Disappointment of youth
Posted: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 8:01 pm
By: By Lisa Smartt
I love young people. Their naïve and zealous way of living inspires me. Even though I love them, I do occasionally find myself saying “old people” things like: “These young folks don’t seem to know how to work.” Or, “Kids nowadays have too much handed to them.” This type of friendly banter between generations has been going on for centuries. But there is something that every generation remembers. While youth is a time of great discovery and activity, it’s also the time we get our hearts broken. And sometimes our youthful inexperience makes the pain even greater. The year 1980 was that year of disappointment for me. I was a junior in high school.
I liked Jim. Jim liked me. I felt like he was on a fast track to success. Gainfully employed at the local Whataburger, he seemed much more mature than the other 16-year-old boys. He was different. I knew he was destined for greatness. But our dating story didn’t end like all the fairy tales. One day Jim decided that he was too young to be tied down to a “regular” girlfriend. He wanted his freedom. I guess he no longer wanted to spend his hard-earned Whataburger check on our Friday night date at Pizza Hut. I was crushed.
That same year, I tried out for our high school drill team. In Texas, drill team is the absolutely coveted high school activity. Hundreds of girls try out for just a few openings on a very prestigious dance team. I was determined. I lost so much weight that I didn’t look like myself. I practiced every day without fail. Several of the girls on the team said I was a “shoe in.” I could straight kick over my head ... while still keeping a fake smile plastered on my face. I practiced the try-out routine so much that I could have performed it in my sleep. I could have performed it backward in my sleep. The day of the try-outs came. Everything went tragically wrong. I lost my place with the music. The row of girls got out of alignment. I kept smiling but I sensed it had gone terribly wrong. Alas, when I returned to school that Saturday afternoon, No. 155 was painfully missing from the large white poster board. I cried. I cried and cried and cried. I cried for days. My parents hurt for me. But everyone knows that parents can’t make the pain go away. They can just be there to soften the blow.
Any of you who regularly read this column probably know that a “moral” to the story is forthcoming. I mean, I’m 45 years old. I don’t care about Jim anymore. Drill team try-outs were a long time ago. My life turned out remarkably well even without Jim by my side. My destiny hasn’t been altered by not making the high school drill team. In fact, I learned some pivotal lessons through that time of disappointment. So, one would think that the moral is: “Young people, don’t worry about the pain of today. Disappointment is a part of life. Someday it won’t matter.” But believe it or not, that’s not today’s moral. I hope it’s a lesson much deeper. “Pain is real. It’s real for the person experiencing it. Whether the person is 16 or 66, the hurt is significant.” Let’s show some respect and concern, shall we? Oh, and if you’re 16 and a local fast food worker just broke up with you, I feel your pain. Hang in there. Today’s hurt could insure your future as a newspaper columnist.
Editor’s note: Lisa Smartt’s column appears each Wednesday in the Friends and Neighbors section of The Messenger. Mrs. Smartt is the wife of Philip Smartt, the University of Tennessee at Martin parks and recreation and forestry professor, and is mother to two boys, Stephen and Jonathan. She is a freelance writer and speaker. Her book “The Smartt View: Life, Love, and Cluttered Closets” is available at The Messenger, The University of Tennessee at Martin bookstore or by mail for $10, plus $2 shipping. Send checks to Lisa Smartt, 300 Parrott Road, Dresden TN 38225. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 3.18.09