CALVIN SEARS, 17
Calvin Sears is a writer from Ypsilanti, Michigan, who utilizes his off-kilter sense of humor to discuss all subjects, both serious and trivial, that matter to him. His short stories have been published in four volumes of the OMNIBUS and in a chapbook, I Rode My Yak to School, all published by 826michigan, a writing and tutoring center serving Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Detroit, Michigan students. Sears has participated in their programs since he was a middle school student.
In 2015, as a 13-year-old student attending drop-in writing sessions with 826michigan, Sears interviewed Ypsilanti mayor, Amanda Edmonds. With some preparation help from 826michigan tutors, he led a 90-minute conversation with the Mayor in the tutoring space. He led a discussion on crime, poverty, education, and more in relation to the state of his home city. In 2016, he interviewed Alex Goldman from the podcast Reply All for a piece published by Pulp, an Ann Arbor arts website.
Sears is most passionate about fighting discrimination of all types, but particularly fighting economic inequality and the disparities in opportunities offered to different groups of people. At his high school, Sears competes in speech and debate forensics and enjoys public speaking. His biggest hope for the youth is that they will be listened to by those in power. He feels that those around him are well-informed on issues of global importance, issues that are more likely to affect their generation than those that came before. Yet youth are continually pushed aside just for being young and “inexperienced.” If people in power were more willing to listen to the concerns of the youth, he believes the world would unequivocally be a better place.
Sears aspires to attend the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and major in economics. He hopes to use the degree to help alleviate income inequality and improve economic development in his community and beyond.
The Great Aging Dilemma
by Calvin Sears
The world today has no shortage of problems to deal with– gun violence, nuclear diplomacy, countless acts of oppression against minority groups, corruption in politics, the list goes on. But when focusing endlessly on these large-scale issues, ones with many complex viewpoints and no easy solutions, which cause rage and fierce debate, we tend to ignore the small, surface-level issues that go on around us that could be relatively easy to avoid. Granted, this doesn’t mean that they’re not important, or else I wouldn’t be talking about them. One problem I notice around me is that teenagers are forced to grow up way too fast, causing issues in both their scholarly and personal lives.
Now of course, it’s no secret that for high schoolers, academics are stressful. This is just a part of being in an education system and school just generally tends to be stressful every now and then. This is not inherently an issue. It becomes a problem when parents say that there’s no debate about university. When you’re forced to study endlessly for every test even though there’s a minute chance of it affecting your college acceptance. When you have to take every advanced course you can along with classes in the sciences. As a student at an IB school, I know many students who are taking Biology and Physics, or Biology and Chemistry on top of advanced math classes, and studying day and night for the SAT, ACT, and every other intimidating acronym under the sun. The reason why is pretty simple: the IB Programme is becoming extremely popular. Its rigorous educational ideals tend to attract a lot of parents who want to push their kids to do more. Again, pushing your kids is not a problem, but there’s a difference between a gentle shove and a kick into a bottomless pit. And, like it or not, the IB works, so in order to keep up, every other parent feels like they have to start kicking their kids into pits too if they want them succeed.
People that I know have no time to enjoy their childhood, or really what’s left of their adolescence, because they’re so busy with all the ridiculous extracurriculars, honors classes, and studying their parents force them to do. Of course, there’s also the problem of unavoidable punishment if their grades slip at all. This further impacts what little social life they have, not to mention providing them with even more stress and potential suffering to their mental health. Thankfully, I come from a place where I’m not being forced into that kind of situation, but I go to school in an environment where lots of people are, and it saddens me that they’re having easily one of the most fun, most free times of their life largely stripped away from them for the sake of the future.
That’s not to say that the rapid “maturity,” so to speak, of today’s youth is based solely in academics, however. On the other side of the same coin, we have teenagers who are getting involved in far more adult exploits than they should. Believe it or not, in the same environment where so many people I know are being forced to slave away at their academics, I also know a plethora of people— some of whom I’m close friends with— who smoke, drink, do drugs, and have sex somewhat regularly. Along with those are the hormone-confused who suddenly feel the overwhelming urge to be in a romantic relationship with someone, constantly plagued by the thought that, well, everyone else has a girlfriend/boyfriend (even though this is oftentimes hardly the case), why shouldn’t I? I should know, because for the longest time of my high school career, I was one of those people. Luckily, I realized for myself that because of our raging hormones which tend to make us very overdramatic, a high school relationship almost always ends in the relentless evil that is HIGH SCHOOL DRAMA, and that has a wrath unparalleled by almost anything. It’s just no good, and I’m glad I was able to convince myself of that without having to have the experience, while some of my more unfortunate friends had to learn that the hard way.
Realistically, neither of these paths are good for a high schooler to be taking. A life of sex, drugs, and alcohol is hardly sustainable for an adult, but especially when it comes to high schoolers, who are so easily taken advantage of and so susceptible to addiction. As for relationships, high school is merely testing the waters; dipping your toe in. It’s kind of like the free trial to the full game, but only if they made the free trial somehow way worse and far glitchier than the actual game. With the hormones the way they are and the environment structured nowhere near the way of the adult world, there’s just no way that anything could come out of a relationship between two teens. Trust me, I’ve seen what happens and it is not a fun trip.
Generally speaking, the teenage portion of life is an awkward mess, no doubt about it. It carries all the immaturity of childhood and tweendom and combines it with the expectations and hormones of adult life, and that creates undeniable challenges in navigating the pseudo-adult world. Pressure from parents creates problems on the academic spectrum, while social media and peer pressure will tax your social life. But, to all the teenagers out there not yet touched by academic strife or taunted by relationships, alcohol, and sex, I offer this piece of advice: you have your entire adult life to do those things. Worrying, stress, alcohol, sex, all of those things, are what adulthood is for. The 13 to 19 range, however, are undoubtedly your last six years of good, unadulterated freedom. So I ask, why spend it chained to addictions just to look cool? Why spend it lamenting academics day and night, scared of the next math quiz you might take just to keep up a 4.0? These are not worries that we, as teenagers, should be having, and I implore any who may be falling into these traps to re-evaluate and realize the gift of youth. Trust me, it’s shorter than you think, and I wouldn’t want to look back on it and see a haze of failed relationships, cheap beer, and constant test anxiety.