Friday, November 20, 2015

Dear Breakfast Club,

I read your letter to Mr. Vernon, and I gotta say…you’re totally right. He, your parents, and most adults only see you as they want to see you, in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions.

But, we’re not the only ones that do that. You, too, only see him, your parents, and most adults in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. You see them as authoritative figures who don’t know you, don’t understand you, and don’t care about you. And while that may be true some of the time, and it’s not true all of the time. As a matter of fact, they, too, have, at different points in their lives, been the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess, and, yes, even the criminal.

You see, the dirty little secret is that all that angst you feel now can and often does follow you long after you grow up. The pressure to succeed that Brian “The Brain” and Andrew “The Athlete” feel just morph into other pressures like bills, debt, or just keeping up with the Joneses.  And, just like Andrew, that pressure may tempt you to embarrass or ridicule others in order to feel better about yourself. Or, just like Brian, that pressure may make you suicidal, or even homicidal.

But it’s not just about the pressure to succeed. It’s also the burden of judgment that Claire “The Princess” and Bender “The Criminal” face. Long after Claire survives the gossip and mean girls of high school, she will continue dealing with the vindictive and vicious expectation to stay young, beautiful, and popular that many, many women endure well into adulthood. So don’t be surprised if she, or you, continue dealing with that judgment by dishing it right back out to others in lies, insults, and other forms of verbal torture.

And don’t forget that the high expectations that burden the smart, athletic, or popular kids are just as bad as the low expectations that weigh down on “criminals” like Bender.
Just like him, you may find that other people will continue underestimating you and thinking the worst of you years or even decades after you graduate from high school. That may, in fact, turn you into an actual criminal. And believe me, many, many grown ups do that; it’s just not all of them get caught.

Given all these pressures, is it any wonder that not more of us become “basket cases” like Allison, who cheat and lie and steal in a vain attempt to fill the void that fills many of our souls?

But, alas, I digress. Let me get to the point.

If it’s anything you should learn from today’s Saturday detention, it’s this:

Now that you know that each one of you is, in some way or another, a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal, please be less judgmental and much more accepting, understanding, and forgiving of each other and yourselves. That, I believe, is how you can avoid what Allison worried about when she said, “When you grow up, your heart dies.”

So, on behalf of your future selves,
take it from someone aching for his former self:

Stay cool, stay true, and stay you.

Sincerely yours,

Carl “The Janitor”

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