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.

20 ways to be happy

Happiness, Life Lessons
Ok Millennials, listen up. I’m sick and tired of my newsfeed being polluted with articles talking about how hard it is to be in your twenties. You hate your job, you’re poor and you were just released into this big bad world where you have absolutely no direction & nothing is turning out the way you expected. I get it. Oh trust me, I get it.

We all have those days where all we want to do is be a diva, crawl in bed and cry. Hell, I had one just last night. But newsflash – being a kid was hard, being a teen was hell and I have a ton of people in my life who make me realize that the generations to come aren’t all fun and games. It’s called life, and it’s not always rainbows and butterflies… no matter how old you are.

Recently, I came across a “self-help” article about being in your twenties. After reading the first three bullet points, “You’ll be Lonely”, “You’ll be Poor”, and “You’ll be Confused as F*ck”, I immediately closed my browser just in time to avoid reading number four, “You’ll Have Your Heart Broken”. In an attempt to counteract even a smidgen of the self-loathing Millennial articles online, I present to you 20 ways to be happy in your 20s (or any age, for that matter):

1. Life exists outside of 9-5

Don’t like your job? It’s an easy fix. Find something to do that you’re going to look forward to at least once a week – whether it’s a new hobby or an hour long conversation with your mom. If you’re not happy with your job, don’t let it define you. Live life outside of 9-5.

2. Brunch

Betches love brunch. Once a month, catch up with your friends by going to a long Sunday brunch. My personal fave? Beermosas at Southport Grocery.

3. Read at least two biographies a year

I’ve always been obsessed with biographies. I find other people’s lives so fascinating. However, they took on a new meaning in my #PostGradProblemz life. I realized that everyone struggles in their 20s… whether it’s Steve Jobs or Chris Farley – at some point they had to really work hard and persevere.

4. Laugh. A lot.

Laugh whenever you can, as often as you can and as loud as you can.

5. Be healthy

A year ago, a 30lb heavier version of me reluctantly stepped into a hip-hop dance class. I couldn’t do most of the moves because I was so out of shape. I attribute at least half of my happiness to the fact I decided to make a change. When you feel good, you’re going to allow yourself to experience life more.

6. Learn to deal with difficult people

Personally, I hate to hate people. It makes me really uncomfortable to admit that I really don’t like someone. Alas, in the past year I met that one person I’m never going to see eye to eye with. Instead of being hard on yourself for not being able to like the person, start to learn from them. Understand the traits that make them unlikable and vow to never pick them up. See them as a lesson on how to be a better person, all while treating them with respect. Just because someone doesn’t earn your respect doesn’t mean that you have to sink down to their level and deny them human decency.

7. Take a personal day

Because everyone needs one of those days every now and again where your biggest accomplishment is getting out of bed to microwave dinner.

8. Move to the city

Ok, maybe this is a bit extreme for most people. But the fact that I can get everything accomplished without walking more than 5 blocks definitely makes me a happy person.

9. Call home

Your family misses you, and you have to admit you miss them too. Nothing will brighten your day more than your brother telling you he’s a “Gigglesaurus” over the phone.

10. “Shoulda’s, woulda’s, coulda’s don’t go on the scoreboard”

Growing up, my dad always said that phrase. Live a life free of regrets. Dream big then attempt to make your dreams happen. What do you have to lose? That 9-5 job you hate? Yeah.

11.  Go on BuzzFeed.com, or IWasteSoMuchTime.com, or UpWorthy.com

Because they make lunch at your desk that much better.

12. Pick up a pen and write a letter

There are so many people in your life who deserve to know the good they have done for you. Give them that opportunity.

13. Pick up a hobby. Join a team.

I’ve always been one of those kids who had ten different sports going at once, on top of Girl Scouts and school. Was I busy? Yes. But I was never lonely. No matter what shit goes on during the week, I know that on Thursdays from 7-10 I’ll be with my fabulous improv group. Or that on Wednesdays from 8-9 I’ll be dancing my ass off with my gym friends. No matter what, I’ll always have a group of people behind me every single week.

14. Shop at Old Navy

You guys. They have some seriously trendy stuff these days. Shop there and save your money for things that actually matter – like a trip to the West Coast or a Showtime/HBO subscription.

15. Take a compliment

I’ll admit that this is something I really need to work on. It’s good to be humble but realize that most people in your life aren’t handing out empty compliments to make you feel good. Listen to them and shut your mouth.

16. Count your blessings

No matter what is going on in life, you’re always blessed. It can be as big as landing a new job or as small as getting the last Diet Pepsi from Jewel when you’re hung over. Whatever the case, don’t let life’s little blessings go unnoticed.

17. Reflect

Give yourself time to reflect on who you are and where you’re going. Let your mind wander when you’re on the train. Realize your shortcomings and appreciate the good days. Be nostalgic. Plan your next big idea.

18. Find mentors in life

Look for those people who will bring you to the next level. Those who won’t only praise and love you but will challenge you and unlock potential you didn’t know you had. Listen to the experience they have and the inspiration they bring. Life is a continuous learning process. Be a good student.

19. Forgive

Forgive your old college roommate for her passive aggressive notes. Forgive the circumstances that led you to graduate in a shitty economy. Most of all, forgive yourself for not being perfect. You’re GOING to fuck up! Life is a series of failures and lessons. That’s perfectly fine. When you learn to shake it off and move on, you’re going to learn how to love yourself and the world around you. You know that one person who always gets everything right? Who had the world handed to them? Yeah, me neither.

20. Just. Fucking. Be. You.

Don’t try to be anyone else – it doesn’t work. Be you. Be happy, silly, depressed, upset, nostalgic, determined, needy, independent, naïve, sassy, frustrated, weird, lazy, sad… whatever the hell you are today. You change. Accept that. And please – don’t ever apologize for who you are or where you’re going in life. Have a dream of being a donkey ranch owner? GREAT! The world needs more of them. The ONLY way to be happy with yourself is to be yourself.

So… there we go. That’s my advice. Now stop reading self-loathing articles and watch this instead: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32clXPhj14s