How many of you, if given the chance, would go back and relive your late teens or even your 20s? How many of you would like to remain that age forever? My eighth graders think they would.
The journal prompt I gave them today was this: Imagine you’ve found the fountain of youth. Once you drink from it, you will remain the age you are at that point in time forever. You’ll be immortal (but not a vampire, for all the Twilight fans out there). At what age would you drink from it and why? (I also told them that they could choose not to drink from it.)
Of the 70 kids I have, I think the number who chose not to drink from it hovered somewhere between ten and fifteen. Some of them explained their choice by saying it went against their faith. Others said they thought they would simply get bored if they stayed the same age forever.
Many, many, many of them said they would want to be about 21 or 22. Can you guess why? Their explanations went something like this: “If I’m 21, then I’m old enough to move away from my parents and to buy certain things.” (It was funny – alcohol was on all of their minds, but most came up with a euphemism for it.) These kids basically saw it as an eternal party and were very excited about that prospect.
The ones who didn’t choose 21 or 22 invariably chose their mid- to late-20s. They included the same reasons as the younger age group, but added that they would be past the party-all-the-time stage (although they still could if they wanted to, they said!) and that they would be ready to have a family. At that point, I asked if they would have their family drink from the fountain. They all said yes, although there were some frowns when I asked at what age they would have their children drink from it.
I told them that I’d like to see them all again when they’re actually in their mid-20s to see if their perspectives had changed. Would they still want to drink from the fountain at that age or would they want to wait until they were in their 30s? 40s? Would any of them want to go back to their teens?
It wasn’t until my last class of the day that one of my students – JD – asked me when I would want to drink from the fountain. I said that I wouldn’t. His quick response? “Why? Ya too old now?” I laughed (as did the rest of the kids).
I told him, no, it wasn’t that I thought I was too old. I said it was because of my faith and because as much as I enjoyed my teens, my 20s, and my 30s, I have no desire to live them again. I said that everything that’s happened to me in my life has helped shape who I am today. I’m happy with who I am, and I wouldn’t want to risk the person I am today by missing out on some of my life experiences. I’m still looking forward to many things in my life and have no desire to freeze myself at this or any age.
It’s natural, I think, for the kids to have the kinds of thoughts they did today. (How many of us didn't ache for our 20s when we were still in high school?)
It is my hope, though, that they live the kind of lives that will change their minds by the time they’re my age. And I hope that’s the kind of life you’re living too. After all, it's not the destination, is it? I think it's the journey.