You Can Be Different

Was it really me in Newswriting class today

who when asked

if we had had any problems getting a response to a survey question

really used the phrase callow, greasy hipster kid?

As a rule of thumb

from me to you

try to avoid this phrase when in a room full

of young people.

I hate it when I feel

the gulf widen between me and the other students,

as if we are not all people together

all students

all writers

all having just turned in

the same assignment.

And I hated it when people called me a kid

when I was in my twenties.

Note to self: You can be different.

You can.

4 responses to “You Can Be Different

  1. I loved being different in college. I too approached it a little later in life, opting to live a little bit of it before deciding to make those kinds of decisions of what to be or how to be it, so i was 10 years behind the continuous education children. I was comfortable with it mostly.

    I recall at one point that the English teacher asked us to write a paper on how we felt about a newsly current event of our choice.

    A young twenty-something whipped her head around and with the anxiety of squirrel on the highway asked, “What do you think he wants??

    Was she serious? He was pretty obvious i thought. I guess i was a bit confused until i realized her and i were in college for completely different reasons. She was busy treating college like the job of pleasing a teacher/boss – as if getting a good grade was the same as getting a raise, and i was there to learn something about the world or myself that i didn’t know before. She was there as if school or a class or an assignment was a destination and i knew it was about the process of learning which never actually completed.

    “I think he wants you to think for yourself.”

    I remember her look went from confusion to abject fear.

    Enjoy the gulf, Jennifer. There’s a beauty in the space that divides you from being insulted by phrases like “callow, greasy hipster kid” because of the amazement that it did come skipping happily out your own mouth.

  2. Zen, thanks for this.

    I still can’t believe I said this. While in many ways I cherish my ability to appreciate my education and everything about it — from recognizing really good teaching to simply taking pleasure in new and wonderful knowledge — I mostly can’t believe I forgot my audience, and was disrespectful at that.

    I don’t want to alienate what goodwill I’ve accumulated. A 20-year-old is a not a kid, and I really want to stop speaking that way.

    But yes, at least I recognize that I did something wrong-feeling and lacking in respect to those around me. And yes, it also seems that I must recognize that this semester there is nowhere that I fit in.

    Thank heaven for BlogAsheville and blog readers, with whom I can be shockingly nerdy and not only does no one bat an eye, I think people kind of like me that way.

  3. Heh. I identify with you on that. Callow is hardly an insult for some people, twenty or otherwise. Nice of you to realize and give people the benefit of the doubt. Not callow or greasy until proved otherwise.

    I was the class Marxist in my mere two semesters of grad school. The privilege just oozed off the twenty-somethings there. I was about halfway through the semester when it occured to me that they grew up in the Reagan years. Of course anyone who has trouble making ends meet did it to themselves! I had to point out that for every 23 year old in grad school, there were another 100 out there busting their butts trying to stay alive/feed their kids/stay off the streets.

    (Incidentally, and apropos of nothing, I recall walking through downtown Asheville a few years back with some yuppie (blind date), who sneered at the homeless as if they were an infestation on the beauty of the area. I said to him, in all seriousness, “Those are *my people*, man. There but for the grace of God go I.”)

  4. The student I talked to WAS, absolutely WAS both greasy AND callow. I just could kick myself for referring to him as a KID, which he was not, and for using that words in a group of young adults the same age.

    These young people are not kids… I think it’s rude for me to join them a a peer, and then use a word for them that I found disrespectful at the same age.

    Today I caught myself thinking of a very smart, mature classmate as a “kid,” had to mentally smack myself again.

    I will not be someone who calls these people kids. I will be different. I am learning.

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