Recent times have found me working as a substitute teacher/teaching aide for the New Haven Board of Education. Within a year, if I choose, I can easily make the transition from sub to full-time teacher.
I’ve been subbing for every subject — from Psychology to English to Math. For every subject comes a new group of kids, but a common theme transcends their age & social status. They’re all finding out how they can seek some purpose in their mundane lives. They’re fiddling with opportunity even though (most) have no idea that their doing so.
For all the aspirations these kids have, there’s a naivety to their desires. Some are concerned with athletics. Others in social status. Some in books. Their dreams lust from their pores to their team jumpsuits, social circles and work ethic when around a sub (because really, doing work when a sub is around is about as optional as underwear for a whore in church.)
While the answers could be clear in their demeanor I enjoy asking them what their plan is. I recall how much I hated the question myself at their age (I still do), so I like ironically picking at their immature drivel (I’m going to call myself out for being pretentious here.)
I’m tryna go to the league Mister Clark
I’m looking at *insert school* where they have a great pre-law program. Then *insert top 10 law school here* because going to anything less is a waste of money
I plan on going to *insert school* where I’ll study in *insert subject* and become *insert occupation that pays a ton of money*
Instead of doubt, I get assurance. There’s no “college, I guess?” These kids have the next ten years mapped out. They’re big dreamers. Even if the likelihood of them following through with half of their aspirations is low at best.
I guess I envy them. I had no idea at 14. I had no idea at 17. Shit. I have no idea at 23.
My fear is that for all the dreams they have they’re wasting opportunities with immaturity. They’re out drinking. They’re smoking weed in the bathrooms. They’re stressing over minuscule high school drama. They’re content that GPA & extracurriculars might mean jack shit when they apply for college. They’re being kids.
It’s not their fault. I wasted the same opportunities being a kid. Only six years their senior, I feel obligated to share my experience. Now, maybe they’ll make the same mistakes. Maybe they’ll find a balance. Maybe I shouldn’t ruin their youth.
For how grown I thought I was at 15, let it be known that no one is or was. For how grown we think we are with our cigarettes, coffee, neatly ironed shirts and cuffed pants these days, there’s no one with life in their body that isn’t a child at heart. In search of some thrill to make life worth living.
I know that seems silly to think. Who hasn’t changed since their freshman year of high school? How can a 5 year old and a 90 year old have something in common?
Just from a physical standpoint we’ve added weight, grown in height and been scarred from head to toe. Emotionally we’ve experienced more than Noah’s Ark and pat ourselves on the back for still being a functional member of society. As if not being a
Since high school I’ve always hoped to disregard work. I want to really live life. I think we all do. You only live once? Yeah, no shit.
Somewhere at the age of 15, I was on a street corner finding out the results of mixing diet soda and Mentos. I was running around in unknown neighborhoods visiting my friends and girls they knew. We were feeling titties and getting blow jobs. Smoking our first cigarettes and watching things explode. We were feeling what life was. We were giving ourselves purpose. For us, this was how it felt to be alive.
Fast forward seven years. I’m finding out the results of blood and STD tests regularly. I’m screaming to the top of my lungs singing Eddie Money’s Take Me Home Tonight at the local bar. I’m kissing some girl whose name I can barely remember. Little does she know I haven’t brushed my teeth all day and puked earlier. Somewhere earlier in the night I had a few lines of cocaine and buried my liver in shots of Goldshlaager. See the difference? Not really.
And I know no one lives my life. Hell, you may not even understand what I’m talking about. I’ve surrounded myself with quite a few who live vicariously through me and I appreciate the contrast in worlds they give me. They have not realized that death is imminent. That since they’ve been born, death has been leaching every worthwhile ounce of life they have left. THEY HAVE NOT REALIZED YOLO. And I have. I’m blessed.
But I digress. For every thrill-seeking, life enhancing action, there are doubters. Consequences. Snarling critics. I’m one, certainly, though I’m realizing that as I judge my students I’ve slowly turned into the old farty peers I have that don’t realize YOLO.
Who am I to criticize a child that didn’t go for that girl he’s interested in? To laugh at the one who can barely make the high school basketball team, but thinks he’ll play in the NBA. To bite my thumb at the ones whose weekends consist of studying for tests weeks in advance. To discourage students that troll their peers by convincing them the world will end on December 21st.
For everyone who I’ve said will regret their young years — those in long-term relationships, engulfed in studying/school, missing out on nights of cheap thrills, or whom act like their 40 when they’re 22…well, I have essentially become them, over night. All it took was a few high schoolers to give me some perspective. Who knew.
What’s funny is that even though I know I’ve wasted potential productivity, I wouldn’t change anything. Partially because I know as insane as it sounds, I’ve lived a life of balance. One of productivity with an enviable life of thrill-seeking. Can you say the same? Can many? I don’t think so…
Of course no one sees this. People latch on to the negative. My nights of Eddie Money, cocaine and bad breath have made me the permanent poster boy for immaturity. It doesn’t matter that I maintained a 3.0 in college. Doesn’t matter that I worked 25 hours a week. Doesn’t matter that I did this while drinking 3-4 nights a week. I consider this mature. Maybe I should re-consider my definition.
Maturity these days is almost like an age given right. I’m 23. I’m supposed to be more mature than a 15 year old. By self-realization and experience, I absolutely am. By actions on my nights when I want to prove that YOLO?!?!?!?! Maybe not.
Maybe I aide these kids in finding the same. But that’s just it. They’re kids. All they know is YOLO.