Summer is the time when most high schoolers and college students, bored with school being over, find summer jobs to make some cash while staying busy. Some find pretty high-paying occupations in a restaurant or local business, probably bragging to their peers how they make over eleven dollars an hour. Others opt to get ahead in their professional lives, getting valuable internship positions where they prepare by learning skills and making connections to help them get a job in the future.
And some just end up with jobs that are neither incredibly lucrative nor career-advancing. For the past two summers, I chose to be one of those people by working as a camp counselor at my hometown's local park district.
"Why would you do such a thing to yourself," many might ask? "Why would you force yourself to be under the sun for hours, supervising cranky little kids, and not even get paid a ton?"
As much as it was a typical high school job where I was paid to supervise children, working at camp was a joy that I don't regret in the slightest. What I remember and miss most about my time there isn't getting paid or putting it on a resume but entertaining the kids and seeing them smile without a worry on their minds.
Kids, for better or for worse, aren't very mature. They don't take things very seriously. Nor do they do much thinking before they act, so it's no surprise when they get hit by a basketball when running under the hoop or get cut while using a pair of scissors as a toy.
While this immaturity can be frustrating, it leaves kids more content than those around them. It's illuminating to see the stark contrast between a young adult, who is easily annoyed, skeptical, and not easily pleased, and a child, who is generally cheerful, gullible, and readily brought to tears of laughter.
When a teenager is disappointed, they brood and go silent, taking the issue very seriously. When a kid is disappointed, they'll make that abundantly clear when they sob over tiny issues, but they won't get hung up on it. They take disappointment likely.
Humor is an even more distinct difference. It doesn't take a ton to get a kid laughing; almost anything silly I did, whether it was a strange Elmo voice or slamming into a door head first, got them giggling uncontrollably. They had no problem with someone being a goofball just for the sake of it.
A teenager has a different standard of humor. Most simple attempts at getting a chuckle are met with strange glances and judgmental raised eyebrows. I too laugh at and enjoy the memes, vines, and jokes that our generation adores, but this teenage attitude of pseudo-maturity is pointless and only serves to shame others.
"Grow up," I've heard so many times to unfortunate peers who are merely trying to lighten the mood.
If comedy is intended to make light of dark times, then why is it that so many teenagers choose to dismiss others and stay perpetually bothered?
As much as we need to be serious – and grow up – in order to face the challenges that confront most adults, like those of academics, careers, and relationships, there's something to be said for 'being the kid' at times and just enjoying the little things without taking everything as if the world depended upon it.
The kids I took care of at camp didn't seem to care how their actions, their laughs, their smiles would appear to others; they didn't let disappointment control their day since they were too busy trying to have fun. Although such an utter lack of shame is impossible in adults, obtaining even a semblance of this carefree attitude would do wonders for toning down our miseries.
Four years ago, when I set foot in my high school, I thought that was the end of my juvenile days; I thought I'd finally cultivate a sense of self, develop a wistful, wise personality, and finally become an adult who'd scornfully look back on my childhood scoff at my foolishness.
Now, as I've spent over a week at U of M, I can look back and say that none of that happened. I'm in no rush to grow up. And no, I'm not even kidding.