Did you know that young people planning to begin their first year of college this year were born in 1994?
I was a freshman in high school in 1994. I actually wore the styles that students throw "decades parties" these days to mock. I listened to music defined as "early rap." I watched TV shows currently on syndication on Nick at Night.
I was young in 1994. So what does that make me now?
Working with students these past 5 years, Dan and I have both recently begun to feel our age fairly acutely. Never before has the age gap seemed more apparent than when our adventurous young group of American summer project students invited us to midnight cycling around the city and all we could think about was Anna and Peter’s early morning wake-up music. How did we so quickly become those people? You know the type… those old, boring people, who get up everyday at 6:30 and go to bed around 9, who read books for fun, who don’t know what’s playing at the movie theater, who ask you to turn down your music, who start sentences with phrases like, "10 years ago..." or "15 years ago..."
We are those people. We're facing the reality that we're no longer as hip or as cool as we once were.
And that's ok.
The positive part of working with young people is constantly being reminded of who we used to be. I was reflecting on a conversation we had at English club a few years ago. Our club consists primarily of college students, but also featured a handful of recent graduates, just starting out in the working world. Just a year out of student life, these grads were reflecting about their years at university: "when you're a student, anything is possible! But when you begin to work, things change." Isn't that the truth. But what are these things that change? Is it us? Or is it the world around us? Is it the way we understand the world around us? Most likely it's all of the above. We become the doers rather than the dreamers. We find our limits. We grow up.
Growing up feels like losing heart at times. What was black and white becomes gray and muddy. What was easy becomes difficult. What was hopeful becomes impossible. And in this process we often find that we are the very ones holding ourselves back, not the world, not our situation, not the dream. This can be a difficult pill to swallow - some choose never to take it.
But then there's that ambitious group of students, ready and willing to change the world, looking to you for hope and guidance, pedaling furiously around the city all.night.long.
What do you tell them when you yourself know better, when you've tried it already, when you just want to go home and watch a movie instead?
You say, "let's do this!"
But this time, you brace yourself for the fall.