Saturday, March 21, 2009

My Take-Away

This is the one post that, for quite a while, I've known that I would write. For the past three months I've been living with three 21-year old college students and their associated friends. I fell into this situation by sub-letting a room, in their four-bedroom suite, from one of their friends who was traveling for the semester. It's been an interesting and often entertaining experiment.

Firstly, these guys are no different than when I was a college senior back in '86. Nothing has changed in the past 23 years, and most likely going back a lot longer than that. There is still copious amounts of alcohol, good friends, girls/boys, sports, classes, and an over-all attitude of reckless invincibility. The only notable difference, however, is the advent of video games; my suite-mates sit for hours playing all manner of games, including Rock Band, which can be very annoying when you're trying to sleep at 3:00 a.m. I've found this to be the only game that can penetrate the protective cocoon of my Bose noise canceling headphones.

My only epiphany during the entire experience came when realized that these kids are often inebriated, loud, and "out-of-control" only because society allows them to be that way. They're cut free from the confines of home and allowed to rapidly grow and expand with almost no tempering force. The college culture expects/encourages/demands them to act in this manner.

On a side note, what happens when you re-introduce a dampening or controlling force, e.g. you remove the kid from college and enlist him or her in the military? My experience has been that they still grow and mature but not at such an exponential rate. The environment is more supervised, and prone to a lot less recklessness; but that's another post.

During my stay here I've treated several college kids in the ER, one for a very serious alcohol intoxication. The sad part was that her mother came to the ER and had to see her near-naked daughter lying on the table engulfed in an octopus of tubes, wires, pumps, and monitors. I first tried to empathize with the mother, but found it difficult as she viciously blamed everyone for her daughter's condition except the young girl lying before her reeking of vomit and alcohol.

My "take away" has been that if left unchecked these kids will eagerly sprint down an often dangerous path, just as we did at their age; as most of us are lucky to still be walking this earth. There must be some sort of societal, peer, family, organizational, tempering force that allows them to grow and mature, but at a reasonable and less self-destructive rate. When I get home to my five-year old, we're going to work on that one pdq.


Buddhist_philosopher said...

Good luck with the tempering... I think the best we can do for our kids is to live as exemplary a life as possible, providing them with that template and all the wonderful substance that comes with it. That is what I credit my folks as doing. It didn't keep me from rebelling with alcohol, etc for a while, but it left an indelible image of the life I could be leading if and when I chose to follow their example. Forever they will be the sine qua non of my every accomplishment.

Long-time RN said...

I certainly agree on youth behavior on campus. I've done tutoring at a local university and found campus life very reminiscent of UW-Madison in 'my day'. Minus the tear gas, National Guard policing, and student protesting during the Nixon/McGovern election, of course.

One element I've found helpful with youth and tempering is having a trusted family member or family friend who you feel comfortable lending an ear and occassional advice to the children. These people can be safety valves and life savers during those years when parents may be viewed as a huge annoyance in their life.

David Mac Dougall said...

You know this makes you sound REALLY old and like someone's dad / CO.

And you thought the wii-golf-playing, beer-drinking, late-night-partying crowd in Baghdad was tough to live with...


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