Thursday, August 11, 2011

We are made from the sharpest things you say

We are young and we don't care; your dreams, and your hopeless hair--we never wanted it to be this way for all our lives.

Back in June I spent a weekend at a youth leadership conference with Alex's parish acting as the token female chaperone, where it was made abundantly clear to me that I have forgotten what it is like to be a teenager. I'm not quite so far removed from the experience that I think dying my hair funny colors and wearing silly hats will help me relate, but I have forgotten what it feels like to be my own sun.

It's not that the kids at the conference were selfish and egocentric--this was a group of Good Kids at a church retreat learning how to be more effective leaders, after all--but all of their thoughts, emotions, worries, and joys were always of the most pressing concern. Each and every single one of the teens I got to know over that weekend were on their own, private adventure in which they were the main protagonist. Their hushed conversations during Mass were more like stage-whispers than actual stealth, they listened to their peers tell stories as they eagerly awaited the right moment to interject with their own anecdote or opinion, and the vim and vigor for life were undeniable in their eyes as they swept their gazes around the room.

They updated Facebook constantly on their verboten cell phones.

I'd forgotten how intense life could be, where I was fully cognizant that each and every single breath I drew was inextricably linked to my own destiny, and I'd forgotten how important my life could be. College and post-college life (I refuse to consider this The Real World, the bills aren't soul-crushing enough and my job is too fun to be reality) imposed both a sense of philosophical relativism and a practical awareness of the importance of others. It is with a combination of this more mature panoramic view and (thanks to reacquainting myself with music I used to love) a visceral reminder of teenage passion that I have read about the rioting in England, and found my reaction to be, above all, one of profound horror.

The media accounts of the four days of riots all seem to agree that the rioting was, by and large, perpetrated by youths, many as young as fourteen, and as far as anyone can tell, after the very first protest march to demand justice for the man who was shot by police, the violence, the looting, the fires, and the deaths were nothing more than sport.

Five people are dead. Three of whom were young men trying to defend their neighborhood against the gangs of youth who were attempting to destroy their homes. A family whose apartment was burned down were almost killed when teenagers began throwing burning bottles at the car they were seeking refuge in. Hundreds of people are homeless, dozens of business owners have lost everything they have, and hundreds of people were hospitalized--mostly non-rioters.

I remember what it is like to want to be a part of something bigger, and I remember what it is like to get caught up in a moment. What terrifies me the most about what transpired in England is that I find it completely believable. My friends and I were good kids when we were teenagers. We generally did well in school, we were fiercely dedicated to a club, we didn't drink or smoke, most of us weren't having sex, and if we broke the law it was laughable misdemeanors, yet it doesn't take too much stretching of my imagination to imagine us getting sucked into something as epic as rioting. I don't believe that the majority of the young people out rioting in England are bad, sociopathic people. Some of them? Sure. But not all of them, and the idea that it can be so easy for so many normal people to cause so much damage, to be so callous and unthinking makes the breath catch in my lungs.

I don't know what there is to be done, I don't know if anything can be done to prevent something like this from happening again. I just know that I'm going to be very kind to the teenagers in my life.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back

Allow me to announce publicly how bummed I am that football is happening this year. I would have found a winter season without the obsession, misogyny, homophobia, and pseudo-aggression that accompanies the NFL quite refreshing; also it would have allowed me to successfully avoid buying a Bears jersey for work for the 5th year in a row.

My current quest to get myself an apartment is an unanticipated exercise in assessing my core values. Nothing really makes you pause and turn a puzzled eye inward like hearing the phrase "never again the hand-washing times!" leave your mouth. Despite living a whole entire quarter century without killing myself, getting a call from a debt collector, or setting anything/anyone major on fire, there's a number of things that have called for reexamination. For example:

My relationship with money
I've always known that I'm a saver, not a spender. When I get a paycheck (or organize my rubber band bank at the end of the night) my first and strongest impulse is to put it straight into my savings account so that I may gaze upon the pleasantly large balance and rub my hands together in diabolical glee. "Yes," I think to myself, "look at all my money. Tomorrow there shall be more! Good, good." I was also raised to be a bargain hunter, to do a lot of research and spend a lot of time so as to find the optimum mix of savings and quality. Now confronted with the outrageous overinflation of rent prices, I've discovered that I react with fist-clenching anger with no one to vent my righteous indignation upon other than my poor family (who, if you're Seester, aren't terribly sympathetic to my plight).

My relationship with others
The simplest solution to my residential tight-waddiness would be to get a roommate. Splitting exorbitant rent two ways would result in a completely manageable amount to be spent each month, and honestly not a lot of lost independence. However, ask me if I want a roommate and watch the involuntary grimace cross my face. Maybe it's the fact that I'm forced to be social all day/night at work and am thus spoiled for my personal time, or maybe I'm just finally owning up to the fact that I'm a crotchety, inconsiderate lady at heart, but the idea of having to share living space leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I've never really been good at sharing; it was something I did growing up under duress and even then not very well, let alone graciously, and now that I'm a Grown-Ass-Woman I'm making sure that I don't have to share if I don't absolutely have to.

My relationship with expectations
I have a lot of high ideals for myself, which are coming into conflict with the aforementioned tight-waddiness. Can I live with outdated appliances, a community laundry room, hand-washing my dishes, noisy neighbors, and ugly carpets? Of course. Do I want to? Oh hail naw. I'm twenty five years old, I'm doing fairly well for myself, and if I can afford not to live in some dump, then I won't. I find nothing glamorous in slumming it. "Luxury" costs extra money though. I'm still not sure which I value more.

Everyone who isn't my dad or my sister has asked me the question "what about The Boy? Why aren't you guys living together?" and to that, I say "mooooom stop bugging me about it!" This has actually required the most amount of introspection and list making, and is something The Boy and I need to discuss beyond him jokingly(?) bugging me to hurry up and find a place so he can come live a life of leisure with his Sugar Mama.

Other things I'd rather not talk about:
-Our nationally elected officials
-The economy
-"Why on earth would you come back here from the city???"
-My weight (yes I've lost some, please stop exclaiming over how noticeable it is, as it's making me feel fat retroactively)
-Gas prices

18 over par,