Youth Review: 20-21

OK, so my post is a little late. I wanted to post on the Sunday – my 21st birthday – but it was always going to be difficult to find the time with so much going on. So here begins the review of my final year of “youth”…

Of course, last time, I had just became 20, and was too busy to really notice. It was unexpected that I would get so many wishes of happy birthday from everyone who was at the summer camp, but it was also rather strange to have spent the whole day working my arse off. You see, Saturday 9th July 2005 at camp was the final celebration, involving a banquet and a recognition gathering, something which I had to organise myself with only a handful of campers to help me setup. It almost made me forget about my birthday. Almost…

Soon afterwards, the kids of first term at camp had gone. I was incredibly sad about this at the time. They had been such great fun, and we’d shared a lot of memories. They were good company – and better still, I knew all their names. Suddenly, they were gone. So as one load of campers were replaced by the next, inbetween stopping for one day to collect a nice cheque as payment and a rather forgettable party, I had to deal with yet more change.

The new campers were not as good as the old ones. At first. I eventually grew to like them as much as the first batch, but it took a while. The rest of the staff were so jaded by then that their negative attitudes were probably why the campers were so full of aggression too. It took a long time for everyone to settle down and back into the routine. I had to organise everything all over again. It was a little repetitive, but it was easier that way. Why invent new things to do of an evening when I could just reuse 90% of the stuff from last term? To the new kids, everything was new, even my old material…

The term disappeared as quickly as the previous one. It taught me a lot… perseverance for one. It was only through continued attempts at making something out of the second term, which I wasn’t enjoying at first, that things began to get better. Much better, in fact. I was sad to see the second lot go. Added to that the fact that I was almost at the end of my American adventure, it was a rather difficult time for me. I couldn’t accept that it was all but over. Even worse was the fact that I just had a week left with no interesting kids to talk to… just a week of work getting the camp in order. Not good. Painful in fact. The amount of times I had to move railway sleepers to fix the surface water drainage system was horrendous. But the cheques at the end of it all provided a small comfort…

Then I was on the flight home. It was now coming towards the end of August. I’d spent a horrendous day getting one internal flight to New York, and then waiting hours for my final plane journey home. I was going to be met on the other side in London, so once I had sat down, I could finally relax. It gave me much time to think. I wrote some notes on scraps of paper I had, talking about how I feel I’d changed over the summer. I’d become much closer to the person I wanted to be. I felt unconstrained by conformity to what society wants. I had grown in confidence as a public speaker… the things I had done over the holiday, singing, dancing, playing games to a large audience, would have been unimaginable to that 15 year old who had suffered panic attacks over his English speech in class. That really highlighted the difference in me. I just couldn’t help but feel amazed with what I had become. It was pretty good…

It was nice to be home again though. Most other people who do summer camps in the USA tend to stay there for some time afterwards so they can explore parts of the country. I just wasn’t up for it. I’d been offered a couple of times by fellow members of staff to go on road trips with them, but I just didn’t have the energy. I was ready to go home. So when I arrived, it was great to see my mum, dad and family again. But it was almost time to leave again, so late it was into August.

The university semester was about to start, and I decided to go back a week before the term began. This meant I had just one week back at home, and then was off again. I was quite eager to get back to Hull… the next academic year was actually going to count for something, unlike the previous, which was a great motivation. I wanted to get going, and get readjusted to life in Hull. Plus, I had loads of stories I wanted to tell my housemates. Even better was the fact that all of my friends would now be in the same house, as we’d arranged to all live together.

I had a feeling the year was going to be a good one. I knew there was going to be a lot of hard work ahead, but I just wanted to get it underway to feel like my life was carrying on moving in the right direction. I even told myself I should learn how to drive, as I was envious of the fact that everyone in the USA could drive, and I couldn’t. I wanted to learn so that I could go back to camp next year and drive the vans. This would make me much more useful as an employee… plus it would allow me to take control of more programs.

