One of the first questions I asked myself about working with young people, and I am talking over 20 years ago now, was “how easy will it be to keep up to date with youth culture?”
I attended seminars, I read books and I master minded (although back then we just called it talking about a topic) with other workers. It was a challenge.
It was a challenge because I didn’t want to watch Neighbours, I struggled with video games (and they were a tad less complex than today’s versions) and when I tuned into a program designed for young people my brain couldn’t keep up with the words on the bottom of the screen which seemed to have no relevance to the discussion and why did they need that animated flow in that pot?
Then there was a simple language barrier. I am old enough to remember when sick wasn’t that good, but then it became exceptionally good. Back in my day wicked was bad then it too became good. By the time you are reading this then in most places, sick and wicked have at best fallen into disuse – so it wouldn’t be cool to use them in conversation with the teenagers you know.
So, how did I ‘keep up to date’? How did I stay cool? It was easier then I had imagined – simple in fact. I removed the concept from my to do list. I realised (even back then and it is even more obvious now a days) that even though I feel like 15 on the inside, my outside is considerably older and young people don’t think I am cool, neither to they expect me to be. What they expect of me is that I care, that I listen, that I offer suggestions, that I share my experiences.
If I have to ask them to explain their music (apparently that’s what those sounds are called) then it isn’t a negative, in many cases they love to share their thoughts with me. If I am not up to date with the latest online method of killing complete strangers through elaborate games then they don’t mind, they ‘get’ that is not my scene.
However the day I stop caring, the day I lost touch with their pain, the day I don’t listen and try to understand – that’s the day I know I am not cool and the day I will need to move on.