My 18-year-old daughter reminds me of how hard it was to be 18. Loneliness. Listlessness. Depression. For days, I would sit by the phone wondering what the hell? The phone never rang. Days seemed endless.
Between her and the students in my history classes at Johnson County Community College, I’m surrounded with confused, despairing people. Cell phones, iPods, computers, video games. More crap to throw money at and nothing to make them feel any better about themselves than I did at at that age.
I feel for them. Not just because I remember so well the rainy days, the inability to do anything because I had no money, no job, and no friends. They have fewer social outlets even than I did. Arcades are giant entertainment complexes. Coffeehouses are for older people. Pizza joints are geared toward kids and adults. Frankly, I wouldn’t know what cool things are out there for young adults if it hit me in the head. I didn’t know then, and I certainly don’t know now.
Life at 18 was empty. Cars but no way to put gas in them. Money with nothing to spend it on. Tons of stuff to buy, tons of stuff bought, and still that hole that always seemed filled with gray skies, cold fog, and wispy bits of busted hope.
My home again resonates with listless boredom and sleepy despair. Most days, I just want to kick the kid out of the house, tell her that there’s something for her to do outside, away from here. In truth, since she’s not an outside person, there is nothing. Even if she was, there’s only so much. I wish she would take up an interest in the gym, walking, anything.
But I understand if she doesn’t.
My students are in the same state. They come to class clueless, not aware of youth or even conscious of themselves. They are there for the same reason I went there. Nothing to do. No way to meet anyone. Nothing to fill the time but television. I was a working-class kid whose parents did everything they were supposed to–graduate high school, get a job, get married, have kids, and then wonder what the hell it’s all about. Drinking and sleeping were common in my house. And I picked up the ball, or the beer bottle, as it were.
They have all kinds of problems that come mostly from being stuck in a society that has turned them into ciphers into which business dumps its garbage. Some read, that’s true. Some have some interesting hobbies. All of them work, and the few that don’t work sit around wearing themselves out with leisure. All of them wonder if there is something else.
I’m glad my kid’s not alone…or at least not unique because she’s sitting in her room feeling really alone.
So, having said that, I think I’m going to give my kid a fiver–she’s employed but way underemployed for a kid who can’t find something cool and interesting to do with her time. Then, I’m going to kick her out of the house.
I can only imagine the feeling of the burden lifted from my shoulders.