In the event, things didn’t turn out quite like that. The year started to pass me by as quickly as any other, and I descended into my usual state of inertia, prompting thoughts about how selfish I become when I live away from my family. I don’t like that side of me. I know it isn’t me. Without my family or other responsibilities around, I feel like I’m always looking after number 1, when I could be doing so much more. At the start of the term I toyed with the idea of becoming a student mentor, or a student associate at a local secondary school. My friend, doing a course which was much more lecture intensive than me, manage to sign up. And I wriggled my way out of it with silly excuses about not having enough time, just because I didn’t want to commit myself to something like that. As my mind changed over the year about my career choice, this would come to be a decision I would regret the most…

October arrived, and so did essay deadlines. I stuck my head down and slaved for weeks to produce a couple of decent essays, and then finally arranged my first driving lesson. I had already procrastinated away so much time that I was beginning to wonder if there would ever be anything in my life that I would say, “I’m going to do X now” and then do it exactly when I said I would. In the end it was OK, but nerve wracking. I picked it up pretty quickly, but would soon become very annoyed with my instructor.

November, then December… exams ahoy. Revision = dull. Again. But I was beginning to realise that these tests were nothing to fear. The mark scheme is such that as long as you answer the question, it is impossible to fail. My revision is normally pretty comprehensive, covering many angles, that there is no need for worry about what’s going to come up on the exam paper. Two exams later, I was home for Christmas, and then it was 2006.

So now we’re six years into this new fangled age of wizard computers, flash-bang electronics and sooper hyperdrive space ships. Well, that’s always what I thought it would be when I was younger. I read too many science books back then. But here I was, now just six months away from being 21, and life still was a long way short of those massive expectations of the future I once had. Still, I suppose that’s the point of being a kid: to dream, to imagine and create. Such activity is ceaseless then, and not tarred by the cynicism of adulthood. The best ambitions come from those you’ve held since childhood… but achieving them is normally the most impossible. How many of us wanted to be a firefighter?

Back to university once more. Yet this time, it was filled with an odd feeling. “This academic year is fast running to a conclusion”, I thought, “and then I will have to think about what on earth I’m doing with my life.” Oops, was my next thought – I don’t have a clue. So I sat down at the end of January and wrote this post which let me consider exactly what I was doing at the moment and where I’m going. It was at this point that I effectively made the decision to stop driving lessons once my current booking had ran out, cancelled any plans I had to go to the USA that summer, and decided, once and for all, that I should be a teacher.

I had thought about being a teacher before. After I’d applied for Hull Uni, and while I was still in denial about the fact that I was going to university, I had a change of heart and thought about doing a B.Ed degree instead, which would lead me to teacher status in three years. I’d already wasted a gap year, was my train of thought, so I should do this as quickly as possible, rather than do a degree, and then do a PGCE. But I did nothing about it, and in the end it went West like everything else.

So now, in 2006, I was back to where I’d started. It was then I realised that I should have done that mentor scheme back in September. It would have given me a real insight into teaching, maybe helping me to make my mind up before now. Either way, it was the beginning of a vocational call, as I think it is now.

February arrived, and my driving instructor was sent packing. Yet at the time I had big plans for learning how to drive back at home instead over summer. That hasn’t happened. Looking back at my blog is an interesting lesson in how many times I tell myself I’ll do something, and then I do nothing, leading to a decision either losing all momentum, or non-decision leading to unintended but entirely predictable consequences.

Then things began to take their usual end of semester crescendo. I did my essays, my fellow housemate on the same course as me didn’t do his, preferring to do numerous silly things resulting in a trip to the hospital. This was very disconcerting to me at the time, as it was such an added burden to me to try to deal with someone with serious depressive tendencies. Yet it was entirely expected. Only a week before I had warned my other housemates that they were so wrapped up in their own little worlds that they had missed the fact that The Depressed One was drinking extremely heavily of late, and how we were hardly noticing his existence. My worries were noted, but it was only days later that things became more dramatic, before anyone tried to engage with the problem. The symptoms of communication failure are often catastrophic.

We were lucky it wasn’t, but it wasn’t far off being so. I had never had to go through such a situation before, so it was now something else brand new to deal with, and to chalk up to experience. He went home, and it let us all concentrate on the work we needed to do.

