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Mike Cline: Hope for next generation

ěThat next generation isnít going to amount to a hill of beans.î
How many times have you heard your aunts, uncles, grandparents or just other codgers use that phrase? I know I heard it numerous times growing up.
Perhaps itís an expected ritual handed down from generation-to-generation, to bash the people who will gradually take over our society when the aging group passes the torch.
Maybe our pride doesnít want to admit that our kids can do better than we did, even though weíre actually hoping they can. Didnít our parents want us to be better off than they? Of course they did. And I want the same for my children and their generation.
Looking back, I remember distinctly the instant that it really dawned on me that daughter Casey, my ěbaby,î was growing up, even though it can be difficult associating that with middle school. Those years can be so awkward for a kid (they certainly were for me).
I always remembered middle school (it was called junior high when I was that age) as being very confusing, like I wasnít a youngster anymore but I wasnít a grown-up either. Much of my middle school years was like walking through a dark London fog (and I donít mean the overcoat). I had loved elementary school, and I loved high school, but grades seven through nine, forget it.
But back to my ěbaby.î I had picked her up from her piano lesson in Eagle Heights. We were passing Catawba College when she said, ěCatawba is really a pretty campus, isnít it?î ěYes it is,î I answered, adding, ěmaybe you can go here in four years.î
ěNo,î was her reply, ěI want out of this town.î (My apologies to the local chamber of commerce for her remark.)
I nearly put our car into a light pole, I was so stunned.
I asked her when this came about, and she told me that one day back in the summer, while her best friend Melissa was at our house and the two of them were watching an episode of ěSaved by the Bell,î that the two of them made a pact that after they both graduated from college, they were going to live in New York City.
Big dreams
I did my best to hide my true feelings and to show interest and support. It was one of my toughest acting assignments. My baby in New York ó that city would eat her alive. I had been to NYC probably a half dozen times and that was enough for me. A pact I had made earlier was that I never needed to go there again as long as I lived.
But then I convinced myself that sheís only in eighth grade and lots of things will happen during her upcoming four years of high school and four years of college. This will pass.
Iíll fast forward with a riddle: As I bang this out on the keyboard, where do both Casey and Melissa reside? Answer: New York City.
I soon realized that my daughter was far more organized than I had been at her age.
She had long-term goals and she worked toward them on an almost daily basis. Her first three high school years passed like a month, and it was time to decide on a college.
ěI want to go to Carolina,î she emphatically told us. (My apologies to Duke people.)
ěItís pretty tough to get into Carolina,î I told her, trying to lay the groundwork in the event she wasnít accepted.
ěI know,î she said, ěbut Carolinaís my first choice.î
While home for Christmas break, she received her ěemail of acceptanceî from UNC, and that was that. Before I knew what was going on, it was time to load her and her stuff into the car and take her to Chapel Hill. No question, one of the two toughest days of my life. I cried all the way to Greensboro on our trip back to Salisbury, prompting wife, Julie, to ask if she needed to drive. That snapped me out of my funk, at least for a while.
I moped around for about a week, then things got better, and I was able to handle her not being in and out of the house as she had for 18 years.
I naturally assumed she would come home for the summer, and things would be back as close to the way they used to be as possible. But the telephone rang one day in the spring, and she asked if she could go to London for a summer study program. As our conversation went on, I felt myself being twisted around her finger like a ballpark pretzel. The phone call ended with her mother and me giving our consent.
Study abroad
So I soon found myself taking her to the Raleigh airport to board an aircraft going over the pond for half the summer. Bad enough that she moved two hours away to Chapel Hill, depriving me of seeing her everyday, but six weeks in England? Iíd never survive, but you know what? I did.
Her being back in Chapel Hill now felt like a cake walk.
Then it was pretzel time again as she asked if she could study abroad in Northern Ireland for an entire semester her junior year. So it was back to the airport, and she was off for almost five months. But I noticed it wasnít quite as tough for me this time. Of course, I missed her, but it was finally dawning on me that she was now 21 and capable of living on her own.
And her mother and I had hoped for years that she would be ěready for the worldî when the time came.
So now graduating from Carolina was upon us, and we had been informed that it was time to keep the pact she had made eight years earlier, and she was moving to New York City.
Casey had made friends with a wonderful Colorado lass while in Northern Ireland, and guess what, she was in NYC taking some post-grad classes.
They had acquired an apartment to share together. So the week after she ěwalked the aisleî in the Dean Dome, she threw her worldly goods into a small U-Haul truck, and she drove straight through from Chapel Hill to Brooklyn.
There she was in the big city, knowing one person out of 8 million. No job, no job prospects, starting from scratch. Scary (more than I could have done at her age).
About a month later, she had a full-time job, and to make it even better, a job which fell into her UNC major (media/communication). Sheís been a production supervisor for a firm that produces television commercials for nearly three years now. A good firm, too. Itís difficult to watch an evening of network TV and not see a commercial produced by this company.
But thatís about to change.
She decided to give up her job so she can spend her time writing. She has always loved to write. And working 40-plus hours a week leaves her little time to do so. So sheís just walking away from a steady paycheck.
My only advice to her was to make sure she retained health insurance, even if she had to eat Beanie Weenies six nights a week, just to pay the premiums.
I support her decision 100 percent.
In her time in NYC, she has learned how to operate in the city, and she has made many contacts in the business. Sheíll do fine.
I know the apprehension involved in striking out in business all alone. I did it in 1988. Not having that steady paycheck every week can really change a way of life. But self-employment worked out for me for 22 years. If I can do it, I know my ěbabyî can do it.
New job
Stop the presses ó this just in to our newsroom. It turns out the freelance writing will be put on hold, as she was offered a full-time position with a company that consists of ó writing. She has been at it a short time now and loves it. Sheís doing exactly what she wants to do, and sheís getting paid to do it, too. Free medical and dental insurance as well.
I realize I have concentrated almost solely on my daughter ó my child ó and if what you just read comes off simply as a guy bragging about his kid, well, that really wasnít my purpose, because my daughter is only one example of the ěnextî generation.
I have been amazed for the last 10 years watching Casey and her friends flying half-way around the world, all alone and thinking itís no big deal. When I was their age, I often thought twice before driving a car to Charlotte.
I follow very closely the group of kids (male and female) who frequented my house during our kidsí growing-up years. These folks are spread out all over the country, working all kinds of jobs.
And with these newfangled things such as texting, tweeting and probably others I know nothing about, theyíre all in touch with one another on a daily basis, something I couldnít do with my friends at their age.
They all have their big plans and big goals, and to paraphrase UNCís Roy Williams, ěDadgum it, I bet theyíll make it.î
This next generation?
Iím not worried.
Mike Cline lives near Salisbury. His website, Mike Clineís Then Playing (mikeclinesthenplaying.com), is a history of movies shown in Rowan County from 1920 through 1979.

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