I’m a teacher, right? Yeah. That’s right. I teach kids. Which is often considered hilarious because I kind of still look like a kid (even though my ever-multiplying grey hairs would disagree).
But I do. I teach high school kids.
I have a really unique opportunity with them, you know? Like I get to see and hear them in ways that few ever do. Sometimes they don’t know that I’m listening or looking. But I am.
And you know what I notice? Adults aren’t fair. A LOT. Like, as adults, we pass a lot of judgments and generalizations off on kids. We spend a lot of time telling them that their generation sucks or that they’re snowflakes for getting upset about something. We don’t ask them about themselves or what they’re going through or why they feel that way. We just decide how they are because we’re older and we can do that.
We were young once, too.
But when we were young, we wanted to be asked why we did things or why we felt a way. We wanted to be trusted. We didn’t like it when older people told us we sucked or that we were fragile because we took a stand for what we believed was right. It just made us rage.
And here we are, perpetuating the cycle.
So recently, I’ve been seeing our kids catch a lot of crap for things that I think should be encouraged. I’ve been watching us old people (yeah, dude, we’re old already), tell young people that they should shut up and be quiet. That they shouldn’t question authority because the old people “said so” and that’s how it should be. That somehow speaking up about how the feel is “wrong and disrespectful”. And yeah, maybe the way kids say things sometimes could be…improved…but they’re kids for Christ’s sake. They don’t have the benefit of experience to know how to express themselves and they’re trying their best–shouldn’t we, as their “elders” or whatever, help them do that?
Dear Young Kid,
I think you’re doing a great job. I know exactly how hard it is to be a kid–you’re at a really weird place where you want to have a lot of responsibility and also no responsibility. You wanna be a grown up SO bad. You have a lot of feelings about the things going on around you but any time you express them, someone is telling you that they don’t matter because you’re “just a kid”.
Well you’re not.
And those feelings? They matter.
Because here’s the deal, kiddo, one day you won’t be so young anymore. You’ll be the old person writing this letter and you’re gonna have a choice about how you treat those youngins around you.
So I’ve got some advice for you: a challenge, if you will.
I challenge you to challenge things. Challenge the system. Ask questions. If you’re unsure about how something’s done, ask. I don’t care if the person you’re asking is annoyed or is rude to you. GET YOUR EXPLANATION. Don’t settle for “it’s just the way we’ve always done it” or “because I said so”.
Those are lazy answers from lazy people who don’t care enough about the question. Demand answers and if the answers don’t satisfy you, develop new ways.
Stand up for what’s right and trust your gut–if something FEELS wrong, it is. Don’t let the glamour of fun or popularity influence you to walk away from the right choice even if it’s the hard choice.
If you feel something, SAY something. So many of you walk alone in your lives. In your loneliness and fear. You think that no one understands you or what you’re going through. But so many do and they WANT to help you. Find the good ones and hold onto them, they’ll hold onto you back.
Do not be afraid to be wrong, but more importantly, do not be afraid to be told that you’re wrong. Sometimes, YOU will be the one with the outdated ideas and ways–AND THAT’S OKAY. But when someone brings you something new and different, consider it. Give them credit and say thank you. They are making you a BETTER person because you now know more than you did 5 minutes ago.
I challenge you to do things with love–all things. And love challenges. It challenges hate Challenges hearts. Challenges ideas. Love challenges because it wants things and people to reach their full potential. I challenge you to stand up for each other, stand with each other, encourage each other and know that you are the ones who have the capacity to change the hearts of the people around you.
I know that there are some old people (like me) who believe in you, have faith in you, and know that you’ll make yourself and everybody proud.
So let’s do that.
An Old Person