My job is the ultimate mash-up. It’s unequal parts Lost Boys, Wet Hot American Summer, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and The Sixth Sense. Now I know the first three make total sense put together- wild, reckless youth and wackadoodle supervisors naught but a few years older than the aforementioned youth- but most people, when I recite my monologue on the definition of my job, get hung up on the last comparison.
You know that scene in the sixth sense, where that kid looks at Bruce Willis and says “I see dead people”? And it’s his thing, you know? It’s that part of him that sees beyond the everyday and it makes him think differently and act inexplicably, and no one else can see that, so no one else understands what he’s saying or doing.
Well, I see babies. I see children. I see these 16 and 17 year-old toddlers walking around with credit cards and no accountability. They’re monkeys doing what they see on TV, getting drunk and high at illicit parties. They’re getting Chlamydia left and right and having pregnancy scares and dealing with international relationship issues most adults can’t even successfully handle. They’re not even real people; they’re hormonal pupae all caught up in this scheme to learn English and move on to bigger and better things in their lives. They think they’ve got it all figured out, these babies.
Don’t misread these disparaging words; I love my job. It’s a dysfunctional, multi-cultural gumbo of crazed teens and young “adults”, and I have never been happier with my work. It doesn’t matter if I’m singlehandedly cleaning an entire wing of dormitories or busting a party of belligerent twits at two in the morning- I will, nine times out of ten, get a rush of joy and giddy excitement because I LOVE. MY. JOB. I can’t fully explain why it makes me so happy, but it does.
I love talking to the kids, all 35-80 who live with me at any given time of the year. I love hearing about their families, learning their sense of humor, anticipating their inevitable sneakiness when they meet ‘those’ students and start developing tastes for parties and four loco. I love watching them carry their culture around with them and interpreting everything they see and do through that lens. I have patched up more skinned knees, broken hearts and busted, treasured shoes than I can count. I am a never ending camp counselor, big sister, emergency kitchen and dreaded presence.
It wouldn’t be half as fun or easy if my friends weren’t so, so awesome. My youth group is pretty active, so I get to bring students to game nights, pancake breakfasts, volleyball games and even church. My friends are always so nice, so polite, and so very, very funny. The kids I bring are always nervous that their English isn’t good enough or that my friends are wild, party people (luckily, someone bringing a new board game or exotic food is as crazy as it gets) and it’s such a blessing to know that my awesome, clever, wonderful friends are there to assuage all doubt and greet them with open arms and real smiles.
I can’t bring all the kids, and there are always some wild ones in every group I know I never will. It breaks my heart to see the younger ones (and sometimes the older ones who should know better) running around like wild dogs. It must be the lingering training from working in childcare, but every interaction I ever have with a student is prefaced and guided by “what would I say to their mother if this all goes south?” These are peoples’ babies, at least once a year a parent will accompany their precious, beloved child to the college and carefully inspect their rooms, house, the campus, everything. Imagine the all-consuming grief that happens when I see those kids turn around and act worse than Courtney Love on a bender within a month of their mother kissing them on the head and crying all the way to the airport.
I tell you what, thank God for God, because if it weren’t for my awesome friends, my amazing pastor and my daily bible studies I would be a quivering wreck right now. I have bible verses up all over my house, reminding me to walk with grace and peace and Jesus, speak the truth to outsiders, and constantly love others with Christs’ love (because my own is so quickly turned to exasperation). I can get away from everything when I read the bible- I can breathe freely and become refreshed when the worst seems unending, and the mattresses in 315 have gone missing again.