Dear Society: Sheltering Teenagers Helps No One (Thoughts from a College Student)

It’s the oldest story in the world. One day you’re seventeen and planning for someday. And then quietly and without you ever really noticing, someday is today. And that someday is yesterday. And this is your life.”

 –  Nathan Scott

Six months! I would apologize, but this hasn’t even been my longest absence, so I’ll simply repeat my usual promise that I’ll never give up entirely on this blog. It might be a few more months before my next post, but there will always be one.

Today I wanted to discuss what it’s like to grow up as a teenager in today’s society. Why? Because as I approach the hilariously old age of 21, I’m looking back on my teenage years and realizing that, to put it nicely, there are some things seriously wrong with how kids are being raised, both by parents and their school systems.

How, you ask? Well, I should begin by saying I’ve grown up incredibly blessed with a plethora of good fortune. I have two happy and healthy parents who love me endlessly, my family lives comfortably, and I’ve been smart enough to get into college and survive as an engineering major (so far, anyway). A good bulk of teenagers reading this are hopefully lucky in similar senses. So why do I say we’re all getting screwed? Why have I, for years, been so fundamentally unhappy with how I transitioned from childhood to adulthood?

Picture this! Growing up as a teenager twenty or thirty years ago, life was different. Kids got jobs at 16 to maintain their shitty cars. As soon as they could drive, they roamed around and basically came and went from the house. They had to sweat a bit to make ends meet, but by the age of eighteen, they had gotten enough practice living as adults that they were ready to take off the training wheels.

(Or so I hear, anyway. I wasn’t exactly around thirty years ago).

These days—at least with how I was raised—growing up is completely different.

Here’s what inspired this post: today I was sitting in class trying to stay awake when I realized I didn’t have a single idea how to do taxes. TAXES. The only thing you have to do in this world apart from dropping dead.

Rant time: why the hell didn’t any teacher in high school bother to sit down us wide-eyed little 16- and 17-year old selves and say “here’s all the information you need about mortgages and loans and taxes”? Is the point of high school not to prepare kids for the real world? Why is it that I—and every other peer of mine—has reached their twenties without having been taught a single strategy for managing bank accounts or sketching out retirement plans?

BUT THANK THE LORD I KNOW THAT THE MITOCHONDRIA IS THE GODDAMN POWERHOUSE OF THE CELL.

All that being said, I’m not here to rant about being ignorant towards taxes, specifically. One YouTube video can (and will) fix that as soon as I finish this post. Instead, let’s dig deeper.

I earned my driver’s license a few days before senior year and had to wait 42 days before I was allowed to drive. “It’s not you we don’t trust; it’s everyone else.” When I was allowed to drive, it was only a few miles and for short periods of time. I wasn’t allowed to make the commute to my college (which is around 70 miles away) until my junior year at the University, and I also wasn’t allowed to own a car until that point.

And I know what you’re thinking! Hey, why didn’t you just buy your own crappy fixer-upper car with the money you had saved up from your high school job? I would have loved to! Except I wasn’t allowed to have a job in high school. Which, by the way, was uncannily common amongst my other friends as well. Why didn’t I get a job in college? Because I would need a car to get there.

Can you perhaps spot something wrong with this picture? By the time I stepped out of my house to move into my college dorm for the first time, I had still never had a job, never owned nor maintained a vehicle, never had any experience managing finances, and most importantly: I had never been allowed to make my own mistakes.

I’m most certainly not here to criticize how I was raised. I’m thankful every day for my impossibly amazing parents, and I realize that if my biggest problem is them loving me too much, I probably shouldn’t be ranting at all. But I’m going to, because these issues I’m describing are a) much more widespread than my own household, and b) way too important to not talk about.

Our society is screwing teenagers by coddling them. Parents and schools say “oh, we just don’t want you to have to worry about working, or maintaining a car, or being under too much pressure” but that’s the exact stuff that turns kids into adults, man! We have to grow up sometime, and in my opinion, parents and schools of the modern day are shoving fundamental skills aside because, “worry about that when you’re 18.”

In my opinion, when a kid hits 18, they should possess all the life skills needed to be out on their own paying rent, being able to get a job, dealing with crappy cars, and protecting themselves rather than letting others do it.

