mentor and a role model to a kid(s) that thought they were unimportant and realized what gifts they really hold within themselves.
I was unsure of what direction this blog entry was going to go when I started writing it. I am saddened that a young girl took her own life and was unable to receive the guidance she needed (not blaming anyone…people may have not even known). The world can be a scary place that can swallow you up and as a youth/teen it can be extremely difficult. Kids are cruel and bullying has ran far too rampant. We, as adults, have a responsibility to set good examples. Talking about bullying and talking about sex is never going to be comfortable or our favorite subject to talk about with youth (knowing they are going to squirm and roll their eyes) but it is necessary. We don’t live in a world of saints. As adults we don’t need to spill our life story to kids/teens but why not show them they we are human???? As adults we can motivate and we can encourage. We can show kids the world….even if it is through a computer screen or by artifacts from our past. There is no simple solution to make kids act in a certain way but we all have the opportunity to be a big part of their lives during this significant period of growing up…even when we just want them to go away because of their sassy mouths and bad attitudes. I speak as if I am a parent and I am not but it does not lessen my love for people at all. I want everyone…big and small…to experience the deepest level of happiness possible with pain being minimal. Pain is inevitable and heartache is inevitable but there are a million opportunities to prevent these things….just by offering kindness instead of ridicule. We should never crush a child’s dream or force them into anything….why make a mold of ourself when we can help shape a completely unique individual.
I hope my words have tugged a little bit at your heart strings…especially if you have children in this age range. I hope you take the time to tell them you love them every day and remind them of all of the special things about themselves….because even though they may not act like it….they need it. :0)