Everybody Wants Me To Be…

“We are all creative, but by the time we are three of four years old, someone has knocked the creativity out of us. Some people shut up the kids who start to tell stories. Kids dance in their cribs, but someone will insist they sit still. By the time the creative people are ten or twelve, they want to be like everyone else.” – Maya Angelou

This weekend I was talking with a group of youth at a community gathering when they brought up adultism. I asked them what they’d say to the world about it, and they laid it out:

“Adults don’t understand us, so they want us to be just like them.”

Suddenly I saw my peers in high school who wore suits and ties, talked with proper diction and tried so hard to be like adults. I saw the princesses at the town fair, waving their Diana-like wave and smiling their Diana-like smile. I saw the youth councils moving through issues with legislative-like discipline, and the youth board members with briefcases and the 16-year-old with his dad’s old hot rod and the girl with her mom’s shoes on and the boy playing cowboy, just like on TV… and everything, the youth stereotypes, the youth cultures, the youth radio, all of it, took a different shape. And the young people who act most familiar to us, those that succeed most in being adult-like, those are the youth who we award. Those who are most alien are those whom we fail.

Who are we really failing?

“Well, I try my best
To be just like I am,
But everybody wants you
To be just like them.” – Bob Dylan*

I would suggest that adults – we – are really failing ourselves. The creative energy of young people is being squelched and the problems adults create simply compound themselves. Bleh.

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