I work at a coffee shop. People come to the coffee shop with their idea of a fancy drink order and demand exactly what they want for the five bucks they are paying. However, when they look at me, an eighteen year old high school senior boy, their ideas change. They change their order to make it as simple as possible. They yell their order, stressing the customizations. They do this all the while looking at me like I am incapable of producing their order. When customers come, I do not act like I am in a special education class. I do not act like I do not speak English. I do not act like I do not care about the customer or the art of making coffee. I act like myself: an intelligent, respectful, experienced, dedicated, focused young man. However, just because I am in high school, and my age happens to end in the phrase, “teen”, I am expected to sag my pants, swear, act too cool, beat people up, and only care and think about sex.
In my high school, some teachers, and all substitute teachers, enter a room expecting disrespect, disorder, chaos, swearing, and a negligence for anything important. They enter the room screaming and yelling, expecting me to need a beating. They expect to have to baby me and feed me the answers. They look and expect to bust me for my cheating habits and short cuts.
Why? Why do adults treat me like this? I am so young, only capable of regurgitating the facts told to me. I can’t think on my own. I am an irresponsible punk who thinks I am already the best I can be. I don’t care about anyone else except myself. I think I am invincible. I love gangster rap.
Every person who is in high school or has an age that end with “teen” is exactly like me. It is impossible that I’m actually like no one else. It’s impossible that I’m a military son who has moved 13 different times in his life, having to adapt to new people and new places every time. It’s impossible that I was brought up in a respectable family and taught to be respectful and value the important things in life. It’s impossible that I actually want to go to college. It’s impossible that I think about other people before myself. It’s impossible that I’m doing math algorithms and thinking about philosophies that most adults can’t even fathom. It’s impossible that I am articulate. It’s also impossible to take three seconds to give me a chance and find out what kind of person I am, instead of automatically throwing me in the stupid and ignorant teen category. Why even think of that? It’s impossible to actually be my own different person.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.