Now. Do I think it’s a travesty every time a parent sends their kid a care package? Of course not. I love how much my parents and I have stayed in touch and any time they want to help out (such as paying for me filling up the car or sending me pizza money) I’m sincerely grateful. But I wouldn’t blame them in the slightest if they didn’t, because it isn’t their job anymore. And more than anything, I wish I’d been put through the ringer at the age of 16 or 17. I wish I’d been able to own a crappy car that breaks down on me, or had to work at a menial job…hell, I just wish I’d been able to go to a football game without being forced to carry a rain poncho with me.

Because here’s the secret: now, every time I go outside and it looks the slightest bit like rain, I change into my shortest of sleeves and let that glorious downpour soak me to the bone. Why? Because I was never allowed to do that as a kid. At night when it’s freezing out, I’ll sometimes walk around in gym shorts and a t-shirt. Stupid? Yeah. Why do I do it? Because never once was I allowed to be stupid when I was growing up.

Parents—especially the amazing ones, like mine—are so driven to protect their kids from everything. But hardship, and mistakes, and pain…those things shape us to be stronger. And dealing with life experiences (such as jobs and cars) early on can help us teenagers learn how to overcome those challenges for when we’ve truly grown up.

And now here I am—finally filling out my own job applications, driving my own car, managing my own finances—and I couldn’t be happier. But I’ve had to spend a few years playing catch-up, and that was a sincere worry on my shoulders.

In short, to any parents with teenagers: I know how scary it can be letting your kids go, but it has to happen sooner or later. Just be mindful of when they’re really going to become adults, so you can make sure they’re ready to face the world when they step into it.

And high schools? If you’re going to make me sit through a class where I learn how to build a bridge out of popsicle sticks and craft glue, the least you could do is make sure I know what the fuck a FAFSA is.

From High School to College (To All My Twelfth Grade Friends)

“Life is too deep for words, so don’t try to describe it, just live it.”

–  C.S. Lewis

 

If you’ve been reading my blog for at least a year, then you’ll perhaps remember getting a bombardment of posts from me one year ago starting around now. It was my last week of high school, and I took advantage of the craziness to share my thoughts on my favorite high school novels, common hallways behaviors that annoy me, and most of all, what it’s like to move up the grades.

In myfirst post during that famous week—the one on May 13th—I ended it with this:

I’ll close this by saying one last thing. Earlier, I mentioned that I often wonder where I’ll be in the future. So I think I’ll take this opportunity to do it again, on my blog this time: I wonder where I’ll be a year from now. One year today, on May 13th.

Hey look! It’s been a year already!

But more than that, I’ve been hearing a lot of current seniors start to reflect on what it’s like to leave high school, to grow up and make that transition to college. Well, for anyone wondering what that feels like, I’ll do my best to lay it all out.

To my awesome twelfth grade friends:

One year ago today, I was where you are now. I was beginning the end of my high school career. I was absolutely full of excitement, because I only had seven days left in this hellhole known as twelfth grade, and I knew exactly where I was going to college, and I was so ready to get out of here and have the best summer ever and go off to a new place to make new memories.

But, I was also scared.

Not at this point, so much. I was scared of what it’d be like to say goodbye to everyone, but it wasn’t time for that yet. I still had the summer.

The last week of high school is going to feel exactly how you think it will. It’ll be full of wrap-ups in your classes, early grade closings, and perhaps last-minute projects from your crueler teachers. Your lack of motivation to do these projects will be spectacular.

When that last day finally comes, you’re going to be in shock. At first, you’ll be surprised how normal the day seems. You walk through the front doors like usual, meet up with your friends like any other day, and go to your classes.

But then the goodbyes kick in. You have to look at the classmates who you’ve sat with this whole year or maybe more, and tell them goodbye permanently. No, “see you in the halls next year.”

The close friends? Those goodbyes aren’t rough, not yet. You’re going to see them this summer! You can hang out whenever you want! The worst kind of goodbye is that kid who’s been your lab partner all year who still has a few years of high school left. Or your chorus classmates who are still underclassmen. All those people who you’re friendly with, but you aren’t close enough to see each other outside of school.

The last day of high school goes on, and you find yourself more and more in shock. You’re really leaving this place. This is the last time you’ll hear the school bell, or jam yourself through the hallway.

Before you know it, the final bell rings, and that’s it. You’re done with high school forever. And now is when the feels really kick in.

For me, the trigger was saying goodbye to my favorite teacher, who had constantly been there for me since literally day one in the building. Holy crap, was day one really four YEARS ago? It seems like just yesterday you were a scared freshman sitting in advisory trying to look like you couldn’t care less about fitting in, when really it was the most important thing in the world.

