I was at a workshop earlier this week. It was held in a hotel with several other events and groups engaged in their own work. At various moments, I found myself charged with watching our registration table. This was the perfect opportunity to people watch some of the other groups. Two particular men caught my attention---mainly because their behavior reminded me so much of some of the teens I used to work with. I had no trouble envisioning these guys as their student selves.
The first man I ended up seeing several times. Sure enough, as soon as lunch or break was over, he could be found wandering around in the halls...sometimes talking on a cell phone, but more often than not, just hanging out. I talked to him a couple of times, finally shooing him "back to class." I couldn't help but think that this was the kid who would always ask if he could go to the bathroom/locker/nurse/office to call mom every time there was work to be done in the classroom. This was the "frequent flyer"---the kid who tried to wrangle a hall pass every class period---and knew the longest route to every bathroom in the school. There he was, all growed up.
The other man was once a gifted boy, too smart to be left to his own devices. Not that he would do anything malicious, but so creative in his thinking that you know that when he starts getting quiet, trouble is brewing. Meanwhile, he likes to say things to test the boundaries---to see if you'll call him on the bull he occasionally spouts. He wants to know whether or not you're paying attention. And now? His behaviors are mature, but there is that gleam of mischief in his eyes. It made me laugh to see him---I didn't laugh at him, mind you. It was just the remembrance of students I had like this and being delighted that they might have turned into this type of grown-up.
When I've worked with adults in the past, I have rarely (if ever) thought about what their high school selves might have been like. Most of the time, the person I see in front of me has worked hard to mask earlier versions of the self. But these cases this week make me smile. I can't help but think that these men have known who they are for a long time, are comfortable with that, and happy with how they fit with the world. Perhaps we should all strive for that kind of security thoughout our lives.