Let’s start this conversation with honesty. I am a childless, 40-year-old millennial, who is often intimidated by teenagers and have been since I was one. I probably allow myself to be swayed by the popular opinion of Generation Z, aka Gen Z or iGen. I don’t really identify with younger millennials, either. So, agreeing to theme this issue “Ocala’s Youth” and commit to writing stories from the perspective of 16- to 20-something-year-olds and trying to bond with people who work with kids was a bit like swallowing a drink wrong. There’s a moment when you’re sure you are going to choke, and then, you manage to slowly inhale, allowing your breath to return to normal.
Why am I admitting to this challenge? It’s simple: When I tell you I am impressed with these individuals, I don’t want you to think I am blowing smoke. The young men and women in this issue are astounding and driven and give me incredible hope for our future. I enjoyed every conversation, laughed out loud, and even choked up a few times. The next generation is passionate, ambitious, and hardworking, despite the trials and uncertainties that come with youth.
Parents, I tip my hat to you. It is not easy to navigate parenthood—to decide if you want to make screen time a regular part of the day, continue your education, juggle three or four jobs, homeschool or rely on public education, encourage college or a trade, and on and on. Your decisions are endless. Your kids might not know how to untangle a phone cord, but they are coming out swinging with a passion I did not experience in my graduating class of 2000.
I hope you are encouraged by the stories you read in this issue. I know I am.