Monthly Archives: February 2013

An Unofficial Note to the Kids: Past, Present, & Future

It sucks being a teenager. It really does. By teenager, I mean from about 12 until about 20 (though things don’t get much better in your early twenties). But yeah, they suck. There are feelings and emotions coursing through you, making you feel unlike anything known to humankind. You’re parents don’t get you, your teachers don’t get you, and most other teenagers don’t really get you, either. And while the logical part of your mind knows this isn’t true, your heart feels that it is, and that just fucks you up. You’re not alone in feeling this way, yet, you are alone in being able to overcome it.

That’s depressing, isn’t it? Yeah, we’re here, we adults. I’m a father and a teacher to teenagers. I was a teenager once, too, and not a very good teenager. I mean that most teenagers get up to shenanigans and do stupid shit. I didn’t. I stayed home and wrote. I was too shy to talk to girls, didn’t really get along with guys, and preferred reading and watching movies to more social activities. And I was depressed for a large part of my teenage years. Partly, the bullying I endured from the time I was 10 until around 15 contributed to these feelings. But I got through, became a father at 20, and pulled myself through many things. The year I turned 30, things began to change. Still, that lost, helpless (and somewhat hopeless) teenager still resides within. The way I got through was accepting the love of those whom I trusted (parents, a teacher who acted as a second mother) and by eventually changing myself.

I was around 19 when I decided to change the way I was. It wasn’t instantaneous, nor did it happen easily, but the beginnings began at that point. I knew that even with the love I had of those around me, I could get myself out of those funky years. And that’s what I want to tell you. You should accept help from those who mean to do well by you. Parents, teachers, guidance counselors (most of guidance counselors aren’t worth their weight in anything, but every now and then I meet one who is excellent), coaches, etc., are often willing to help. They cannot fix everything, but they can listen and maybe give advice. You won’t take much of their advice, but you’ll wish you had. Someday. And it’s okay that you didn’t heed their advice because you need to fall down. You need to have your heart broken. But you also need to get up again and try again, even when everything in you says you don’t want to.

Kid, you’re given one life. One. Yeah, some of you believe in an afterlife or reincarnation or somesuch, and if you really want to wait for that time, that’s your call, but the way I see it, even if you do believe in that stuff, you cannot deny that this is what you have right now, and this is where you need to focus. In this one life, you must live. You must take chances and experience the pains of failure. And it will suck to fail. And you’ll cry. Man will you cry. And that’s good. You have to push yourself to get over that pain of failure, whether it’s a relationship or a goal or something else entirely, and then try again in a new way.

It won’t be easy. I can’t do it for you, but I can help you. And even if I could do it for you, I wouldn’t. You need to be able to take responsibility for yourself. But I promise that if you keep trying, if you keep making those attempts at whatever it is you wish to achieve, sooner or later, something will happen. It may not be exactly what you’d wanted; your dream girl/guy may never love you, your dream career may never be anything more than a dream, but you will find happiness with someone, doing something. But you have to make it happen. All those sad people in the world who tell you it will never happen have given up, or haven’t realized that their happiness is within them.

Look, I don’t have all the answers, but I promise that even though you have to face your personal fears alone, you are not alone in this world. We can, and will, support you.

I hope this message finds you, whoever you are. I know being a teenager sucks, but it’s the only thing you’ve got right now, and someday these struggles will prove to be inspirational. You’re doing a great job. Now don’t shut yourself off, just live.

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The Blizzard of 2013, Or How I Gave Up Heat & the Internet and Found Out Where My Priorities Lie

Didja hear the one about the two massive winter storms that merged and battered the Northeastern United States over a 24-hour period? Yeah, I did, too. I lived it, man. I’m sure some of you did, too. It was something to behold and, in my mind, the worst storm I’ve lived through. That’s not to say there haven’t been worse storms in my lifetime, there have been. The Blizzard of ’78 and Hurricane Katrina come immediately to mind. Except, I was six months old for the former and didn’t live on the Gulf Coast for the latter (neither beforehand nor afterward). Like most people around here (Southeastern Massachusetts), I took the weather people’s warnings with a grain of salt. I’m not one of those who think the TV weather people are always wrong, I don’t. They’re right more often than not, welcome to the 21st century! But I’ve been around long enough now to know that when storms hit Southeastern New England, they tend to fizzle out.

So imagine my surprise by what happened next.

I went shopping Thursday night, not to load up with pre-storm frozen pizzas, chicken pot pies, milk, and bread, but to do my normal grocery order. Thursday was when I got paid and that’s when I went. I had my iPod Touch with me so when I finally got my groceries, I could read in the long, long lines. It helped. A voice in my head warned me as a grabbed the dozen eggs, and the two gallons of milk, and the package of chicken breast, but the few times we’ve lost power in my life, it’s been turned on fairly quickly. And the worst of it happened because of hurricanes when I was a child. Even the Superstorm that hit the Northeast only knocked out our power for about three hours.

We lost power sooner than I expected. Not all power, roughly half of our apartment still had power. But some of the lights and the tv went out at 6:50 Friday night. The refrigerator also went out at that time. As did the heat.

No sweat, I thought. They’ll get it back on soon.

Twenty-four hours later, I began to worry. Forty-eight hours later, I was downright scared. We did our best. What we could plug into the places where power existed, we did, which meant extension cords across the apartment Sunday night and Monday morning.

While shoveling on Saturday.

While shoveling on Saturday.

Oh, and I forgot to mention, my 3-month-old daughter had her first cold from her first week at day care.

Yeah, that put everything in perspective. Luckily, my 14-year-old was with her mother and they didn’t lose power. But the baby with the cold was bundled up and watched diligently for the 64 hours we went without power. Finally, the power came on at 11 AM on Monday morning.

The fucked-up thing is that when the power went out Friday night, my immediate thought was, Shit, we lost the internet. By Saturday night, I couldn’t have cared less about the internet. All I really cared about was getting the heat on so the baby would be okay.

She is okay. Her cold is mostly gone though she has an ear infection. I had two bonus days off from work, and next week is vacation, so that’s a good deal. It’s easy to forget when you deal with teenagers (which I do every day between my older daughter and my students) that they have to get there. They have to get to that point where they’re gaining independence. They have to be taught and nurtured to get there. Nothing brings that home like having a baby in your arms, whose cherub-sweet face turns up to yours and smiles, not because she wants something, not because something funny is happening, but because you’re Daddy.

It still happens with occasionally with the teenager, though I spend a great deal of time wondering how badly I’m screwing up, and those moments are sweet. But as a high school teacher, I’m all too aware that the clock on childhood is ticking and soon, she’ll be Away, At College. Making A Life For Herself. With the baby, I’m helping to make her life. And that means something huge.

We were lucky in this storm. I have friends who only just got their power back today. There are plenty who still don’t have power or heat. Or the internet. Hopefully, they have something to remind them about life, like I did.

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I’m remiss that this is my first post of 2013. With the 3-month-old, you can imagine how easy it is to get to the computer. When I do, I tend to be catching up on work for the Day Job or working on The Novel. There is progress there, I promise. Hopefully, I’ll be back here sooner than later. Be safe and warm, my friends.

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