But! Good news: your feels dissolve at the first grad practice. Tedious rehearsals have a way of igniting your for-the-love-of-Jesus-get-me-the-hell-out-of-here mentality. That mentality persists all the way until you walk across the stage and get handed your diploma.

Senior week will perhaps become the best week of your life. It was for me, at least. My friends and I opted for an alcohol-free beach trip that still has some of my favorite memories. It’s certainly worth celebrating: you’re done with high school! Finally!

The summer after high school goes exactly how you think it will. You hang out with your friends more than you ever have before, because you know you don’t have much time left. There’s a ticking clock, and it feels like it keeps ticking faster.

Around the end of July, you start to realize how little time is left. Your parents keep nagging you about shopping for dorm supplies. You’ve met your future roommates, or perhaps you already knew them. And eventually—sooner than you wanted—your friends start leaving.

Most of the goodbyes are simple, unexpected; platonic, even. “We’ll video chat every week, right?”

But there’s always those one or two goodbyes that you’ve been dreading all summer, those one or two people who have been your lifeline for years and who you can’t even imagine living without seeing or talking to every single day.

Seniors, I’m here to tell you those goodbyes will be every bit as painful as you’re imagining them to be. You’ll hang out with those special people one last time. Pretend you don’t have to say goodbye. But then you will, and you’ll watch them drive away one last time, then you’ll go to your room and realize that for all of your wanting to leave high school, you never appreciated just how much you had while you were there.

Perhaps that painful goodbye is someone who’s more than a friend. Maybe it’s the person who you met and instantly clicked with, and you just wonder how you can meet someone who’s so right for you, then be forced to leave them behind.

I know that feeling, because I had it last summer. I had a perfect girlfriend, one who I got a crush on the second day of ninth grade but only had the opportunity to date for the last six months of it. And I had to make that painful goodbye, since she—in what I later realized was the smartest move ever—opted to not try the long distance thing.

That goodbye feeling is indescribable.

And finally, before you know it, it’s your turn to go. And you do. And that’s that.

Seniors, college is everything you’re imagining it to be. And it’s also a place where everything you imagined happens in a completely unexpected way. You make new friends who you didn’t think existed. You keep in touch with the old ones.

Some of the olds ones change for the worse, exactly like you’re afraid they will. And you stop talking to them. And you let them go, even though that was the thing you were afraid of doing the most.

And afterwards, you’re okay.

I say all of this because I experienced every bit of it. I had that amazing Senior week. I made those painful goodbyes. I met those new friends. And I let go of several old ones, people who changed so much that I didn’t even know who they were anymore. And it was so much easier than I’d imagined.

And now I’m here. It’s my last week of my freshman year of college, everyone. And it’s been the best school year of my life. Yes, there have been a few rough patches. But I’ve had so many good times and so many new friends. And you have to trust that you will too, even if it means parting with the people who you don’t think you can live without.

Because you can. I promise.

To all of my friends about to graduate high school: live it up now and never forget how good this part of your life is. And have that best summer ever. And believe that you’re moving on to amazing things, because you are.

Trust me, I know.

High School vs. College: Snow Days

“Getting an inch of snow is like winning ten cents in the lottery.”

–  Bill Watterson

 

Luckily for me, I live in an area where snow is relatively common. We don’t get hammered by blizzards or anything, but generally every year we get a few snow days. The exceptional winter four years ago (2009-2010), when I was a high school Freshman, brought the Snowpocalypse which shut down school for a solid three weeks.

It was awesome.

This past Sunday, I woke up and looked out the window to see a few flakes of it starting to fall.

Woohoo! Snow is totally awesome, right?

It became a bit less totally awesome when I realized I had to walk through said snow if I wished to eat.

I flipped a coin.

In any case, my suitemates and I ended up hiding out in our room for the rest of the day. A few other friends came up, we decided to order pizza, and we all chilled there for the night while watching the movie Crazy Stupid Love (don’t worry; some of the people watching were girls).

And the next two days were snow days.

I’ll go ahead and compare snow days in high school to college.

Photo credit: iFunny

Photo credit: iFunny

 

Snow days in high school:

If anyone’s experience happens like mine did, then it goes something like this: you go to bed praying to every deity you can think of that there will NOT be school tomorrow; in fact, you’re counting on it, to the point where you didn’t do your homework. You Tweet about it. You seriously consider going to the superintendent’s house and hosing down their driveway. Then you finally go to bed clinging to the hope that you’ll get to sleep in.

Then when you get to, it’s fantastic.

