I have acquired a lot of new Facebook friends between the ages of thirteen and seventeen in the past week. No, I haven't been hanging out at showings of the Twilight saga. Rather, I spent the last week working with kids from all across the country at a teen arts festival in Marin.
As the festival's culinary artist in residence, I spent all day in a kitchen, cooking with twenty-five teen chefs. They ranged from entering eighth through twelfth grades, with varying interests and personalities. And they were freaking awesome.
I genuinely enjoyed them. As the week went by, I was filled with increasingly strong senses of pride and adoration as they learned, played, worked, flirted, and laughed together--as teenagers do. It made me think back on my own teenage years--a somewhat common blend of fun, heartbreak, awkwardness, angst and joy. I recalled how little perspective I had. How every little feeling felt like it would last forever. How I feared I would never grow into my body and that I'd have acne forever.
Throughout the week, I had passing moments of wanting to grab each of them by the shoulders, look into their eyes and promise them that their lives will only get better and better. That high school will end and college will begin and that they will absolutely love it. That they'll thrive and prosper and perhaps struggle a bit, but they'll overcome everything that befalls them because they are strong and smart and beautiful and kind.
I didn't actually do that though, because then I would have been that weirdo lady who grabbed them by the shoulders and yammered on about overly-emotional stuff. And that lady is lame.