During our usual pow-wow, a group of friends and I were hot on the subject of the economy, jobs, who's boss sucks, etc. One guy brought along a dude he met at a day treatment program, and we were happy to have him.
When one of us brings along someone else, we try our best to get them involved in the conversation, activities, and the like by posing open questions and fun debates; the kind of thing that prompts anyone to interject or feel welcome to share experience or feel comfortable in joining in. After all, it's kinda shitty to keep content limited to inside jokes, stuff that others don't enjoy, and talk of anyone a new person doesn't know - all that kind of thing does is reaffirm people's uneasiness in a new setting.
So it seemed to be going smoothly, or so I thought, when I noticed this new kid was being completely silent. I figured maybe he was still a bit uncomfortable, bored, uninterested, but in looking over, he remained attentive and engaged, for the most part - except he hadn't uttered a word the whole fucking time. I was beginning to think total arrogance, but gave the benefit of the doubt...for a little while.
One of my friends probably noticed it, too, cuz after a while he posed his questions directly to this new guy, asking him his opinion on going to interviews, the types of work he'd done, what he thinks of shitty starting pay and crappy benefits, etc., to which the guy replies with a huge spiel on how high school was a lie. How they prepare you for college, teach you all kinds of info, give you state tests, and when you get out, there is no $90,000 a year, doctors won't take your insurance, chicks don't send you notes with their number, and if you wanna play sports, you have to pay for a membership or go pro, which he can't seem to get why he can't do.
Hm. Apparently we had a live case of one of those big men on campus who finally get out on their own to realize real life isn't what they thought it would be. Favoritism among the teachers didn't reserve him a job, Abercrombie & Fitch won't attract any girls, rich neighborhoods have no property he can afford, all those wasted football practices can't net him a spot on a real team, beating up the studious comes with an arrest, and mommy's coverage will no longer suffice. Awwww....
It's not that there wasn't a modicum of disappointment on my part, or anyone else at that table. There is a level of expectation and high hopes when you're young, and a lot of shit in the world you just have to deal with on an almost constant basis. There are problems in finding the right work, identity, significant other, and the right level of happiness for anyone in life. Only difference is, it's usually around your coming of age that you begin to realize this.
Yeah, high school is notorious for pushing the right behavior, skills, and gumption for this ideal of getting out, attending some other school, and graduating to become like those peeps on TV. If you're the best looking, most athletic, highest-graded, or have the most money, then the Principal himself will love you as much as the rest of your petty class of 300, and will gladly kiss your dick while whispering sweet words of how much of a winner you are and will always be.
Unfortunately, I've always been privy to the notion that this is a big chunk of the reason education is really fucked up in this country. Maybe a big chunk of the reason we have massive levels of teen suicide, bullying, drug use, alcoholism, social segregation, and everything else that sucked about grade school days. It's a setup. A scandal. And the worst part is how what they push leads to more trouble than they intended.
I mean, no one at our table was rich, shopped at Aero, A&F, or Gap, played sports, made 10 separate pages in the yearbook, or held up the class by spending time messing around with the teachers that kissed our asses because of it. For the most part, we had jobs after school. Bought our own vehicles, dressed differently, didn't care about grades, weren't in clubs or never made them, joined the rest of the stoners behind the building during math, and had parents that never went to PTA meetings, cuz they didn't work 9 to 5, drive new BMW's, wear suits, or fucking care in the first place.
But, even before we graduated to continue life as it goes for everyone, at least we understood what we were in for a bit better. That there's a whole lot more, and less, at the same time. It's an inevitability that comes like a law of physics, and is the concept a lot of older people in our society try to comfort youngsters with during those seemingly impossible times of confusion. You move on, and learn to let go of those very experiences that molded your character to begin with, as well as the people involved. So it's almost with a sincere sadness and embarrassment that I continued to listen to this guy's plight.
We engaged him on why he doesn't broaden his horizons with the job search. Try retail, a service station, accept minimum wage, anything. His response was that he didn't care about getting a job anyway, since he won't "lower himself" to taking whatever, wherever, and by the way, his family member had him in their will so he'd get a lot of money when they die.
Now a few strange looks began circulating. So what's he gonna do in the meantime? What if the family member lives for another 20 years? Does he understand the idea of "making a living"? Bills, rent, food, maintenance, all that shit he's a bit late in taking for granted?
He still didn't care. He's on welfare now, so the state can take care of him. They can do it because he got a bad deal coming out of high school, and he'll stay on welfare until his family member dies, anyway, cuz he won't settle for anything less than he's used to!
Even my little scenario didn't phase him: If Miss Hawaiian Tropic stopped by the city, looking for some dudes to apply hot oils and chaperone the models gearing up for their next show or whatever - but you had to apply, interview, and take $8.00/hr. like everyone else, would you pass it up?
The answer was the same.
"Maybe he was gay", my friends told me as we were leaving the restaurant we had been at. "Or maybe he's another rich, bloodless, sick, spoiled, arrogant, waspy bastard that needs stepped-up therapy thanks to his failure in realizing vital lessons about the world that in turn have led to his ongoing failure in life", I'd replied.
On my way home, I wondered if all of high school was a big Twilight Zone episode. In doing so wrong, they may have just done something right. And it had nothing to do with JV teams or quarterly report cards. Who woulda thunk? Many years later, we get a good taste of it - and I'm still laughing despite myself.