A rare opportunity arose several days ago to have a guile-less conversation with a gentleman who’s likely between the age of eighteen and twenty. He stopped at the office looking for an apartment to rent because someone had referred him my way. As chance would have it I had nothing available and since he appeared to have some time to kill he started telling his life story which I found interesting as well as sad. Likely he could tell from the beginning I wasn’t of the judgmental type by his freely speaking of what had brought him to this point in his life. He’d managed to get himself in a bit of trouble this past year and now paying the price. Having come from an area of this State of which I’m quite familiar, he was all the more willing to share his life story. The more he spoke, the more I came to realize he to be one of many thousands of young adults living in our country. His mother divorced his father not long after he was born, his father re-married and had children from a woman who already had children, and his mother married a man to whom she bore more children, and of course her husband had children from a previous wife. So when you step back and look at it, there’s his kids, her kids, and our kids on both sides of this picture. He’d been living on his own off and on since he was fifteen, he didn’t finish high school, lost his license, and is now working at a dead end job. Knowing of the place he works, he’s certainly putting in some hard days.
I asked him, “Why the tattoos?” His answer was in a paraphrase, “I have them because they make me feel like I’m special.” I said, “You’re fortunate you don’t have as many as I’ve been seeing of late.” His answer, “Oh, when I have the money there’ll be more.” I asked yet another question. “Why the piercings?” His answer, “I like them because they’re non-conforming to society.” He went on to say he had more but had to let them grow back because of the infections he was getting. I said, “Well, at least you learned your lesson about the piercings.” His response, “I am going to get a tongue tac.” I said, “Did you know that those metal objects in your mouth slowly chip away the enamel on your teeth leaving an even bigger problem with decay.” His response, “I’ve already had four root canals and two teeth pulled and another one that’s dead.” I looked at him and said, “Why so many problems with your teeth?” His answer. “Because I never brushed my teeth when I was young.” I thought to myself, “And you think you’re old?” In an upward fashion I gave him encouragement to get his schooling finished, not to fall back into preconceived notions about being special or even being anti-establishment. Every single one of us have stories to tell of our both joyous and sad formative years. The problem I see with what’s happening with the our young now is that it’s almost noble to be fiercely independent. I went on to tell him that even he’s establishment conforming and doesn’t realize it. Likely what’s happening with our youth is their chronic feelings of hopelessness in that they’ll never be able to get ahead due to the lack of guidance at an early age, thus creating their desire to be considered “special” via the tattoos and piercings of which I believe to be nothing less than an exercise in futility. Too many want to escape into their music or game boards and leaving no desire to expand their minds through education. Anyone considering themselves outwardly special is for me without merit. Perhaps we are now being confronted by the “look at me” generation.