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I Worry About The Role Models Of The Kids I Don’t Have.

Kids today.

More and more, it seems as though kids in the U.S. want their struggles known. They flaunt their self-pity over the hardships they’ve endured and almost — dare I say it — seem to enjoy labeling themselves victims of their parents’ latest indiscretions. Their teachers’ lack of control. Their classmates’ nicer shoes. Nicer cars. Nicer lives.

Why don’t have these things? They whine to no one and to everyone.

They see their heroes on t.v. Careless and fake. Unaccomplished in anything more than the swipe of a card. Immortalized in living rooms across the country because someone, somewhere, thought that is what’s interesting.

We pump the kids with hormones and processed junk, make them old from the inside before they know youth. We teach them to give thanks and then trample their neighbors for clothes they don’t need. Electronics they can’t afford. We send them on through the institutionalized assembly line of our education system where they’re taught that everyone’s different — everyone’s special — yet deny them the opportunity to hone their own gifts. To find out if it’s true.

Then we wonder why they’re so depressed.

PILLS! We say. Give them pills!

We treat the symptoms and not the cause.

Then we wonder why they never learn how to cope. How to heal.

Through the haze and the movies and their idols on t.v., they start to learn that damaged is good. Damaged is deep. Damaged means attention and medicine and special retreats to exotic resorts where people change your sheets and make your bed and give you food and schedule your day. Damaged doesn’t require apologies and it certainly doesn’t require work.

Damaged is the best.

What very few ever realize is it’s not the damaged ones we remember. When their shows get canceled, when the press stops caring, they sink into the foggy obscurity of the has-beens and never-weres. The ones we do remember — the ones who inspire — the Edisons and the Winfreys and Rowlings and Monroes — are the ones who prevail.

The ones who, despite the hardships, the bullying, the failures, and the letdowns, didn’t succumb to the victim appeal.

Last night I finished reading Passionate Nomad: The Life of Freya Stark, by Jane Fletcher Geniesse. It’s the life story of Dame Freya, knighted at age 82, who overcame the struggles of a tumultuous childhood, overbearing mother, and horrific accident that left part of her face slightly deformed in the early 1900s to become one of the first famous female solo travelers and a highly accomplished author. She journeyed through places like Yemen, Egypt, Iraq, Persia, India, and Turkey well into her 80′s, enthralled by the dangers of crossing forbidden borders and sweet talking her way out of run-ins with authority. She was illuminating, intelligent, daring, and resourceful.

Had her first fiancé not broken her heart, she might never have made such an impact.

Freya Stark
Photograph: John Murray (Publisher)

Ironically, Geniesse maintains that Freya’s biggest regret was that she was never a “great beauty.”

I flinched every time I read those words, for how is it that someone who lived the way she did — who forged and inspired and wrote and admired first-hand the dusty corners of forgotten worlds — could not recognize her own beauty?

I suppose women have not come very far since then.

And that makes me sad.

Freya wasn’t without faults. She wasn’t without insecurities. But she’s inspired me, nonetheless, to find what it is that brings me joy.

The role models are out there — we just have to make kids turn off the television long enough to discover them.

So. Maybe it’s not actually happening more, but I notice it more as I become acutely aware of the fact that I’m no longer a kid.

I can no longer bury my head in the smothering pillow of depression. Blame my parents for their faults. Play the victim of society.

That character — so damaged and mysterious to a teenaged mind — is really just scraps.

Useless and limp.

Throw them away or create something beautiful.

Either way, get them the hell off your sofa.

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Katie

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Comments

Kat Richter
Reply

Yes! I was hoping you were gonna post more about this after seeing your Facebook comment :) All I can say is AMEN to that! I have a student who went as Snookie from Jersey Shore for Halloween last year and I was like, “Seriously??? That is best you could come up with? And why are you even watching that show?” It is sooo irritating. And sad. Makes me scared to have children…

Katie
Reply

I suppose if someone dressed as Freya for Halloween, everyone would think a terrorist showed up to the party. ;) Anyway, while these people can be fun for dress-up parties, it’s when kids look to them as role models that I start to worry. And I’ve never watched Snookie or the Jersey Shore (I only know what it is from the internet), but I seriously don’t understand why people watch it. I suppose it could be entertaining, but the whole time I’m watching I would be wondering what other — more productive — things I could be doing with my time instead of making ugly (on the inside) people rich.

Kat Richter
Reply

PS: I usually read your posts on my phone so I haven’t stopped by the actual site for a while. I like the new headline/banner! (Although I was always a big fan of the old one too, this one just looks more chic and contemporary).

PPS: Thanks for answering my question about mailing stuff overseas! I appreciate it! Though I am sorely disappointed (and a bit relieved, I suppose) that wine is not allowed…

Katie
Reply

1. Thanks! I was just goofing around in Photoshop — maybe one day I’ll actually have something professionally designed for my site.

2. No problem! I’m pretty sure the no alcohol rule is universal over there — I’m sorry if it’s not! But it’s probably better to be safe since they can search through your package before they deliver. :)

Leslie
Reply

Love this! Very well said!

Katie
Reply

Thanks, Les!

Meg
Reply

AWESOME!! EVERY SINGLE PARENT should insist that their kids read this. I was going to say that they should read it TO them, but then that would kind of defeat the purpose :)

Katie
Reply

Haha, thanks Meg! They might have to read it to them to start — you know, just to get them into the idea of reading. ;)

Meg
Reply

Also – after going to Amazon.com and reading the sample page of Freya Stark book, I have it on my Must Read list!! Thank you :)

Katie
Reply

I want to read some of hers as well!

Meg
Reply

Katie – you really should come over to this website http://tinyurl.com/bhrf66r and check it out. It was created by a man, PJ Haarsma who wrote a young adult series of books and then made a free online game to encourage them to read. Our mutual friend Kevin McDuck is there most every day, and is a constant source of hilarity!!

Katie
Reply

Oh wow, that looks BEAUTIFUL! I seriously am having to fight every urge I have to try it out but the LAST thing I need right now is another daytime distraction. Maybe I’ll let myself play on the weekends. ;) It seriously looks so cool!!

Katie
Reply

Dammit I signed up. I am weak. But I am not – under any circumstances – allowed to play until I reach predetermined milestones in my business(es). ;)

Kay
Reply

So true. So very true. I think about this every time I see the celebrity train wreck of the week plastered all over the news. It must be nice to be considered a hero getting plastered and crashing your car on a regular basis.

But I do wish to add one note that I feel is important and should not be over looked. There is a big difference between the kids described above and the ones who really do have problems. Some kids really are victims of their parents. Some really have been damaged. And some are depressed, and depression is a very real medical condition that does require treatment. Don’t over look the ones that really do need help.

Katie
Reply

Exactly. Some celebs can keep it together – I don’t understand the ones who can’t/won’t.

Stephanie
Reply

I like this post. I’ve been delaying replying to it because I’ve been trying to think of something adequate to say, but it’s not coming. But go, you!

Katie
Reply

I appreciate the comment anyway. Sometimes you just need a good cheer. :)

Kevin
Reply

I don’t know how I missed this before, but I want to adopt this entry. This is…for once I don’t have the words. I love this entry.

“Nobody has any shame any more and we’re supposed to celebrate it.” – God Bless America (movie)

Katie
Reply

I took away YOUR words? I think I just impressed myself. ;)

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