A great ed-op on teenagers and first amendment rights. It made me think about how different it is to be a teenager now than when i started out as one ten years ago … i never had to carry the weight and memory of a Columbine or a 9-11 on my teenaged shoulders, my daily interactions shadowed by their historical prominence. I never had metal detectors, or school uniforms. I can’t imagine being suspended for writing a story with a hostage situation or for stating that Barbie is a Lesbian.
Today i spoke at our Accepted Students day, in front of almost three thousand people — high school seniors and their families. My remarks were mostly pre-scripted, and included the indisposable cliché of “I sat in your place five years ago, and blah anxious blah scared blah never even been kissed, et cetera so forth yakkity yak.” I’ve said it before, and i’ll be saying it again tomorrow morning at 11:32. Today, though, today was different. Today, halfway through my the sentence, i realized how significant the statement is — i have been there, in their place, and i lived to tell. I can never go back to the idle dreams or the blithe naivete.
I am a scant seven weeks away from being a college graduate, and i have never had the occasion to feel all that old during my college experience, but today drove home how i have become more similar the parents than the students; the former raptly nod along to my points in sympathetic agreement, while the latter view me as a mutant over-achieving neo-adult freak out to unfairly raise the expectations they will be held to. The students gave me those huge, blank, sheep-like eyes; how can i help but condescend to them a little? They don’t realize quite what they’re getting into. How could they?
After opening remarks Aim & i spoke to a small group of Communications majors, and we were bubbling with incredulous laughter the entire time as we realized that we were the nearly-adult examples that were being held up to aspiring students. The funny thing is, we so totally are; as we spoke about our oft-derided Senior Projects i saw parents’ eyebrows raise so far as to meet their hairlines while students glazed over as we glossed over what we consider to be the banal details. Two thousand pictures. One hundred thousand dollars. A visual commentary on the depressed economics of her hometown. A complete script of materials and suggested best practices for the committee to use as necessary. To the parents it’s thrillingly real. To the students, it’s just another obstacle to leap.
Afterwards, the two of us tiptoed through a conversation with one particularly aimless student and his family I told them “Drexel is a school where you have to reach for what you want. If you want a cookie cutter program, don’t come here.” Aim and i ran into them later as they slunk out of the room and towards the parking garage, their Drexel dream discarded. The uber-positive cheerleading Admissions Counselor in me cringed at losing a family. Yet, an hour later, i don’t feel bad. When i was seventeen i wanted the most perfectly cut cookie for my college career, and i didn’t wind up getting one. Instead, to mix metaphors, Drexel let me know that i could make my own cake. And eat it too.
So, woe is to them, those poor beleaguered teenagers with their restricted speech and their college searches. If i am any indication, they cannot possibly realize what lies in store for them, and they will not realize how good they have it until it’s too late. How could they ever be made to understand: the joy is in the process.
The joy is in the process.
I just hope they have the sense to have realistic goals or to pick a school with a co-op program, cause otherwise they’re gonna be fucked.