That is, this old man got to see youthful enthusiasm and creativity in action, and basked in the promise of a bright future they represent.
One afternoon, I sat for an interview by three Rutherford High School students, Sarah Khan, Sarah Huerta and Aria Delmar, all 14. They were working on a class project dealing, in part, with a court case in which high school students had purchased an ad in their school paper, but it was rejected for publication because it was against the school’s pro-abstinence stance.
They wanted to ask me about similar cases I had covered for The News Herald during my time as the paper’s education reporter. They asked good questions, including raising references to pledges of journalism ethics. And they forced me to dust off some faded brain cells.
They also joked that part of their presentation would involve a student complaining about how difficult it is to work with the equipment in the classroom — only to “travel back in time” to see how it was done in the days of paste-up page design.
I could almost smell the aroma of hot wax, evoking memories of journalism school and my first newspaper job.
Another day, I visited Floriopolis, the new arts center in St. Andrews, during an after school class for elementary school-age children.
The trio of Coraline, Lucy and Gillian drew clouds and painted watercolor skies. They sprinkled salt on one of the projects. Gillian quite excitedly showed her father her work when he came to pick her up.
I pictured masterpieces hung on a refrigerator door with Panama City Beach magnets, and times past when plastic totes filled with similar art with my children’s names on them.
It was pouring rain the night I visited Aerial Dance Panama City (see next Friday’s edition for the full story), where Melissa St. Clair and her daughter, Gabrielle, were taking a class — learning to climb silk strands and loop them over their limbs to hang suspended in the air.
“You feel it later,” Melissa said as she watched Gabrielle flip and stretch. “I’m envious of her. It’s much easier for her.”
For a second, I connected her statement to what the Rutherford students had said to me about the “time travel” portion of their presentation. It wasn’t the same thing, of course: Melissa was talking about how her daughter’s youth, energy and flexibility made this particular activity easier for her, while the high school students were referencing how the switch from manual labor to digital labor makes activities seem easier today (though we’re expected to accomplish so much more as a result).
Leaving the studio, I heard thunder rumble in the night, the residue of wild energy released in the chaos of the storm. And I thought how, when we were young, we thought we had it tough — but it doesn’t get easier. Not really. You will always need to pour your energy into molding your future. You might think it’s tough now, but you’ll really feel it later.
(This was my Undercurrents column for PanamaCity.com and The News Herald for Jan. 17.)