Find Your "Inner Youth"

Written by Jane Brooks

Find new hobbies and your "youth" through learning.  Columnist Jane Brooks looks longingly at the choice and diversity her kids enjoy:

Next time around, let me come back as one of today's kids. Not that I'm complaining about self discovery through hobbies and continued learningmy life, it's fine, thank you. But, given a choice, I'd return as one of my kids, with the multitude of heady opportunities they've come to expect.

Advice on Finding New Experiences?
*Organize an ethnic cooking club. Cooking Light magazine hosts a bulletin board for readers wanting to form supper clubs.
*Check out local adult education courses in art, photography, etc.
*Try Dancing. In almost every part of the country, you can find classes in zydeco, swing, country, ballroom or salsa.
*Sign up for a  volunteer work/travel program. 
*Bond and Travel with Dad. 
*Learn to live as the French do. Take part in a culinary program in France or Italy. 
Nostalgia Vacation Dreams
Take summer jobs, for instance. Still in college, my son spent a summer living across the country in southern California working as a programmer for Disney. For that, he was paid enough to live in a Melrose Place clone and drive a full-sized rental car. A West Coast friend's son of the same age spent his summer working on Wall Street.

My most exotic college summer job was a brief stint as a Howard Johnson's waitress, hairnet and all, on picturesque Cape Cod. It only lasted a couple of weeks because my friends weren't able to find jobs and without my girlfriend's car, I had no way to get to work.

And consider vacations. When my kids were young and I had an office job, the biggest challenge was to find a babysitter during school holidays. Nowadays the neighborhood teens are skiing in Vail, sailing in the Caribbean, or visiting chums whose parents had been transferred to other parts of the country.

To be sure, many of these kids were privileged. But even the kids from far lesser means spent holidays with their youth groups, building houses in rural Mexican villages or singing in choirs that traveled to Austria or Belgium.

My high school choir performed at the Senior Center's annual Christmas party, where we were thrilled with donuts and cider afterward. And if a friend's family relocated, it was only a couple of miles from the city to the suburbs.

Today, kids dance to world beat music and feast on international fare, ordering Ethiopian or macrobiotic take-out like we ordered pizza. When I was in my 20s, I introduced a southern friend to a Jewish deli and chuckled when she ordered "a bagel and a lock." In turn, she delighted in serving me my first mint julep and grasshopper pie. That was our idea of cultural diversity.

I envy the smorgasbord of life that these kids experience. Next time around, please seat me at the same table so I can savor the many choices while my taste buds are still intact. That's not too much to ask, is it?

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