After waking up late, you probably eat a lazy breakfast and watch movies in your pajamas. For some reason, I always watched the same movie, Perks of Being a Wallflower. Then I’d finally will myself to throw on some snow clothes, go outside, and alternate between shoveling the driveway and throwing snow. Most of my friends went sledding, too.

Then to finish it off, you probably come inside, take a super hot shower, and drink hot chocolate while watching TV. And you don’t do any homework.

Pretty cool, right?

 

Snow days in college:

Don’t worry, these are still awesome, just not quite as much.

First of all, for the record, snow days do happen in college. Contrary to popular belief, teachers don’t live in little lairs underneath their classrooms. They go home. Plus, a lot of college kids commute. In other words, if the roads are bad, school is closed.

In college, there are a few improvements to said days of snow. For one, all your friends are right near you! So you can all meet up and hang out. Granted, more often than not, people actually just take the time to sleep rather than hang out. But the option is there.

Second of all, campuses tend to have better hills for sledding. I know ours does. My friends and I meant to go, but it was REALLY cold out, and by the time it got warm enough for us to dare set foot outdoors, the snow had turned into slush. A few more ambitious students did make snowmen, however.

The point I really want to hit, though, is one I mentioned earlier: in most cases, in college, you can’t eat all of your meals (if any) from your dorm room. You have to brave the cold and march across the ice to the dining hall for sustenance.

My suitemates and I did it, but barely. We slid a few times, my socks were soaked by the time we got there, and my walk transformed into my emperor-penguin style shuffle. This shuffle involves clenching your shoulders, folding your arms close to your body, and loudly demanding that the freezing wind go have sexual relations with itself.

So, to conclude: snow days are awesome either way. In both cases you get off of school and get to lay around doing nothing. However, in college, you get to do this with your friends, even if you almost freeze your butts off whilst attempting to eat.

Winner: College, by a close shot.

Enjoy the snow, everyone!

High School vs. College: Homecoming

“Only got just one life, this I’ve learned; who cares what they’re gonna say

I wanna dance, and love, and dance again.”

–  Jennifer Lopez, Dance Again

 

Me when I look at how long it’s been since my last post:

Well, to be fair, I did warn you.

So, let’s do this! Homecoming in high school versus college.

Anyone who’s been reading my blog since October 2012 might remember my posts about my last high school homecoming. First there was a summary of spirit week here, then my post shortly before my last homecoming dance, here.

Don’t worry if you don’t feel like reading those. This post is more to compare the overall high school experience with Homecoming, rather than mine specifically. That being said, we’re all presumably short on time, so let’s get going.

 

Homecoming in High School:

I can’t speak for everyone, but I think the general consensus is that (if done properly), Homecoming in high school is freaking awesome. Maybe even the highlight of the year, depending your grade level.

I’m not sure how Homecoming works in every high school across the country, but all the ones I’ve heard of have this sort of setup: the entire school week is filled with ‘spirit days,’ things like character day or wacky tacky day and rounding off with spirit day. Then you get out of class early on Friday to go to pep rally, you all scream your throats out, then go to the Homecoming game that night with all your friends. And then of course, the next day, there’s the Homecoming dance.

And then the following week you’re all sad because your hallways aren’t decorated anymore and you can’t go to school with your underwear outside of your pants without getting funny looks.

What can I say? High school Homecoming is fantastic. Granted, I didn’t get all that into it as a Freshman, but I still loved it. And by Senior year, I was dressing up for every day and finally got to participate in that moment I’d been waiting for since 9th grade: to charge onto the football field with the other seniors.

If you’ve already done this, you know how amazing it is. And if you haven’t done it yet, keep that in mind before you do.

 

Homecoming in College:

Unfortunately, I can’t be the BEST spokesperson for this element of college. Why? Because my particular university doesn’t have a football team.

I don’t mind that in the slightest. The only thing that really eliminated was the Homecoming game, and it rained that weekend anyway, so it didn’t make a difference.

That being said, even if we did have a football team, I’m prepared to say that college Homecoming isn’t nearly as fun as high school.

There are probably a few college students ready to hurt me for that last sentence, but I think the majority of them agree. In college, you don’t dress up as your favorite superheroes or have a class color you wear or anything like that. There’s ‘spirit week,’ but it’s things like having a bonfire or a handful of campus activities you can attend with your friends if you want.

And don’t get me wrong, I did attend. And they were pretty fun. But there was one key element missing that was everywhere in high school: cohesion. You didn’t go to the pep rally and sit grouped by class and try to win the spirit stick. You all just kind of went if you felt like it. There was no moment when you were in the stands cheering with all of your classmates.

