Trying to relate to YOLO

Jenny-Byxbee-greenwich-voicesIt is February and love is definitely in the air in the Youth Services office here at the United Way, but that’s just an indication of what’s to come.

And once spring fever officially hits, it becomes a little harder to get a young person’s attention in community service and projects. There are far too many distractions such as the prom, finding the perfect date and then there are the after prom events to worry about. It’s a lot to have on your plate.

The mentality that many of my constituents subscribe to is what’s known as  YOLO — or to put it more simply “you only live once.” Under this mentality, the moment they are in is the end all and be all.

At any time when working with young people, experience shows that it could be filled with laugher or tears (or sometimes both). But as parents and adult advisors, if we don’t take all their concerns seriously, it will be difficult for them to see us as trusted people to confide in. I often have to put aside my agenda to accomplish a project with students by meeting them where they are at, especially once spring has sprung. At times, I have even needed to try to remember what it was like to be in their shoes.

When trying to comfort the occasional broken hearted teen over the years, I have had to humble myself and share some of my very own high school experiences.  Like so many young people, my first love completely swept me off my feet and when that first relationship came to an end by my senior year of high school, it was devastating for me.  I had never experienced such hurt before. I remember sobbing on the long drive home after the break up with my high school boyfriend, to the strains of Whitney Houston and I Will Always Love You.

Life as I knew it came to a halt, especially since I was attending an all girls’ school at the time. I was faced with the horror of wondering who on earth was I going to go to prom with???

As comical as it is now to remember that experience, at the time it was the end of the world to me. If I could have only given my 16-year-old self a crystal ball, I could have reassured myself that although I did not end up with my high school boyfriend, I would and did find the love of my life. And having had this experience, I’ve found it has made it easier for me to understand and communicate with teenagers experiencing the very same emotions. Now it is not always appropriate to share some stories from one’s past, this is one that has always served me well to try relate to how young people feel.

I recently asked some Facebook friends what would be their love advice to their teenage self. The responses were very funny and heartwarming. I learned that we all have had similar bittersweet life experiences that have helped us be the people we are today. Moreover, that now and only now as adults can we look back and laugh. Life will and does always go on, and more often than not we are better for it.

If we can show our young people our own vulnerability from time to time, it may help them learn from our experiences, and ultimately will bolster their trust in us.

Happy Valentines Day!


Jenny Byxbee is the youth services coordinator for the United Way of Greenwich. She may be reached at 203-869-2221 or [email protected]

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