When the Cool Kids Grow Up

There are not many universally binding truths, but I think I’ve discovered one:

Nobody, and I mean NOBODY wants to go back to junior high.

Some people sincerely wish they could go back to high school. Those years were genuinely the best of their life. That is not true for me but I understand how it can be for some. Others would say the college years were the best of their life. The tremendous amount of freedom as a newly minted “adult” mixed with the incredibly small amount of responsibility when compared to the real world has been able to produce a high level of satisfaction for many who have walked across the college campus.

But nobody ever says, “You know what year I really miss?!? 7th grade. Life has been crashing downhill since that majestic year.”

But why is it that some enjoy junior high? What happens to the “cool” kids in 7th grade when they grow up? Child Development, an academic journal, has the answers. They just published their findings from a 10-year study where they followed hundreds of students from ages 13-23. Their data shows that one can easily predict who will be a successful adult based on how they act when they’re just 13.

The study found that the 13-year old students found “cool” among their peers were the ones who acted much like older teenagers. They frequently made out with other students, regularly changing partners. They snuck into R-rated movies and wore excessive makeup in an attempt to look older than they were. In interviews with the research team it was actually the “cool” kids who expressed much deeper insecurities and concerns with being perceived as cool than the ones exalting them as such.

But why 13? The research team discovered that most teenagers they followed were participating in some version of these behaviors by the time they were 16-17 years old but the behaviors of the 13-year old “cool kids” had to keep escalating as they grew older in order to remain in the “cool” zone.

So what happened when they turned 22? 23? Most of them failed to graduate college. Virtually none of them had cultivated deep friendships with anyone and a large amount of them had serious substance abuse problems.

Conclusion? The “cool kids” in 7th grade might not be that cool when they grow up. In fact, more often than not they fail to grow into successful, stable adults who contribute to society and future generations, at least initially.

But there’s a deeper lesson here for all of us, not just 7th graders and 23 year olds:

Are you desperately trying to fit in at school? at work? Are you constantly seeking the approval of people you know you shouldn’t?

Do you find yourself deeply concerned with the opinions of people you know aren’t deeply concerned with you?

Today’s the day to make a change. The cool kids usually don’t stay cool so don’t worry about what they think. Be the you God made you to be. The world doesn’t need another “cool kid” or God would have made one. He made YOU. That’s what the world needs.

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