One of the final assignments in the Grade 12 English class I teach is called You. It consists of two tasks: the first is to write a letter to a future version of yourself, and the second to curate a list of 50 things you want to do in life. The attention the kids pay to their lists never ceases to amaze. I teach at an alternative high school, and our students face a mishmash of hardships - poverty, family issues, legal troubles, addiction, mental health struggles, young parenthood, or maybe just that vague inability to fit in, to participate in a system made of rules that seem haphazard, or worse, rigged for failure.
And yet these kids - often with their smoke-stinky clothes or their yo missss version of a greeting, their sense of the world stacked against them – they still have much to say about how one should live life. Their lists are filled with goodness, with pure dreaming, with humour and empathy and the most wrenching efforts at self-acceptance. They are a heartbreaking, humbling joy to read.
With my students’ kind permission, I’ve taken some goals from each of the lists I received this year to share.
Here they are, verbatim:
Sleep out in nature at least once. Real nature, not a park
Learn more about homeopathy
Quit drinking Order (then of course eat) lobster at a ballin restaurant
Write a whole book of poetry
Throw a crazy ass house party but not at my own house
Reconnect with my father
Plant a tree in that huge crack in the cement in front of my building
Be the first person in my family to get a higher education
Sell one of my paintings to someone who will hang it in their house
Shower in a waterfall
Tell someone I love them, for real
Meet a famous person and tell them fame means nothing
Learn to pick friends who mean me no harm
Give an abandoned pet a loving home
Master a soufflé
Swim in every ocean
Cuddle with a panda bear
Donate money to the food bank
Learn yoga moves