Youth Work

Ish My Teens Say: #DroptheMic

So, this is my blog, right?
I type things, I humblebrag, and here you are, subjecting yourself to it because you’re polite and curious but most likely just bored.

But, you guys.
My teens; the youth I get to work with and advocate for? So many times a day, I wish-wrapped-in-a-wish-wrapped-in-a-wish I could live broadcast my job into All the Internets.

Because the things they say would break your face.
And today was an incredible example of that.  

A little background: Part of my job is to create 45-minute lesson plans, to be executed four times a day, in front of the antsy lunch crowds from four different high schools. Today’s discussion kicked off our month on Social Justice, and I had developed curriculum around the simplified list of Universal Human Rights.

(Aside: When I intro’d the topic to my first crowd, a non-magnet/general public school, I got groans. When I intro’d the topic to our performing arts high school, they literally screamed with joy. SCREAMED. THERE’S HOPE, HUMANS.)

I start each discussion with a “go-around”—an introduce-y, ice-melt-y question to get everyone focused—and today’s was:

Say your name and, if your life were a hashtag, what would the hashtag be?

They dropped some pretty memorable ones: #marginalized. #unbothered. #yeezytaughtme, #sigh, #purity, #lolderpeveryday. Then one girl, an extremely bubbly freshman, said, “Mine would be #stresseddepressedbutwelldressed.”

Hums, lolz, nods all around—and then one emphatic:

“Oh my god, I F*@$ING hate when people say that.”

I could feel all the nervous “OOOH, doesthismeanshe’sintrouble” glances bouncin’ off of me like ping pong balls. I put on my social-worker-wannabe hat and dug in.

“Huh. Yeah. First of all, please watch your language, but let’s unpack that. Tell me more.”

Room goes quiet.

“I know everyone loves joking about how depressed they get about things, but throwing it around really trivializes it for those who are living with depression. Like me. Like other people I know in this room. It’s a real thing, whether it’s diagnosed or not, and to hashtag it is insulting. It’s minimizing. So, please, stop.”

Matter-of-fact, and not a hint of apology in her voice. Hums and nods again; quieter this time. Then the freshman picks the ball right back up.

“I’m really sorry. You’re totally right. Ok, then I’m… #stressedboyobsessedbutwelldressed.”

The two exchanged high-fives and continued eating their PB & J’s.
I doubled over and pretended to have trouble breathing, it was all so wonderful (while the excellent, excellent teen humans nearby pretended to fan me). The go-around continued around the room and I cried a thousand invisible hope tears for the future.

Kids these days, amirite?

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