It’s the summer holidays and a year since the riots in London. A college principal offered the following words from a judge who regularly deals with youth.
“Always we hear the cry from teenagers, ‘what can we do, where can we go?’
“My answer is this: go home, mow the lawn, wash the windows, learn to cook, build a raft, get a job, visit the sick, study your lessons and after you’ve finished, read a book. Your town does not owe you recreational facilities and your parents do not owe you fun.”
“The world does not owe you a living, you owe the world something. You owe it your time, energy and talent so that no one will be at war, in sickness and lonely again. In other words grow up, stop being a cry baby, get out of your dream world and develop a backbone not a wishbone. Start behaving like a responsible person. You are important and you are needed. It’s too late to sit around and wait for somebody to do something someday. Someday is not and that somebody is you!”
When teenage British Olympian Zoe Smith was attacked on Twitter for her body-builder physique she said “I gave it to them on the platform. It’s two fingers up to the abusers, basically. What are you doing with your life? I’ve just competed at the Olympics! Have some of that.”
That is the beauty and power of youth. As exam results are published, I am reminded of a speech made by an American journalist to graduating students.
‘Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked.
Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.
Do one thing every day that scares you. Sing. Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours. Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.
Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.
Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young. Respect your elders.
Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.”