At age 5, my nephew already knows more shit than I do. No sarcasm intended. Once when he staying overnight at my house, he offered a chip in response to my moaning about not feeling well. Of course, I ate it and he said, “If you can eat a chip, you can’t really be sick.”
I love that. What a great metaphor. What a simple philosophy to guide one through life. As long as you can eats chips--and chips can represent anything from oxygen to daily massages--you can never be sick--and sick can represent anything from grumpy to terminal. If I can put a roof over my head, I can’t really be a failure. If I can blog, I can’t really be unhappy.
Or maybe he just meant sick people can’t eat chips because they’ll throw them up.
Teenagers tout this I-have-shit-all-figured- out persona, but it is far less cute. Maybe it is because we can’t see beyond the constant rolling of eyes. But really, adolescents are more children than not; therefore, they might possibly be throwing down some real truths or at least giving us jaded, out-of-touch adults new convictions on how to lead a more fulfilling life.
For example, a group of students shared with the theater teacher, “Ms. Vance really knows her shit.” What a compliment. They probably meant that I really know my subject matter, but “shit” could have multiple interpretations. I doubt my students were suggesting I could identify my turd in a poop line-up, but they might have meant that I am well in-touch with my short-comings. Lord knows they’ve witnessed enough of them after watching fumble around in front of a classroom one hour a day, five days a week, for the last eight months.
Having a goal of perfection is unreasonable; knowing my faults aids in my ability to shore up againstthem. It helps to keep my shit from complicating my life more than just being me does. For example, I know I can’t remember shit, so I surround myself with post-it-notes. They’re on my desk at work, on my coffee table at home, on my bathroom mirror, on my front door . . . everywhere.
If one looked at my google calendar, he or she might think I was one over-committed and popular person. In reality, if he or she read what the “events” are, he or she would see “don’t forget your paperwork for Rio Hondo” or “call your sister,” or “put your pants on.” If I know my shit, I can know when it’s coming to soil and stink up my life; I can get to bathroom with my V.I.P. Poo.
|Design by Karine Sultan|
A teen’s perspective can also save lives. When I wore a multi-strand necklace (back in the eighties we had to wear several different necklaces in hommage to Mr. T) my students said I was “gangster.” If all it took to get that rep was wearing a plethora of necklaces, how many lives could be saved without having to deal drugs and to shoot rival gang members in order to earn your street cred? Status could be determined by true, brute strength: the number of chains you can wear without toppling over defines true toughness. And those who face-plant on the pavement are only hurting themselves; the collateral damage would be minimal compared to drug use and shootings. Unless you toppled in Disneyland and took out a few kids on the way down. But I’m not sure too many serious gangsters roll deep at the happiest place on earth.
Finally, a teen’s tendency to see beyond the surface may be more wise than immature. On Ash Wednesday, a student asked me what I was giving up for Lent and I said, “Nothing, because I’m not Catholic.” This student’s classmate rolled his eyes and said, “Duh, she’s Buddhist.” Why Buddhist? Well, we had just finished the novel Siddhartha which centers on the founder of the Buddhist religion. Why do I teach it? Because I can get my hands on a class set. My students assume it’s because I want to share my religion (they haven’t quite figured out in the separation of church and state, “state” means public school). They don’t suspect that I might teach ideas or beliefs that I don’t hold. How trusting; how optimistic to never consider I might misrepresent myself. That those who have a wide-reaching influence, politicians, police, firemen, doctors, teachers, would never be disingenuous.
So instead of disregarding observations of the youth, maybe we should get in touch with our Puritan, witch-hunting roots like they did in Salem back in 1692, and take their word as gospel.