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.

Meet the strongest woman I know


I want you all to meet my mom. If you love me, then you love her in return. Because everything I am today is because of her.

My mom is the funniest lady I know. I feel so blessed that I had her as an example growing up. I never thought that women weren’t supposed to be funny… because my family proved that wrong. My mom is silly, strange and definitely dances to the beat of her own drum… but at the same time she’s beautiful and lights up the room. She grew up with six sisters, which means that my entire life I’ve been surrounded by strong, funny and incredible female role models. I’m blessed for that. 

She’s also so unbelievably kind. She sacrifices everything to make sure my brother, sister and I are able to thrive. Everyone loves her… all of our friends look to her as a second mom. They know that no matter what happens in their life, there’s always a warm meal and couch to crash on at Momma T’s.

My dad was my mom’s soulmate. As hard as my dad’s death was on my entire family, I will never understand how my mom was able to survive his loss. They were made for each other. When my dad passed away, my mom’s world was turned upside down. All of a sudden, she was a single mother… and not by choice. While my brother and I were able to be selfish and immature in our grieving process, my mom had to hold down the fort. And trust me, we didn’t make it easy on her.

I don’t think I was ever an easy child. Not that I was bad, I just took a lot of energy to raise. I was one of those creative kids. I was always very active and wouldn’t accept a life that wasn’t busy. Growing up, that took a lot of energy out of my mom. She had to constantly coordinate meals, rides and find the money to pay for all of this. I was also very emotional… but wouldn’t show it. When I was upset, I would refuse to talk to anyone and must have exhausted her. I held everything in then would explode. That’s just how my brother and I dealt with emotions. My mom had to balance the complicated emotions that came with two teenagers who lost a parent unexpectedly on top of her own.

In addition to being a great parent, my mom is an incredible friend. A few years ago, my mom’s college friend was diagnosed with ALS. Although they lived hours away, my mom always found a way to visit and spend time with her. It didn’t matter what they did… as the disease took over her body and she was unable to speak, my mom knew that just sitting there with her was enough. When she passed away, my mom comforted her children with stories of their college days and pictures of their mom in her prime. It couldn’t have been easy but my mom didn’t care. She knew it was the right thing to do. 

She taught me the value of hard work. Life doesn’t come easy to the Taylor’s. She taught me that even when the world is against you and you feel like you’re falling apart, you can still be happy. Work hard and things will fall into place.

Most of all, my mom lets us dream… and I can’t even find the words to thank her for this. I know that it killed her to let me move to Chicago to pursue comedy. But she let me go. Although she may not always agree with everything I do, she supports me 100%. She has my back and is always proud.  I think she knew that I belonged out here… even if that meant that she had to let me go. My life out here isn’t always easy and she gets her fair share of calls home where I break down and question every decision I’ve made in life. But the conversation always ends the same way… she reminds me of why I’m here and lets me know that there will always a room back home if I ever need it. Then she leaves me with the decision on whether to stay in Chicago or go home. She never pressures me either way. I know that my six years out here have caused her too many sleepless nights and she’ll always worry about me. However, she sacrifices her own wants and desires for me. She taught me that we have one shot in this crazy life and it’s ultimately up to us to decide how we should use it.

My mom is a lot of things. She’s fearless, strong, funny, intelligent, kind, gentle, respected, beautiful and wise. And anyone who ever met her would agree. I’m so incredibly proud to be her daughter.