Yesterday my friend got carried away by away by a bird. Never to be seen again. You can only imagine our devastation, and not to mention our surprise. My friend was over six feet tall and no slouch, so it must have been one big-ass eagle that carried him away. Our fearless leader faltered as he failed to bring down the ferocious beast. We had left St. Louis months earlier and it was nearing October; the weather turned frosty and we were plagued by a persistent chill as we made our way out west. I feared our party would go “Donner” on the wintry plains as we only had little sustenance and our meager covered wagon for protection. And we had yet to make it to Independence. Our leader faced near mutiny as one member succumbed to cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and multiple leg fractures; measles brought me down and a snake bite and a broken leg hindered my recovery; and another member broke his arm and was also whisked away to feed baby chicks, but we found him a day later clinging to tree for dear life. Watching our strongest friend be carried away as bird-bait demolished our already fractured morale.
Unlike our avatars traversing the Oregon Trail, the five of us were ensconced in the safety of the hotel lobby, sheltered from the 65 degree Southern California weather with ample lattes and snacks at hand. We were the leaders of 43 students attending a three-day health careers leadership conference. Our charges were busy making last minute preparations and competing in their events, providing support for and attending different workshops, and networking with students from across the state. We were busy… waiting. While we had our own responsibilities (the main being the care and feeding of our teenagers), most of our time was spent holding the fort, getting stuff for them, and monitoring where they were. Instead of falling victim to the ravages of cholera, we cultivated relationships with our iPhones and iPads and blasted snorting green pigs, frustrated friends with words, read blogs, and of course, survived (?) the untamed West.
I realized that all of this answered a question that long festered in my brain: what do adults do? Granted I’ve been one for a while now (it still surprises me– especially when my one gray hair made a friend and is now fostering a clique), but as a kid I always wanted to know what exactly do adults do? How do they spend their time? I thought, this is it, this is what we (granted we’re teachers, a specific, if slightly insane, breed of adult) do: we wait around and kill time. But this moment of being in the hotel lobby represents more than this. It is the culmination of a year of helping our students prepare for their events by staying after-school, helping them work through their processes and problems, and being lead by our real-life leader who worked tirelessly to make all of this happen. It is more than battling typhoid, cholera, and human-eating birds; it is being there for our students and preparing them for their own journeys across their wild, uncharted terrain to adulthood.