Teens these days.


(Photo: Carol Kaliff, Hearst Connecticut Media)

Today kids across America walked out of school to protest gun violence and the inability for our government to pass common sense gun control.

That’s incredible. I can only imagine being a government & politics teacher, or any other branch of history/American studies, and witnessing your students actively participating in and organizing peaceful protests. Or deciding not to participate because they didn’t agree with the protests. Either way, it’s a teach by doing moment. It’s teaching kids to be actionable instead of simply memorizing facts or spitting out theory.

Facebook is flooded with posts of alum, teachers and parents talking about the school walkouts or walk ins, where assemblies are being held in memory of the students killed due to gun violence. CNN is live-streaming the walkouts and the words of our CT Senator Chris Murphy. Across the nation kids are holding up signs stating their beliefs and desire for the adults in charge to be actionable. They are no longer complicit and trusting that adults will get the work done. The Parkland students showed them that their voice matters even when they are unable to vote. That you don’t have to wait until you’re 18 to voice political opinions.

I was young for my grade and didn’t turn 18 until I was in college. I remember being furious that I couldn’t vote in the primaries that year, even though I would be 18 by the general election. I was always highly opinionated when it came to politics, thanks to my mother who was always a well-informed citizen and my brother, who walked into the Democratic Headquarters at 16 to start volunteering. I would tag along with him, making calls to remind democrats and independents to vote, checking in on our elderly residents to see if any needed rides to polls, attending Chris Murphy’s debates when running for Congress, joining the Young Dems chapter my brother helped start and my favorite part of the process: going from poll to poll on election night to watch them count then ending back at Headquarters or a restaurant to hear the results roll in. I couldn’t vote, but I was more engaged in the political process than most adults.

Which was why I was furious when adults would undermine my intelligence in my teenage years. I would often hear that my opinions, and the opinions of my peers, were just echos of my family’s beliefs. I understand the thought, and recognize that may be true in some cases, but I could never understand why my civics teacher would take so much time explaining our nation’s workings to us, only to tell me that my opinions were just something I inherited from my parents when I got in a fight with a classmate over Bush’s reelection. Of course my family influenced my beliefs, but I was also smart enough to research and act on my own. I was old enough to hold opinions.

I remember a car ride where my mom and brother were talking a politics. I listened without much input, thinking instead of my recent civics lesson on political parties.

“What if I’m a Republican instead of a Democrat?” I asked my family.

I was constantly the lawyer of the family. I always wanted to think about situations from a different angle. A contrarian, always thinking of the other side before agreeing with my family.

“Your beliefs line up with the Democratic Party,” my mom replied.

“But what if they don’t? What if I’m a Republican instead?” I asked.

“Then you can be a Republican.”

I went home and did all the research I could on both parties. I spent hours trying to understand the difference and political platforms. I weighed policies against my moral beliefs and found that I did side with the Dems.

All of this was done my freshman year of high school. Clearly I was already intelligent and thoughtful enough to question my beliefs and recheck them against my political affiliation. My thoughts and opinions haven’t changed much. They evolved slightly with the times and my maturity. Whereas I used to think we should eliminate marriage entirely, calling everything a civil union, so we can eliminate the religious context of marriage, I’ve realized that battle gets misconstrued and calling everything a marriage is a better angle. I used to be much more fiscally liberal that I am today. I used to be pro-choice under medical necessity but am now entirely pro-choice. Tiny tweaks, but my adult mind is still in line with my teen mind.

So I still get angry that I was always underestimated. That adults did not believe that I researched my policies enough. To be fair, this still happens. I was constantly accused for siding with Hillary instead of Bernie because she was a woman, when in reality I thought she was the most qualified candidate we ever had and her fiscally moderate policies enabled me to reap benefits while still covering costs of social security and welfare.

People may say that I was a different type of teen. That not everyone was as mature. Well then, why not teach them to find their own opinions instead of dismissing them?

I think adults fall into an awful habit of thinking kids don’t know enough. We talk down to them and assume they can’t possibly understand. But clearly they do.

Today’s teens are living in a world where any question they have can be answered in a matter of seconds on their phones. Teenagers are actually MUCH better at recognizing “fake news” than we are. Aside from their obvious increased technical literacy, they’re also taught how to seek out information. As students, they have access to online encyclopedias and academic research. They’re constantly being told not to trust sites like Facebook and Wikipedia, and instead fact check every piece of information they want to use. They’re writing research reports and getting graded on whether or not their facts are confirmed. They’re much better at finding the truth than we are.

Without the ability to vote, I believe they’re getting antsy. I remember talking to my cousins, just shy of 18, about how much it sucked to be unable to vote in such an important presidential election. And now here we are, with massive school shootings happening at levels that I can’t even comprehend, and they’re done with us adults. They can’t vote, but they can speak for themselves and remind politicians that they’re voting very, very soon.

