Ahh...to be a teen again! We (Girl Talk Foundation, Inc.) hosted the 5th Annual CIAA Teen Summit today. Nearly 100 high juniors and seniors attended to learn about their next steps once they graduate from high school. The primary focus was college, so several college students were on hand to 'keep it real' with students about their college experience.
Hearing their stories of excitement and fear brought back memories. It was August 19, 1984 when I arrived on the campus of NC A&T State University with as much of the comforts of home that I could carry. I was sooo excited because my mom, who had a little pull on campus (she was the payroll supervisor at the university) had worked it out where me and my bestfriend from high school would share our dorm room together.
We had it all planned -- I would bring the refrigerator and she'd make sure it was fully stocked with all of our favorites. It included Hi-C punch, kool-aid, all american cheese slices, vienna sausages, jelly and of course a variety of sodas. Yeah, I know - the perfect diet for an 18 yr old. Now that I look back, it's a miracle we didn't develop diabetes. Well, we certainly had plenty of energy - thanks to all the sugar:)
Anyway, seeing those students at the teen summit so enthusiastic about their next steps after high school reminded me of how simple life was then. Go to school, get good grades, join a club or two, have a boyfriend (or two) and have fun! Basketball and football games, prom, senior trip, graduation and then for many, came COLLEGE! I will have to say THE BEST FOUR YEARS OF MY LIFE!!!
Rooming with my 'bestie', meeting new people from all across the world, digging deep into my passion (broadcast journalism), the games, the snow fights, the parties (A&T was known for the 2-6am parties and Aggiefest), spring break, studying late into the night, and still acing my assignments. I loved my professors and career counselors who helped guide me into my profession with internships and shadowing opportunities. And even helped me land my first job! I felt like I had my whole life ahead of me!
Back then, I never really thought about 'getting older'. I certainly didn't think about budgeting and paying taxes nor did I consider the level of responsibiliteis I would have to take on as a 'grown up.'
I look at these young people with all the eagerness and hope in their eyes and somehow can't help but be a little envious. Envious at their enthusiasm of what 'could be' and their drive to make it so. They are travelling abroad and have mentors of influence. They are mapping out their paths with no fear of failure. They are still fresh and haven't been tainted by the responsibilities of adulthood. They are what I used to be before cynicism crept in.
When I see such young people gleaming with hopes of prosperity, I do reminisce but catch myself before completely falling into regret. I know they must go through many of the aches and pains of growth that I had to endure to become a 'responsible' adult.
They'll need to have the upset stomach right before their first job interview, hear the phrases 'You're just not a good fit for us', 'So sorry, we've already filled that position' or 'You'll be lucky to get a job at this point'. They'll have to encounter that first boss who questions their ability or the insecure co-worker who attempts to bully them. They will likely have to learn to make ends meet on an entry-level salary or experience their first heartbreak.
Those are the 'moments of growth' I'd ratlher not revisit. Instead, I do take pride in having earned those badges to become the 'grown up' I am today. I realize it's my season now to ready these bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young folk for their journey. It's my hope that what they take away will lead them to create an amazing life!