In seventh grade I thought my classmates were still pristine, but over the summer they rapidly grew up, and not in a mature way. We used to be kids that didn’t even know what the word “drugs” meant, but now it seems like half the grade is regularly doing drugs and drinking alcohol, and that isn’t even the worst they’ve done. Of course people get older and things change, but these things changed fast. Picture my grade crossing a road; you’d think that we would walk across, but instead we jumped.
Last October my grade went on a five-day trip. For the past few years, we had been looking forward to the trip because it was supposed to be a fun experience, and for most of us it was. We got to travel down the Eastern Shore and learn about the wildlife and ecology of Chincoteague Bay. We got to get out of the city, away from our families and all our responsibilities, and we got to learn something valuable without sitting in a classroom for an hour. Personally, I enjoyed the trip a lot. However, some people in my grade couldn’t enjoy it because of one person’s actions.
On the trip, a boy touched several girls without permission. It made me (and plenty of other people) pretty uncomfortable to see my classmate do what he was doing. Because of his behavior, he got suspended with a warning that if he were to ever do something worthy of suspension again, he would be expelled. He had to meet with the principal once a week, and every teacher watched him closely. It was sad to see this happen because he was funny, smart, and a friend to most people, but then out of the blue he just started being a creep.
We all thought he would slow down with the warnings he was given, but instead he sped up, getting expelled a month later for vaping in the bathroom and copying someone else’s lab report. Recently, another student was expelled for vaping, but it was a bit too late, as he had been the one leading the charge towards more serious problems and had already sold drugs to a good number of people in my grade.
The kids that got expelled had just hit a sort of mental growth spurt, and it happened without any prior signals. One thing that we all experience when getting older is that problems become more serious. When we were younger, a problem could be someone stealing a toy, but now that we’re older, we face problems like people selling drugs in school.
The switch to kids doing drugs was a big change. A year ago when kids in my grade did drugs, they just did them once every so often, just to “experiment.” Then this year came about and they started taking drugs more often — now some of them are actually hooked.
People are always changing, but sometimes you get so assured that things will stay the same that you completely ignore the transformation process until it hits you right in the face. If you ignore a signal, it seems like change happens suddenly. Maybe there were signs of my grade changing that I completely missed because I was just being happy in my own world.
I think that I wasn’t ready for these changes because of my time spent away at summer camp. Trends on social media come and go so fast that nobody can keep up with them except the people making them. Most summer camps don’t allow technology, so kids disconnect from the world and have no idea what’s going on online. This is good because you spend less time online, and you realize that nothing actually matters outside of real life. However, when you return from the wonderful experience of being away, you realize that in the span of a few days, a photo or a video has become a meme or has taken over society’s attention. Shortly after that, it’s gone and something else has taken its place. This is just an example of how quickly things are happening in the 21st century. Trends come and go, and changes in society and technology are happening faster than you realize.
We’re advancing at an incredible rate, but we have to make sure that our advancements are actually beneficial. If we move forward so fast that we can’t think about what we’re actually doing first, there will be more consequences. We need to think of all the outcomes to our actions, not just the ones that benefit us.
For me, witnessing people in my grade breaking rules just taught me that I was growing up. I am no longer at the age where I can run around playing innocently, because I know more, and when you learn something, you can’t really forget it. If I had stayed more on top of things, maybe nothing new in my grade would have been an unpleasant surprise. But even though I didn’t pay attention to passing new trends, I still received a surprise that introduced a new era of life to me. It introduced an era of life that stripped away my childhood innocence, even if I’m still personally innocent.
Mac Fabens lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is in the eighth grade. He enjoys canoeing, playing with dogs, and not having very much homework.
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