Tuesday, August 02, 2011

What's Wrong Out There?

Since becoming a member of Facebook, it has been interesting to look at the Facebook walls of some of my former students. I like to look at the pictures they have posted and marvel at how much they have changed since Middle School. I also like to read what they have to say. Most of them don't hold back either. They simply tell it like it is, at least from their point of view. I wonder if their parents ever read what they have written. I think they would be amazed at just how mature these kids act and how knowledgeable they are about a lot of stuff. Some good, a lot, not so good.
I am finding that there is one thing that almost all of them have in common. They want to get out of this town. They hate it here. Now I have to ask myself just why this is. No matter where they live, kids always say, "there's nothing to do." Well, maybe our town "fathers" should listen to what our youth are saying.
We have a new "Y." It is a beautiful facility with all the trappings. A huge pool, work out facilities, etc. But membership there is prohibitive. I belong just because they recognize my "silver sneakers" privilege on my medical insurance. But the average teen cannot afford it, nor can their parents.
We have a wonderful, outdoor swimming pool. Well maintained, but overrun with elementary and smaller kids all day long. It has become a "cheap" baby sitting service, and I know that there are parents who drop their kids off there at noon and pick them up when they get off work. Teenagers don't want to hang out there because of the smaller ones, who get in the way and are inconsiderate. Cost is another factor. It's expensive to go with the daily rate, and season passes are expensive, too. And, it closes at 7:00pm. Now, on these hot evenings, who closes a pool at 7:00 pm? That's just plain stupid.
The kids have a skateboarding thing (not sure what it is called) but the people who came up with it, put it in a place that isn't too desirable. And it is not monitored by an adult, so there is an undesirable clientele who hang out there and word has it that drugs change hands there frequently.
We have a beautiful city park. Again, it is designed for the wee folk, and unless you are in little league and can utilize the many baseball diamonds available, the only thing you can do there is hang out and get into trouble. It is not well lit at night, so it closes at dark. Again, it lacks adult supervision on a regular basis.
Our town is blessed with lots of "fast food" places. The kids love to hang out at them, but the owners all have posted the "city ordinance" which prevents the kids from just parking and gabbing like we used to do at one of the filling stations after it closed in my town.
Our sports field where adults and older teens play community service baseball all summer long is half a mile out of town. On a state highway, making it treacherous walking or biking to and from it. It used to have a mini golf, and some other activities available there, but again, the owner priced the games so high, that the kids couldn't afford them, and he finally had to close them down. The ball diamonds still flourish, though.
So, now that I have made a list, not complete by any means, of some of the things available, yet unreachable for most teens, is it any wonder they hate it here, and want to "get outta town?"
I hate to tell them, but they would find the same thing, even in NYC or Chicago. There are things to do there, but they are expensive, or restricted, too.
One of my former students, a beautiful girl of, maybe 15, stated recently on her post, that she wanted to go to Las Vegas and marry a male stripper. Now, I am thinking, that maybe we do need to find these kids more to do with their time.



Maggie said...

I think the mindset is "get out of this small town"; must be youth? So many young people have that attitude and then look where they end up- back here.

And lots of male strippers are gay... I'm just saying, she might have to re-think that plan.

Jimmie Earl said...

Mellodee: I rec'd your long post via e-mail and couldn't agree more. In fact, if I can figure out how to cut and paste it into this comment column, you might just see it here even if it was long. You had so much to say. Thank you!

Jimmie Earl said...

Maggie: Wasn't it the beloved Erma Bombeck who said, "the grass is always greener over the septic tank." I think that many of today's youth are finding out that where they thought they wanted to be might just turn out to be the septic tank of their lives.
Sadly, when they come back here, there is nothing (no jobs) for them. Many end up staying where they are unhappy, or coming home to work in underpaying jobs or living hand to mouth, so to speak. That's not much of a life for them either.

Jimmie Earl said...

I rec'd the following comment from Mellodee via e-mail. I am posting it here because she had something to say that I thought shed a lot of light on what is going on "out there."

Adults have NEVER known what to do with teenagers since we all got away from the "old homestead" lifestyle.

Teenagers used to be the workforce on the farm or in the home because there was so much to do and so many people to do it for! Doing the laundry used to be an all-day affair. Now mom can throw on a load of laundry as she heads out the door to go to the gym! She doesn't need her teenaged daughters to help!

Unfortunately with the advent of the the era in which we live, although people are certainly not redundent, there is certainly less for them to do, so kids are left at loose ends. I remember the same problem being talked about in the small town I lived in 50 years ago! (Oh God, help me! 50 years??)

During the school year, there were lots of school activities and that became the largest part of the social scene. (It was pretty much always supervised too, as I recall) In summer, oh my, the activity of choice was swimming at the lake or someone's pool in the daytime, and going to the movies or driving to the Freezette and cruising around town. It's amazing more of us didn't get into trouble. Actually we were a pretty well-behaved group, but this was back before 1963 when the world began to change.

Grownups were always talking about building a youth center, but it didn't happen then. There was one High School so we saw each other all the time. There were clubs, church groups, we weren't embarrassed to be in Scouts even when we were in HS. there wasn't a critical need. It was a good town for growing up in. It had it's troubled times later, like everywhere else, but basically we turned into decent human beings.

(Even the "bad" kids, turned out ok, mostly. One of the boys in my class who was a real, well, loser is the only word that fits I'm sorry to say. He was in trouble all the time and was notorious. We saw him at our 35th reunion. He had gone into the army, took to it well, became "career army" and came out after 30 years at the rank of a full-bird Colonel!! Nobody would have believed back in the day including him!!)
But I digress.... still even then, where we were fairly well entertained and well-behaved, there were some who couldn't wait to "get out of this town".

You have a valid point and it is a real concern, but teenagers have always been anxious to spread their wings and fly away to where life is exciting. It is their nature. Sadly, so few actually find anything better than home!