…Youth: I applied to almost every grocery store (Context- he was furloughed from a job at a University, a job he started 2 weeks prior to the pandemic induced shut down).
Me: You’re willing to risk it?
Youth: I need another job. Yesssss!
Me: I mean, I do get it.
Youth: I don’t have no money. Like, none. Not even from unemployment or the stimulus check.
Me: Hopefully it’ll be (grocery store job) a stocking position with little interface with the public.
Youth: Smh. Idk what I am doing wrong…I feel like I am doing something wrong man. I was just starting to do better. Corona in the way. I feel like nobody see how hard I’m trying because I don’t announce my moves publicly….
When did we become a country where people are willing to risk their health and well-being to make sure they have food on the table? This youth’s experience is occurring in the U.S., a supposed developed country, so imagine the similar angst occurring all over the nation with other youth, families, parents, and around the world?
This is a snapshot of a conversation I had with a youth (teen/young adult), one who is trying to do things the “right” way, and to not succumb to the lure of “street life, ” as the oldest child in the household with an unemployed parent. This is their reality. No money. No job. No income. No way to help support family. We all know the domino effect all of those no’s will have (no food, no money to pay bills, etc.) What is/was your reality as a teen/young adult? Was it the same, i.e.- similar financial pressures, or was yours worlds apart? These are the (systemic) inequities that we speak of. There is a marked difference in experience of the have and the have nots. We are all not born into a system where we all begin at the same starting point, yet we are asked to have the same (positive) outcomes. This is that youths reality. What is/was yours?
Realities and opportunities are not created equally- education and this public health pandemic are evidence of that. Life as we know it has changed indefinitely. Will it change again? Yes. Will it remain the same? Probably not. Initially we heard, in passing, about this virus in China. I don’t know about anyone else…I didn’t really pay attention until it really began to hit our shores/home. This pandemic didn’t become a reality for most people until around Mid-March. It really became a reality for me when we were all seemingly blind sighted by the abrupt closing of schools effective Friday March 16 here in the U.S., with no reopening date (still) in sight. The domino effects has resulted in a global shutdown, with countless people being furloughed, and who, in order to eat- have to work. Case in point, the conversation that occurred above.
What has been most jarring is the sudden nature in which my students in 9th-12th grade (typically 14-18 year olds) disappeared after March 13, not knowing if or when I would see them again. This has been, in no small terms, a traumatic experience for all, worldwide. Seniors who are uncertain about whether their highly anticipated graduation to recognize their hardwork will play out, lives lost due to the virus, students who did not have a chance to bid their peers and teachers farewell, people who acquired the virus through contact, rapidly increasing mortality rates with death being no respecter of persons, people in quarantine for 14 days to hopefully ride the virus out if contracted and to contain the possibility of spreading it, people who may or may not have symptoms and who wrestle with presenting themselves to hospitals for fear of symptoms getting worst or of contracting the virus, hospital beds riddled with ailing patients. This is all…a lot for anyone, even the most optimistic of us all, to process.
Then…comes having to operate and function personally and professionally in the throes of a public health and global crisis. How do we people, professional, and parent, when the world has gone to hell in a hand basket (an over-exaggeration but eerily accurate description)?
In all three of these areas, there is a common denominator- you. Before you seek to people, professional, and parent you have to take care of you. To help, rescue, and/or care for someone else, you have to have the capacity to do so. As the saying goes- you cannot pour from an empty cup. In short- take care of yourself first so you can then do the same for others by people-ing, parent-ing, and professional-ing, if/when applicable.
People-ing, professional-ing, parent-ing: this was a cheeky play on words to emphasize the action-oriented nature of them all. These three “p’s” are all states of being that necessitate choice, and actions that reflect that choice- whether to engage with others, self, colleagues, kids, etc., or not. The three “p’s” require you to oftentimes engage with others in ways that are meaningful, participatory, and engaging. At the core of your ability to engage with others is your desire and will to do so. What I will encourage you (and me) to do, is to be authentic and transparent when doing so- if you do not feel like engaging with others, give yourself permission not to. That is your God-given right to know your limits and to disengage for your own health and well-being when needed. Then, when you do feel like you are able to re-engage, do so. But, be transparent with those you engage with and be authentic to yourself- listen to your intuition; when in tune with it, it will lead you to a space where you take care of yourself and then by default, are able to engage and take care of others. You, must, come first. Then, you can show up for others.
So, what does this all have to do with youth, development, Bim, and the young person mentioned at the beginning? This is one example, of one experience of how the pandemic has impacted a family and a youth. This is one that has been shared. How many more out there that have been adversely affected by the virus? Who for them, if they do not work, they do not eat- literally. This is one example of many others for whom this crisis has thrown a wrench into the livelihood of others. How many more stories similar to this are out there, that go un-shared, unheard, dismissed, untold, and/or not listened to? How can we help our young people, who are considered high-need and at-risk, do better when they do not have the means or opportunities through which to do so? What will they then resort to?
This global pandemic has shown us how vulnerable yet interconnected we as a people and a world are. What can we as people do to take care of us, our youth, and our world? All productive thoughts welcomed. Mine will be shared in a subsequent post but I am curious to hear yours. Comment below or reach out to us firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts. We want to hear from you!