We need to stop underestimating kids and instead listen to them. That’s how I treat the kids I babysit. I never want to influence their own moral and political beliefs, so I just listen to them and encourage them to think about where they stand. The other day a kid I babysat was doing a project on trans kids and I found that she knew way more than even I did. I offered no opinions and instead just let her inform me on the topic. When I was watching some younger kids, someone came to the door who was running for local office. What followed was an hour long conversation with the kids about what their platforms would be and how they can run for office within their school. While I would steer at times, like suggesting they invest in scientific research when they said they wanted to stop all hurricanes, I let them carry the conversation.

We invest so much time and money into our kids and their education. But often when they want to show us the results of that investment, we don’t listen. While what happened at Stoneman Douglas was horrific, it is inspiring to see the students use their voices and speak up for themselves when a politician is dismissive of their question. Unless you’re a teacher or school employee, the topic of school shootings will ALWAYS impact the kids in your life more than it will ever impact you. Empower them to use their voices, especially if they’re teenagers. I’m so proud of these teens who are speaking up for the students in Sandy Hook who are still too young to speak for themselves. There are no longer only parents representing their students, but students themselves being actionable.

Keep going teens. Stand up for what you believe in and know that your mind is worthy of respect and your opinions are worth being heard.

My bullet journal.


90F8837D-3958-4DF8-AAD0-F637473DCF3C.jpegI may be late to the party, but I fell into the bullet journal craze.

One day in early February we had a huge snowstorm that kept me in my apartment for a few days. During this time, I set up my bullet journal. I created a few pages that failed, but I eventually got the hang of it.

For those who don’t know, bullet journaling is taking a journal with a bunch of dots on it and making it into whatever you need it to be. There are a ton of ideas on Pinterest. Most people use it as a customized organizer. You’re able to set up the ideal planner instead of trying to fit your year into a preplanned agenda.

Here are a few of my favorite parts of my own journal:

  • Monthly Spread: I have a calendar on one side of the page with the second side reserved for planning my goals for the month. I have a habit tracker where I check off whether or not I accomplished a daily task (reading, writing, flossing, etc.) and a list of goals for the month. I also have a little section where I write things to focus on for the month. Bigger questions that should be answered soon, like where I want to live next year, or things to keep in mind like saving for my trip to Italy in the summer. The habit tracker is the best part. At the end of each night, I have to answer to myself. It’s rewarding to see that I read every single day in February except one day and it’s discouraging that I didn’t study Italian once.
  • Grocery List: I love grocery shopping and cook almost all of my meals, so having a section for grocery shopping is really helpful. I used to jot down a list on a piece of scrap paper. Now that I have a section for them, I can refer to past lists to remind me of my staples so I’m not recreating a list constantly.
  • Book Progress: A bar graph showing my writing progress on my book with dates set to finish certain page counts. It’s fulfilling to see the bar rise, and it’s disappointing to have to admit that I didn’t meet a goal.
  • Roald Dahl Tracker: Roald Dahl is my favorite author so I wrote down everything he wrote so I can accomplish my goal of reading every single book he ever wrote. It speaks a lot to my personality and sense of humor.
  • Italy Planner: I have my budget, flight info, reservation information and agenda for Italy all bound in the book. I’m able to add pages as needed and track my budgeted vs. actual costs.

I’m not naïve enough to believe that I will always love bullet journaling as much as I do now, but for the moment, it’s a great way to hold myself accountable. Now that I’m writing for myself, it’s much harder to meet deadlines. But with my new journal, I make appointments with myself and make sure to show up to them because if I don’t, I’ll have to admit in writing that I didn’t meet a goal. Just as I do with my physical therapy appointments, I pencil myself in between the hours of 8:30-10pm and take myself down to my lobby to work. It’s working a lot better than the “I should write today…” thought turning into inaction.

I was falling into a bad habit of work, physical therapy, cooking and going to sleep. I realized that I had to make a change, and like most people, craved the proper structure to lead me there. By taking the time to reflect on the month, day, week, year ahead and actually write down my goals, I’m able to start working towards something greater. By sharing each month’s goals on Instagram, I’m broadcasting my expectations of myself to all my friends so I have to stay accountable.

My bullet journal got me to start writing in this blog again. I set the goal for myself to write four times a week. Usually that means a M-Th post, but I’m open to flexibility as long as it means I’m writing four times a week. Somehow, writing in my blog always correlates to finishing larger projects and being much happier. I think taking the time to type out my thoughts and allowing my friends and family in on my opinions helps keep me motivated.

I like having one place for everything. If I need to check my PT schedule, I go into my journal. If I have an idea for a stand up set, I go to my journal. If I want to see how much I’m spending on fringe items, I check my journal. It’s helpful to have a one stop shop instead of keeping things in a million different places.

My new year started a little late because I knew it would be unrealistic to make any sort of resolution while playoffs were going on. I still haven’t made any resolutions, per se, I’m just trying to get a little better each day. Let’s hope this is a habit that sticks.