“This Generation”

Hi Everyone,

Sorry it’s been a while since I posted. I’ve been busy working on rewrites of a novel that will be going out to publishers soon and it’s this novel and some other things that have inspired this post today.

To start off, last week I saw a post on Facebook about ‘this generation’.

 

teens in classroom

Needless to say, when the term ‘this generation’ is used, it’s probably not going to be a post about how studious, respectful and wonderful today’s youth is. I’m not a teenager anymore, but as someone who once was, and as someone who writes for teens and tweens, this really annoys me!

First off, generations are made out of people and people are individuals. Everyone has their own story, their own triumphs and tragedies. Not everyone born in the sixties or the seventies or the eighties or nineties are the same. Yes, we are all parts of the eras we grew up in, but we didn’t grow up in the same houses or neighborhoods, with the same incomes or religions or talents or handicaps. We’re all different and grouping a whole generation of teens together is just plain wrong.

Secondly, I happen to like this generation of teens. As a teacher, they make me laugh and sometimes they make me cry. I see them struggling in a world that isn’t like the one I grew up in. When I was a kid, bullies weren’t that common and if you had one to deal with, you knew once school was over for the day, you were free of him or her. Today kids are never free — not with cyber bullying.

When I was a kid we had fire and tornado drills. We would never have imagined someone coming into school with the intent of killing as many of us as possible just because they have a desire to kill.

The point I’m trying to make is that teens don’t have it easy and most of them, if they feel entitled, it’s only because they want what’s fair, like a decent education and healthy food to eat. Most are grateful for the good things in their lives and most are much more attuned to what’s happening in our world than we ever give them credit for.

So to all the teens out there, when I first wrote this novel, it contained letters to you. Now, these letters are written by me, but I wrote them trying to imagine what God would want to say to the youth of the world if He or She decided to drop a line every once in a while. (I prefer to believe that God doesn’t have a gender one way or the other because…well…God created the universe and somehow genitals just shouldn’t matter to a being capable of such a feat.)

In the various rewrites of the book, the letters were taken out, but I’d like to give them to you all the same. So starting this week I’ll be posting the letters — the love letters from God.

Now, it may seem presumptuous of me to think that I can speak for God, and I’m not trying to. I’m simply imagining what the Almighty might want to say, or is already saying, but in our crazy, hectic, and sometimes angry, societies, we’re not hearing.

God gets a pretty bad wrap today and to be honest, I’ve struggled with sorting through the bigotry and downright evil that is paraded around our country in the name of religion. These letters aren’t about religion. They’re about spirituality. They’re about you and the fact that you mean something. You are something.

Anyway, I’m not sure what I’m hoping the letters bring you. Peace maybe. Guidance…well, we’ll see. Mostly, I want them to help each one of you know that while you are part of a generation, you are a part of something much bigger than that. You are a part of a gallery of art that is beautiful, rare and utterly magnificent. You matter.

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Dear Teens, Here’s Logan.

Well, it’s the middle of July and that means the store shelves are loaded with back-to-school items. I always cringe when I see these because it means the end of summer is fast approaching. That means school.

Now for some people, school is great. It’s a chance to see friends, learn new exciting things, maybe get a break from home and family, but for others, the end of summer is like having their probation revoked — ┬áit’s time to go back to prison.

I confess, I always loved learning; I still do, but I always hated school. As I’ve established in earlier posts, I didn’t fit in. Luckily for me, I went to a small school. People thought I was strange, different, but no one bullied me. No one called me names or criticized me because my life was about ballet and not about baling hay.

Times have changed a lot. I’m not that old, but since 1950, the rate of suicide amongst teens has gone up 600%. Is there just one factor causing this? Nope. There are a lot of causes, too many to fit in a textbook let alone a blog, but bullying is one of those factors and the beginning of school is the beginning of hunting season for bullies. In todays world, bullies have a new weapon: the Internet.

I wish I had a solution to this problem. Anti-bullying T-shirts and school assemblies are a start, but like my daughter, Sophie, said, “The anti-bullying shirts are red so your blood won’t stain your shirt after the bully hits you.” Oh, the wisdom of a six year old!

Logan Fairbanks, many of you have probably heard of him from his youtube videos, isn’t a teen. He’s only eleven, but he did something very brave to stand up to those who are using the Internet as a way to bully. Logan decided to face the mean comments head on, by reading them to viewers.

I can’t imagine how difficult it was for him to read the ugly, mean comments, but by doing so, he took the power away from those how seem to find pleasure in hurting others. There’s no easy solution to the enormous problem of bullying, but I wanted to introduce you to Logan because of his bravery and because of his willingness to let others know that they’re not alone.

Logan is not alone.

You’re not alone. You matter.

Are there teens or young people you think should be celebrated here? Do you have a story you’d like to tell about your own experiences? Let me know. We’re in this together.

Dear Teens, Please Survive

This past week was a frenzy of graduations — high school, college, even pre-school. During this same week, I officially withdrew my youngest daughter from public school for reasons most people who have walked the halls of middle school are familiar with.

In today’s society, the only people who ever seem to say that it’s okay to be different, are people standing in front of podiums receiving Oscars.

They’ve made it. They’re safe. They’ve not only survived being ‘different’, they’re able to lift their heads up and say, “Hey, this is why I’m here. My life is amazing because I survived being the kid who got belittle and insulted and stared at. I’m here because I’m unique. My mind doesn’t work like everyone else’s. I have an amazing imagination. I see the world for all its possibilities. I hear music in the wind and the rain. I hear characters whispering their stories to me. I care more about social injustice than I do about who will win the football game, probably because my life has been full of social injustice.”

We are a society filled with sheep. We’re told to think the same thoughts, to wear the same clothes and hair styles, to listen to the same music and believe the same beliefs. But that’s what society says and we, as individuals, are bigger than any society. We are individuals, each with unique minds, unique passions.

I was one of those kids who ate lunch alone in the auditorium. Not because I was anti-social, but because there was no clique– no table designated for dreamers.

My daughter has always been unique. She’s had characters and stories bouncing in her head since thoughts could first form there. She’s never really cared to conform but the pressure to do so has been crippling over the past year. The stares when she dyed her hair black, the boy who asked her if she was a satan worshipper because she wears My Chemical Romance T-shirts.

Graduation speeches are filled with fortune cookie advice. But here’s mine.

Survive. Don’t let society define you. Don’t be yet another sheep. There world has enough of those.

I won’t lie and say that it will be easy. The stares won’t stop. The whispering that happens both outside your head and inside won’t go away. But fight. Fight for the right to exist in a world made up of the vibrant colors of your imagination. Fight for a world with music that pounds in your chest and makes you feel something. Fight to stay different and alive so that one day you can touch the world with the magic that’s within you, because that’s why you’re different.

You have something others don’t have. I don’t know what your particular type of magic is — maybe it’s stories, maybe it’s music or photography or painting or creating new comic book heroes who fix social injustice or maybe it’s you fixing it. Whatever it is, it’s precious. It needs protecting. It needs to be safe.

So survive. Graduate not just with a diploma but with the freedom to be who you are and to leave your mark on the world. We need you so please, just survive.