When Kids Grow Up

The seniors just graduated and received all sorts of congratulations for their (in somegraduation_hat_throw cases) hard earned victories. But parents, don’t expect too much from them; you’ve been the ones spoon feeding life to them up to this point (once again, in some cases). They remain immature, raw, and inexperienced on one hand and full of bravado and book knowledge on the other.

Life has yet to smack them on the side of the head. It will happen, it will hurt, and life seldom apologizes without needed course correction. 

Instead of dwelling on the down side of the class of 2011 BasicMan was struck recently by the need to affirm those young adults that saw the need for course corrections and effectively joined the rest of the world for the first time. This is an attempt to let them know that someone has been watching and taking note – and learning from them: Yes, learning. After a certain age I realized I was learning more from the youth than from the elders.

They sped through the early years making waves in the classroom and on the sports field. As independent young adults, very few of them went seamlessly from school to the real world. Some never delivered the horsepower we thought they would, a few crashed and burned, and then there were those that stalled out but somehow managed to get the engine running again. These are The Fighters and The Resilient. There is one more category; The Gifted. These are the outliers in every generation. The ones that always meet or exceed expectations and are the easiest to congratulate and be proud of. Today however, I want to focus on the ones that fought and were resilient in the face of self-defeat.

When self induced growth is the achievement it speaks to the power of redemption, elevates the achiever to a larger than life figure, and demands full throated kudos

These freshly minted citizens of life; The Fighters and The Resilient are the upside of the downside of Gen X. They are tough and battle tried and have the scars to show for it. From here forward – Never count these young ones out.

The Fighters – Truth be told these are probably my favorites. These are the prodigals, the ones that fought their own demons, experienced the rawest side of life at a young age when their peers seemed to be on easy street. I truly love these kids as they inspire me – maybe I relate to them more because I am more in tune with their struggles than those of The Resilient and The Gifted.

Substance addictions, sexual preferences, broken families, dysfunctional parents, weight issues, self esteem, and a sense of total invisibility from society have made for a bumpy road for these kids. These challenges didn’t come from failures within the school system or lack of resources. It came when the toughest side of life simply slapped these kids well before they were ever equipped do deal with it. First they were confused, then lost, and nearly defeated to a point where succumbing to the lowest denominator in our society would have been a relief.

As a 20 year old, one of these warriors fought back from a life of poor decisions on the streets of LA that even he has trouble talking about. Today, at 25 he travels the world as a missionary, humanitarian, and voice for others fighting the same battles.

A young girl from a broken family and totally unprepared for life without training wheels ends up pregnant with a difficult choice to make. She chose life, her mate chose fatherhood. Today her family is whole, she is a brilliant mother and her choice (daughter) is expecting a sister very soon.

Having to overcome obesity and a stalled college career is no way for a young man to tackle life. This friend fits two categories. As a fighter and also resilient he fought back to lose over a hundred pounds and persevered long enough to receive his college degree long after his peers were off and running. Today, he has found his stride in DC with a senator that will likely be in line for bigger things in 2016 and beyond.

Having an addiction and jail time before your 24th birthday turns life into a very tough gig. Peer pressure and lack of direction are a recipe for disaster and this chef prepared a masterpiece. He fought his demons, both alcohol and his peers while remaining sober for the last 18 months. His fight inspires me because of the odds he faces in todays youth culture where a string of great parties substitutes for a great life. The result of every victory over his substance of choice reopens the world and life itself to him.

The Resilient – These are fighters as well because they simply wouldn’t quit. They had such great aspirations after graduation but something happened. The dream they had for life stalled or took a detour. They didn’t give up though, and today are to be congratulated for beating some pretty big odds..

The kid who never seemed to fit in during high school. Being 1 or 2 degrees off center in a unique and creative way is out of bounds when adult teachers’ field of vision is corporately narrow. Compensating to please them and your parents, as a 16 year old becomes twisted – but so do the options if you don’t. He bucked the system, he took his own creative path in music and against all odds, succeeded. Truly I don’t know who or what should inspire me more, the patience and love of his parents or his determined resilience. Poet Robert Frost had a few words to say about this.

In a family of five kids he was the one who chose to follow in his father’s footsteps. He knew about high standards and hard work from an early age. The level of integrity and success achieved by his father in their small town cast a long shadow. Following a successful college and law school experience, it was with such disappointment that life slapped him with a failure notice from his first attempt at the bar exam. It was almost debilitating when the second failure notice came a year later. He refused to be beaten and had the final say on the third attempt. Today he works at the law firm with his name on the shingle (actually, it’s his dad’s). Well done.

His friends passed him by as they sailed through college. Athletically and socially he was world class but in the classroom, he struggled. He gave up several times and succumbed to the townie life where friends, partying, and poor judgment temporarily took the sting out of taking life seriously. Hitting his bottom, he cut ties and left his hometown comfort zone to concentrate on making it on his own in a tough world. College restarted for him 3000 miles away and for the first time he is finding success in the classroom. Like most of the others, he had to come to his own realization that he had to direct the result he wanted.

The Resilient and The Fighters will continue to position themselves as the next generation to lead society. My generation of boomers is preparing to pass the baton to them. Ten years ago when these kids were in their teens, I had strong doubts that they would be ready to receive the challenge. Lost in that equation was that I, at one time in my life, had been exactly where they were – headstrong and full of bluster but unknowingly lost.

Life taught me what my parents couldn’t.


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