“The Youth of Today…”

How much of your childhood can you remember? Think back, your teen years, maybe you can vividly remember prior to your teenage life. Maybe it’s a bit of a blur. Maybe, in fact, it’s an absolutely amazing memory and on the other hand… Maybe it’s not.

Now think about one moment you would change. Did you miss out on taking a fantastic opportunity, did you make a wrong decision? Maybe it’s simply not saying something to someone. Maybe it’s not taking that risk.

Maybe it’s following those people you considered your friends into a few situations you were possibly better off staying out of.

Tonight was my second night volunteering with a youth sector for my Duke of Edinburgh Award. Now, I’ve worked with kids quite a bit now and there’s been a variety of ages but I wouldn’t say much touches on what happened tonight.

When I told my boss where I was volunteering, he simply snickered and responded with “let’s see if you make it out of there alive.” Now, if you know me you know I’m not a tough act. I’m honest yes, and I’ll protect my friends. But I honestly can’t take a punch from my little sister never mind someone who actually wants to hurt me (I’ve been slapped once in my life and, though I was extremely proud of that at the time, I never want to suffer that again).

Tonight though we had a bunch of… For lack of a better word, rowdey guys. Well, I say guys, one guy had even brought his little sister along. Now, we were in the local youth centre for a closed event so I guess you could say they were being territorial. The woman who leads the event is a youth worker and she says that in their world, that’s a good thing. I remember a similar situation with our local youth centre, we had a sense of almost pride about this shabby building. But the fact of the matter was it was a closed event and these guys were not going quietly.

This was the first time I’d ever seen something like this first hand. Now, of course when I say that I did grow up around this kind of attitude. Like I said, I have been slapped. I grew up on a council estate. I was part of the “gang culture”, though in fact we were just a few scruffy kids who thought they were hardcore drinking large bottles of WKD in the freezing cold weather. But I can say that, I’m judging myself in that.

But it’s different once you’re considered an adult.

In my opinion this phase happened when I was around 13. I met my ex when I was 16 and I cut all ties with the “bad influences” I considered my friends. I realised I hated the taste of WKD, I didn’t smoke, and I had better things to be doing than hiding in the shelter on the promanade in the middle of the pouring rain at 9pm. So, as the adults say, I can relate. It was the same when this group of lads barged into the youth centre and began stealing pencils and slamming doors.

Stealing pencils… Yes.

You watch them and you know that they’re bored, and it’s cold outside and they have nothing better to do. But it would be considered uncool to simply join in with the event, and to be honest it probably is more fun testing the adults because you know they can’t touch you. I can imagine if it was their parents it would be a whole other story though.

But this isn’t news to anyone. The riots from last year definitely solidified the negative connotation of “the youth of today”. It’s doubtful that’ll actually change anytime soon, if ever. But the worst thing about witnessing all of this first hand, and from the perspective of an adult, is noticing those few who just don’t want to be a part of this. I guess that was me back in the day. While the rest are bundling about like a load of cats on catnip, you’re holding back. You’re not swearing, or being quite as forceful with adults as you could be. You’re the one who helps tidying up, though subtly and in the midst of the madness so that no-one notices because, hey, that just wouldn’t be cool.

Now I’m not saying that this should change people’s opinions but I am definitely saying these kids can’t be bunched together. Just because they’re friends with “certain people” doesn’t make them the same. And it’s these ones who give me hope that, maybe, I might not die of stress within a few years of graduating.

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