There’s a new Robert Zemeckis film coming out this year called The Walk. It centres on Philippe Petit, the French high-wire artist, who attempted (and maybe succeeded – no spoilers) in walking across a wire strung between the two World Trade Centres in NYC.
I have always been impressed by such bold acts of balancing. But the balancing acts I wish to write about today are those acts, boldly undertaken everyday by the students of Bedford College. Students, who like so many others of their life stage and generation, have an inordinate amount of expectations and endeavours to try and keep from crashing down on top of them.
In the course of a conversation with a single student it is possible to touch on all manner of topics and stresses: be it the expectations of family members, the pitfalls of first relationships, the demands of employers (coupled with the insecurity and unpredictability of casual work), the consistent flow of assessments, the drama of friendship, and naturally, the existential quandary of ‘what am I going to do after this?’
The boldness of the students to climb out of bed and step into the world each day, knowing that this balancing act awaits them, is quite remarkable. It sometimes must feel as though they are a half-trained circus performer who hops out of the shower only to be tossed a handful of kitchen appliances to juggle as they pour the milk into their coffee. What makes it all the more difficult for these students (and for so many of their generation) is that often, it can appear very difficult to find support. Their compatriots and co-students are undertaking the same balancing act, their families and older family friends are dealing with their own stresses, and perhaps, we might say, have too quickly forgotten the trials of youth (or perhaps, don’t quite realise that today’s young adult faces greater stresses and expectations than previous generations). This balancing act can be a very isolating experience. Yet, they continue to show up. And not only show up, but from what I have seen recently continue to invest in each others lives, they continue to support one another, even if that support comes in the form of mutually complaining about the size of the next assessment. They also continue to turn their focus outward: across this year they have, as a cohort held fundraisers for numerous different causes in the forms of dress up days, pancake breakfasts, potluck lunches, and minute to win it extravaganzas.
Why am I writing about this today? Firstly, it is a tip of the hat – to this current Bedford cohort, and to all Millennials – for the boldness of your balancing act. I know it is not always easy, but well done for continuing to show up. Secondly, well, since this article is more likely to be read by those beyond this life stage than within it, perhaps I could encourage you to pause for a moment to consider and appreciate the many expectations and endeavours that stretch and provoke those who have just left school. Perhaps you could consider how to support and encourage those young adults in your church, your family, and your communities. Perhaps you could consider how as an individual and as the broader church, we can lend a helping hand to the balancing act of youth.