Monday, December 15, 2008

Powell's Birthday

Happy Birthday: I Love You

Powell turned nineteen years old on December 12th. He wasn't home for the actual day, having spent the weekend in Anne's Town with our birthmother, but when he did return to Mountain Town on December 13th we were sure to greet him with a cake. The dinner in his honor was held yesterday, on the afternoon of the 14th.

Powell's Birthday Dinner

As my brother enters his last year as a teenager, he faces important and difficult choices about the future. His first semester at Western County Community College did not go as well as he would have liked.

Carrying Out The Birthday Cake

His academic burdens have been few. For the Fall term he took only U.S. History and Math, but even in these two very basic courses he managed to fare less than satisfactorily. He failed a history test despite studying, lagged in math, and complained frequently of boredom and "hating" his courses.

"It's like a glorified high school," he said of the community college. "No one takes it seriously."

On our return from Anne's Town after Thanksgiving, his efforts, whatever they were (for he did not keep me well informed on the subject) were dealt a final blow; a telephone call from one of the school's instuctors ended with his being told that he'd missed too many classes to successfully earn Fall credits.

"Basically," he told me. "This entire semester was for nothing."

He doesn't seem to have taken this very badly, though, as he disliked college from the start and wasn't motivated to attend. I told him that he ought not to draw his conclusions on university from a single semester (pointing out that if I had let my first Fall on campus dictate my decisions I never would have gone back), but the invalidation of all his work thus far has given him the impetus he needs to dismiss community college for the time being.

He says he will never go back to Western County, and I believe him. What he will do, though, is up in the air.

He's divided between applying to an arts school and seeking admission at a technical institute, though he is strongly leaning toward the latter option. He has heard that auto mechanics do very well, sometimes taking in six figures within years of finishing their vocational training, and at present that seems attractive enough to him to justify the $20,000.00 tuition.

I worry, though.

If he does attend this trade school, there is no doubt that he will be making a wise career choice and ensuring that he possesses viable skills of great value in the workplace. He will have job security, or at least be far more likely to successfully attain employment than many college Seniors who graduate university with degrees in English, Anthropology, Philosophy, or Government (I exempt myself from that category as my Government major is redeemed by a Journalism minor).

My question is whether or not he will like what he does. Is he considering this avenue because he'd sincerely enjoy being an auto mechanic, or because he's left school and doesn't know what else to do?

He could always go back, go somewhere else, but will he? It is a time of great uncertainty for him.

Trees in Winter

Meanwhile, the holiday season provides a lull. For the next month, my brother, unemployed and out of school, can reflect on his options and try to make an intelligent choice. I hope he'll do whatever makes him happy, even if I'd prefer that happiness to come from a university setting. It's inconceivable to me that someone would not go to college, but maybe this would be good for him.

As my father non-pejoratively notes, "College isn't for everyone."

It's not that Powell isn't smart, it's just that his abilities, and, more importantly, interests, may lie elsewhere.

Right now, he's back hanging out with friends from high school who are home for the long break. Powell was very well-known at Mountain Town High, hung with a large crowd, and frequently partied. Then, in August, almost everyone else left for college towns across the state and country and he found himself largely alone.

The transition from high school to college is jarring for anyone, but I think it was a bit more difficult for him, even if he didn't show it. He's fallen back in with the old group very quickly, but at the end of January they'll be gone again. How long before they all stop hanging out during vacations? There's probably a few years left before it reaches that point (if we lived in the town where I graduated I'd be spending time with former classmates, too), but what happens when it does?

I want Powell to find something.

Beyond that, I worry in practical terms about what the next several months will entail if he can't secure a job. He's not in school, won't be going back in the New Year, and won't be able to begin technical school (if he chooses that route) until the Fall of 2009, eight months away.

Last night was festive (you can see him and Thomas below enjoying steak), but what is coming soon?

Powell and Thomas Enjoying the Birthday Dinner

As I said, there are eight months from now to next August.

My parents will go absolutely crazy if he alternates that time between going out with friends and sitting around the house. He and I inherited a medium-sized sum of money from Grand Ma Normal Family that she'd saved for our college, but his fund, once well over $10,000.00, is nearly gone.

The near future holds many things, for him and for me and for everyone.

I love him very much.

He's my brother, and as we celebrate his birthday I think of all we've experienced side by side.

I was born in 1988; he came along in 1989, and we've lived, cried, laughed, slept, bathed, potty-trained, and grown to maturity together since then.

In the early 1990's we shared a bedroom with bunk beds, mine on the top and his on the bottom. Almost every night, one of us would sneak into the other's berth, and we'd stay up for what felt like hours pretending to be Ninja Turtles or anonymous heroes who fought bank robbers and kidnappers.

When I got into middle school our mischief reached a new level of sophistication; with outlandish games (one of which, the Blanket Game, I solemnly promise to outline on this blog); wild, elaborately-constructed hypothetical stories centered on people we knew; prank phone calls; and a general spirit of troublemaking and high jinks being incorporated into our daily advenures.

I will try to write about these as they come to me.

We know more about each other than either of us knows about anyone else or vice versa. We've been known to occasionally finish each other's sentences.

Recently, I informed him that with the distance that has developed over the last few years, a distance now beginning to close, I didn't really have that much knowledge where he was concerned.

"Yes you do," he said, as if I were an idiot for suggesting anything else.

"No I don't," I said. "I know your nature, but I don't know what you do, who you hang out with, any of that."

"Oh, yeah," he said. "But you still know ME."

Our humor is built on the kind of inside jokes and shared idiosyncrasies that only two people who have spent the last eighteen years together can know.

Among these gems is an absurd accent, known merely as "the Voice," that he refuses to do in front of anyone but me. We've also been known, for the enjoyment of family members, to dance ballet or the tango (something that, when his 6'3", 210lb frame is added into the equation, can send our relations into tears).

I love my brother.

I want what's best for him, for him to have fulfillment and success.

I can't imagine what his next move will be.

Christmas Tree in Late Afternoon

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