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.

“When a good person does something bad, they own up to it.”


I have two confessions to make about why I write:

1. I’m terrified of losing my memory. I’m not scared of dying, I usually carry spiders outdoors instead of killing them and I’ve rappelled off the top of a Chicago hotel… but losing my memory is my biggest fear in life. I feel like I could lose the ability to talk and communicate as long as I have my good memories intact. I feel like I have been fortunate with experiences, whether good or bad, so in a rather Nicholas Sparks kind of way, I write essays about my life so that they won’t be forgotten.

2. I would love to publish a book of essays one day. Not anytime soon… because I really hate when people are super young and publish a book about their life. There’s so much more to live, so why shortchange your audience?

So, with these in mind, I write a lot. While my blog serves as a platform to host my biased opinions and rants in an effort to be a preachy asshole, my laptop is filled with essays about my life that are for my eyes only. Sometimes they can cross over, but for the most part, I keep my essays private. Why?

Because everyone isn’t a hero in my essays. I write about people who hurt me and taught me how to be a better person through learning how horrid someone could be. And honestly, I like to keep that kind of stuff private. I’m not saying that I’m perfect and immune to gossip, but I prefer not to broadcast someone’s flaws. I’m sure there are plenty of people who don’t like me. When I was going through my dark period, I was selfish, overemotional and incredibly insecure. Depression does that to people… it changes them. So I don’t like to judge someone based off of how poorly they treated me because maybe I crossed their path during a dark period and maybe they changed too.

So I was battling this whole topic when I came across this quote…


And I was like… yeahhhhh.

It’s the truth. If people wanted you to say good things about them, they should treat you with kindness and respect. When I write, I make sure to write the truth, not just my distorted account of a situation. I write what I did wrong that could have provoked someone to lash out on me. Also, I’m not always the protagonist of my stories. Sometimes I write about how awful I was to someone. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not everyone’s favorite person.

This made me think of a Parks & Rec quote by Ron Swanson: “You know what makes a good person good? When a good person does something bad, they own up to it. They try to learn something from it and they move on.”

If someone is ultimately good, they’ll also own up to when they were mean and cruel. They’ll admit it and try to move forward. If someone I mistreated wrote a book where I did something awful to them, I’d admit it. As long as they wrote their story truthfully rather than subjectively, I’d respect the person writing it. I’d probably be upset… but at the end of the day I can only be upset with myself and my past actions. I wouldn’t deny the story – I’d apologize and move forward.

At the end of the day, take my grandma’s advice. She used to tell us to never do anything that could be used against your character. If you were to die today, there shouldn’t be anyone at your funeral who could speak against you. It’s stupid and pointless to be cruel… and in the end, it’ll only be used against you. There are ways to show authority or anger respectfully. Don’t hurt each other.

It’ll make you look like a dick. No one likes dicks.