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Teen life: what we need are skills, not thrills

It's impossible for teens to get a summer job in the UAE - we can't just apply at McDonald's - but working would give us life skills.

I have just had a very scary revelation. I will be 18 in a month, and I am a pretty useless human being. In my almost 18 years, I haven’t actually learnt anything important at all.

I can’t cook, I have never cleaned the house, I can’t operate a washing machine, I don’t know how to make my bed properly.

At least, I know the theory, but try smoothing out one crease in the sheets and another appears on the other side of the bed, by magic. I trot to the other side to straighten it out, and voila, the original one is back. I would dust my room, but it makes me sneeze, so the dust accumulates, making me sneeze all the more. The universe is always conspiring against me.

Oh, my life hasn’t been entirely wasted, I like to reassure myself. We teenagers have grown up in an environment that’s bent on stuffing us with cultural and intellectual stimulation till we’re blue in the face. I can comment analytically on a Magritte painting. I can compare and contrast features of Baroque and Romantic era music. However, while it’s been great fun being fed bucketfuls of knowledge, there’s nothing I know that will be remotely practical in the real world.

Lucy Kellaway wrote a brilliant piece in the  Financial Times about how important people are giving inspirational commencement speeches to recent university graduates, all instructing the bewildered students to go forth and change the world.

“What Ms Huffington, Mr Obama and Mr Immelt ought to have said was: ‘Change the world if you must, but it would be nice if you could help out by changing the bag in the vacuum cleaner first’,” wrote Kellaway. My first indifferent thought, after I read that line, was that that’s hardly a talent worth my time.

The only reason my generation doesn’t bother with housework is because we’re destined for bigger things.

Ah, the brazen ignorance of youth. I went off to dig out the vacuum cleaner, and spent half an hour taking it apart looking for the plastic bag – so that I could change it – and hit myself on the nose with the handle twice. Dad finally took pity on me and told me it was a bagless vacuum cleaner.

I am also worried about money management, having never studied economics, an optional subject, at school – which is why I started reading the Financial Times to begin with.

My financial skills stretch to figuring out how many shoes I can snap up at the New Look sale, given the contents of my handbag. Mortgages, shares, stocks, bank accounts, bulls, bears – the words send a shiver up my spine.

Instead of being taught about global warming six years in a row, I wish we’d been taken into hand and had the mind-numbingly tedious basics of personal finance drilled into us.

It’s nigh impossible for teenagers to get a summer job in Dubai – we can’t just apply at the nearby McDonald’s – but working would give us some great life skills.

I bet it would improve us, somehow. There isn’t much that wouldn’t.

Lavanya Malhotra is a 17-year-old student in Dubai


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