Life is rarely how you picture it when you're a kid. I certainly had that experience today, when I went to speak to a group of young people at a local school. To say it was a bit intense would be an understatement, but only for a few questions. Kids sure are direct. Thereafter, it was more about expectations and why I'd done the things I've done with my life, and other fun questions like "when it's really quiet at your store, do you get to play monopoly?"
The reality of that question partnered with "what do you do if you're kicked out by your family?" was what hit me. These are kids. They're not supposed to have to think about questions like that, but here they are, worried about their future. And they're kids. I remember that feeling, though I remember it from a rather pampered place of knowing that as long as I kept my head down and didn't speak up, I was going to be safe. For some kids, that's never the starting block.
I answered questions honestly - I hope not so honestly that anyone is in trouble over my visit. I made them laugh more than a few times (my usual trick during harder talks) and I made sure after I answered the tough questions to ask if I'd answered the question for them.
In between "What's the best book you've ever read?" and "What happens when you make a mistake at the store?" there were "Did you ever get angry about what happened to you?" and "How do you know if you did the right thing?"
Kids really know how to cut to the chase, no?
"Sixteen-hundred Closest Friends," by Steve Karas
I loved this story, which was about a man who is feeling somewhat like his life has slipped by him somehow. He works a steady job, has a wife he loves, but that doesn't compare to what he finds when he finally joins Facebook and sees one friend in particular from his youth who is still young, strong, and surrounded by different women at every update.
What Karas does cleverly here is not make his narrator seem pathetic or deluded. At no point does this man think his life is bad - he just can't help but see the greener grass, and it chips away at him while he gets up at four in the morning to open his diner on time. When a random chance allows a reunion with his former friend while his wife is away, there's a tension that's wound all the tighter as they set out for an evening together.
But life as it appears on Facebook and life as it is... Well, we all know those aren't necessarily the same thing.