It felt selfish, but as timing went, it couldn’t have been worse. We all had so much to do at the time, and we just couldn’t afford to lose it, babysitting someone. It was only fair on all of us that he went home. It gave us the time and space to distance the problem, as well as letting us clear all of our workloads so that we could look out for him on his return.

In the event, by now it was Easter. I’d worked as hard as I could under the circumstances, and now it dawned upon me that after Easter, I would have just three weeks left before second year of university would be over. Then it would be off to London for third year – yet another event I’ve been in continual denial and deliberate ignorance of. Plus, it would be the end of what had been, on balance, an excellent year living with my wonderful friends. It had more than made up for the hell of the previous one…

I must have been spectacularly busy over Easter, because I failed to post between the 5th April and the 19th of April. Of course, the chances of this being true are very slim, but I’d like to at least pretend that things were lively and fun. All I recall is that I made a definite arrangement with my old primary school to come in and help out as often as I could. This would finally give me a chance to work out if I like kids or not, and if I want to work with this age group. Plus, it would make sure I wasn’t going to waste my entire, enormously long summer holiday which was scheduled to start on May 15th.

Back to Hull for one final time. It was a great effort… I just couldn’t be bothered any more. I don’t think I could have been more annoyed with the fact that I was going back for three exams across four separate weeks, but there was nothing I could do about it. I just had to revise, and enjoy the final few weeks I had with my housemates before I had to move on again.

They were good times. Friends make all the difference between making a good thing great and a bad thing bearable. It was a shame as I left them for one final time in the middle of May. I said goodbye to Hull… knowing I’d be back next year.

However, it was good to come back home again. I had my work in primary school lined up, and I haven’t looked back on it ever since. It seems that my decision in February to go into this as a career could well be rewarded. I’ve enjoyed it enormously, despite the fact that I’ve been doing mostly menial jobs. It has told me that if I do not do this now, I will likely regret it for the rest of my life. I could choose to ignore my feelings, just as I have done in the past, and see what happens if I decide not to decide. But that course of action has never done me any favours.

I have to fight to get over that level of conservatism, to not want to change things in my own life because I fear what the conseqeunces might be. This means that if ever I do something different, I tend to think of it as a big event, because I’m not used to mixing things up a little. I have already fell behind everyone else with the gap year, and I have a four year course to do. My friends from 6th form college have all just graduated. I’m two years behind, and then I want to do a PGCE. People keep telling me about how difficult it is to get into primary education now, but I just have to give it a try.

This is a new me. I’m not one for lost causes. In fact, I’m not one to take on any challenge that has less than a 50% chance of success. I would say taking this course of action is probably going to be one of the most risky of my life. This will be totally different to anything I have ever done before… it is not the safe or easy course of action. That would have been sailing into a dull desk job once I’d collected a safe 2:1 from Oxbridge, where I could, with my A-Level results, have gone. I’ve already rejected that, so that decision I took when I was 17 seemed to have laid the ground for where I’m going now.

Now I’m 21. The culmination of all these competing pressures, decisions, individual will, environmental forces and genetic inheritance is here typing these words into his computer on a Tuesday afternoon. Reducing my life to a paragraph makes it seem so banal, but once you’ve gone through it there’s nothing you can do but move on from there. It doesn’t mean it hasn’t been important. I wouldn’t have documented it so exhaustively if I didn’t think so.

The real point was to finally put to words what has been an extraordinary journey through childhood and young adulthood. I’m not saying mine was any more interesting than any other person’s… because everyone’s journey through life is as fascinating and fantastic as the next. Going from a child to an adult is just a remarkable process, and the processes of sociology and psychology behind it intrigue me endlessly.

It’s been a funny old process of growing up. Yet I know I will never stop “growing up”. There is so much more to learn, so much more to do, so many more mistakes to make, so many wayward indiscretions to learn from… and much more. So much to live for, and I intend to keep trying to make myself live it. It’s something I’m still having to learn. So I definitely haven’t “grown up” yet. Perhaps none of us ever do.

So now the Youth Reviews are concluded, but the real journey of life is only just beginning.

The fun starts here…

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