Left behind

Responsibilities of growing up must be learned in real time


Emily Meinzer

Photo illustration

Story by Paisley Allen, staff writer

There they go, the older kids.

Every tween stares after them in awe as they walk and talk in their ever-so-glamorous circle of friends, each one more unattainable in measure of coolness than the next. At least, that’s what all the younger kids think. In their minds, the teenagers exist on a completely different plane in relation to the rest of the world. Their sharp-witted minds are so advanced and beyond the rest–a whimsical fantasy of what the youth one day hope to become. I was always one of those kids. I idolized the teenagers. I wanted them to know me, to think I was as cool as them, as funny as them. I wanted them to accept me, and it would take a rock-solid argument to make me doubt that every other young, impressionable kid didn’t feel the exact same way.

Fast forward a couple years, and I’ve achieved my goal: I am in with the older kids. However, something has changed. The difference is that I don’t see them as the embodiment of perfection anymore. I don’t put them on a pedestal and expect every word that passes their lips to be revolutionary. And you know why I don’t do that? Because they’re my friends, and I’ve seen them at 4 a.m. crying with laughter in their sheep pajamas with at least five Oreos stuffed in their mouths.

Therefore, I enter a new stage with my group of older friends. I still look up to them, of course, because it’s only natural to admire those older than you, but now we can relate to each other more and develop more of an equal relationship in contrast to the mentor/protégé mentality that had prevailed until this point. Herein lies the problem. Now, when my favorite seniors leave, it’s going to be the equivalent of losing my collective of Mr. Miyagis and my best friends all in one.

Adding to this dismal realization is the fact that no matter how close my relationship with an older person is, we are still going to be divided in some way. For instance, in school we are divided by grade. While some would argue that grade doesn’t affect a relationship, it truly does have a substantial impact. It goes back to the whole age difference issue with older kids experiencing different aspects of life sooner than their younger counterparts, such as, oh I don’t know, graduation–otherwise known as the point in time when former high school students are mercilessly thrust into the real world without parents or late grades.

As a mere sophomore, the thought terrifies me on many levels. I mean, no late grades? For one, I’m anxious for my friends who are being forced to grow up and take care of themselves, but I’m also wary of what that means for me as far as taking on their responsibilities and expectations that I will undoubtedly inherit.

It really sneaks up on you, the pressures of being an upperclassman. One day you’re a freshman, and high school is new, college is at least four years away, and the reality of life hasn’t completely drained you of energy. Then, the next thing you know, you’re almost a junior and all your friends are going off to college, leaving you to face high school and the duties that come with it all alone.

When do I learn how to do all of the tasks that the seniors seem to accomplish with such ease? When does my role as a leader amongst our student population become legitimate? I suppose my friends that will be graduating soon are asking the same questions about adulthood. And I think the answer to all of them is the same.

Whether or not you’re ready for it, life goes on, and in each stage we are propelled into something uncomfortable or different (often without any preparation), so we are forced to learn as we go.

And that is how we grow as people, by being stretched and challenged, and facing things that we don’t know how to handle. It is during these times that we gain experience and apply that wisdom to the rest of our lives.

Therefore, as I work toward being content with that fact, my earnest wish for all of my seniors is that they will be content too, in all of their endeavors.