Maybe there are at some universities, and I’m jealous if that’s the case. But even if there was that, I’m sure there are few (if any) campuses that hold Homecoming dances just like the ones in high school.

Don’t get me wrong, there are probably dance parties. We’ve had a few of those at our school. But they’re informal. You don’t ask a date, you don’t get all dressed up, you don’t take tons of pictures beforehand. You don’t slow dance. You don’t drive there and back and go out to dinner. All of that is a part of high school dances, and you leave it behind when you go to college.

Of course, I knew that. Anyone who read my pre-Prom post could probably tell that I understood how good I had it then. But just because you know how good something is, doesn’t make it much easier when it’s gone.

A few weeks ago, one of my friends in eleventh grade texted me, asking if I thought he should go to Homecoming since it would be his third one, plus he would only be in a group. I said absolutely, yes. First of all, because I’ve gone to dances with groups before and it’s easily as fun as having a date. And second of all, because I can’t imagine looking back on high school knowing there was a Homecoming dance I chose not to attend. Yeah, some of them had horrible music. One of the dances, my friends and I even left early. But we just went somewhere else, and we still had an amazing night. You have those in college, too, but they’re different. You’re not in a fancy suit or dress going out to dinner then heading to a gym to flail around like a mentally impaired gorilla.

I know, some people dislike that whole aspect. Quite a few of my friends in high school never went to dances because the music “was trashy” or it “wasn’t that fun.” At the risk of sounding blunt…live a little! You don’t get this chance in college, I promise. No imitation is close enough. So, my advice to even the youngest of high school freshmen: par-tici-pate. Dress up for the spirit days, even if you look ridiculous. Go to the Homecoming game even if it’s freezing. Go to the dance even if it’s with a group and the music is horrendous and the gym is roughly the temperature of Mordor. At least then, when you’re in college, you can look back and say you tried. And trust me, I’d much rather miss things I used to do, rather than things I chose not to.

So, High School vs. College: Homecoming.

Winner: High School. Hands down.

Enjoy it while you can, guys.

High School vs. College: Intro

“Sometimes the hardest part isn’t letting go but rather learning to start over.”

–  Nicole Sobon

 

Well, hi! I think I’m off to a good start down the whole ‘I’ll barely be posting now’ path, seeing as I only went twelve days between my last write-up and this one.

Considering my new shiny armor of inconsistency, you’d probably be skeptical if I said I was going to try to start up anything with any sort of structure on this blog. But, I am.

From the start of this blog up until around March of 2013, I kept up a steady stream of “On Writing” posts. These were meant to be a more or less series of articles intended to map out the process of writing a book, start to finish. Soon after came the spin-off series, “On Publication.”

I still make entries to both occasionally, but I’ve about emptied my brain at this point. Rest assured if I ever get further in the publication process, I’ll write new posts accordingly. But for now, I want to start up a new series, which I really should’ve done earlier.

(Drumroll)

High school…versus College.

This is going to be fun, I promise.

Maybe even helpful, especially to anyone still in high school. I know all throughout my senior year, I wondered, what on Earth is my life going to be like a year from now, when I’m starting college? I couldn’t imagine it. And yet here I am, same old me.

So! How this is going to work: Whenever I make a new entry in this post series, “High School versus College,” I’ll pick a topic to be featured in that particular post. I’m thinking the first one will be Homecoming, since I just finished mine last week, but I’ll decide later. I’ll then spend the post breaking down the similarities and differences between how this topic goes in high school vs. college.

Then, at the end of the post, I’ll declare a winner. Woo!

I know I haven’t been updating this blog nearly as much as I used to, and that’s because I really have been insanely busy. Generally I wake up, do a bit of homework, go to class, then come home and do this:

IMG_0892

I eat in between, then do more homework, and end up going to bed at midnight if I’m lucky. There’s occasionally a small social event thrown in there, like a movie night or something, but no more than once every week or two.

I’m a busy bee.

I really have been trying to keep up on writing, but that requires mental energy—a lot of it—and college tends to sap that up by the end of the day. As always, I’m not going to stop writing anytime soon, but my rate is a little slowed down, to say the least. I’ll make up for it with a swamping of posts when I’m home for winter break.

For now, though, I do have to get ready for class. So, I’ll talk to everyone later, hopefully in a few days, when I post my first entry in this new pseudo-series.

Until then, have a great day!

P.S. Fun fact: Just like humans, British Cows moo in accents specific to their region. Who knew?