I spent years trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Even as a grown-up, I still wasn’t sure I knew what I was supposed to be doing. I tried on many different hats, but they just didn’t seem to fit quite right. Only now, at 31, have I finally found the intersection of what I love to do and where I can use my strengths and talents.
I am privileged to have conversations with teenagers almost every day. We talk about everything from pop culture to relationships. Oftentimes, the relationship conversation goes far beyond their crushes, boyfriends, and girlfriends, and extends to family. Sometimes, things are great at home, and students are eager to talk. Other times, they would much rather talk about anything but their families. Either way, in my attempt to get to know them better, family will eventually be mentioned, because I believe that there are very few aspects of life that influence us like family.
Children need unconditional love. They need to feel safe. When they feel safe, they are more likely to go out into the world and explore. They will be unafraid to take chances, and even mess up a time or two, because they know love will protect, cover and “never fail.”
As 2018 begins, I invite you to invest in the lives of the youth of our community. December was a fresh reminder of the desperate situations many of our young people face. The holidays bring many of these needs to the surface. Churches and other groups are more diligently looking to fill needs. Families are more ready to ask for help. But what many of us uncover can be disheartening. Families are often ill-equipped to guide their children through the teenage years. Neighborhoods bring bad influences. Peer pressure has never been greater. Teens have more people ready to feed them poor advice than ever before.
I was a good student in high school and college. Mostly A’s in high school and then A’s and B’s at UA, as I pursued a degree in mechanical engineering. School was definitely challenging. There were often times each semester I thought there was no way to finish the coursework and keep my sanity.
Life is hard. We try to convince ourselves that one day, everything will fall into place just as we wish. We’ll no longer deal with the sting of disappointment. But, that is a day that never arrives. Friends let us down, we aren’t treated fairly, the promotion we know we deserve escapes us, and we are never fully recognized for the contribution we make to the world around us. And yes, even far worse tragedies happen in the world in which we live. The list of ways that life disappoints could fill this column 10 times over. I know I have grown more capable in dealing with these setbacks, but they still surprise and hurt.
It’s that marvelous time of year again! School bells are ringing and yellow buses are showing up everywhere. A new school year has begun which means new classes, new opportunities, and new teachers. All of these things can help shape the identity of our children.
In order for a relationship to grow, there must be quality time spent with the person(s) with whom you are in relationship. On a regular basis, you should engage in both serious and lighthearted conversations, go on dates, and have fun together. Those things seem easier when they refer to romantic relationships. They become more complicated when they apply to your relationship with your teenager.
I’m sure you caught at least a glimpse of the Olympics this past month. I was inspired by the many stories of youth and young adults who epitomized commitment and sacrifice to accomplish their Olympic dreams. It was easy to watch amazing feats of strength, endurance, and speed and think for an instance, “I could do that.” Or at least, “I used to be able to do that.” The truth is no “normal” human being could come close to eclipsing their record-breaking achievements. They made it look so easy. The athletes were amazing.