Perspective

One thing that working with teenagers does is make you feel old. If you’re a day over 20, you’ll feel about 90 years old by the end of the day. They constantly make you reassess the line between history and experience. Five years ago, from their perspective, they were still little kids. Five years ago, I was the same person I am now, minus a few grey hairs. A few weeks ago, I saw a video about the Berlin Wall. Iconic at the time, now it’s almost gone completely. Odd how fast 20 years have gone. My students don't even remember the Berlin Wall, much less the dismantling of it, because it happened before they were born. The Iraq War is the only Gulf War they really know about.

Watching that made me think about my parents and where they were in life when I was young. I’m now older than my father was in my earliest memories of him. He wouldn’t be thirty-five until I was about seven. My mom was still under thirty. The music they spent their teens listening to was mid-60s and 70s; Elvis, Beatles, Dollie Parton, Crystal Gayle. The events of their youth included the Civil Rights movement, Vietnam, the Kennedy assassination, and the moon landings. All of that was history, as far as I was concerned; it happened before I was born.

To a fifteen or sixteen year-old, events that were important in my youth are history. The music I listened to would be dated, if they’d ever heard it before. Movies I loved are usually nothing they’ve ever seen because they’re 古くさい (furukusai, “fucking old”, quaint, lit: old stink). One of my early memories is waking up in the back seat of the Cougar at a drive-in showing of Star Wars (which may explain a lot of my later geekiness, come to think of it) my parents went to. The movie one of my students might remember at that age would be Titanic.

I don’t even want to think about how weirdly my perspective will have to shift in the next twenty years to be able to relate in any way to people that young. I guess the adults were right, I do understand what they meant now that I’m older.