Stressed Out

​If you heard anything about the Grammys this year, you know there was a lot water-cooler worthy moments—Lady Gaga’s blistering performance with Metallica, Beyonce not winning Record of the Year, and Adele’s request for a “redo” on her tribute to George Michael with a cover of his “Fastlove.” All in all, there were some great highs, definite lows, and a few just outright confusing moments on Sunday night.

One of the more puzzling things for me was that Twenty One Pilots didn’t win more awards than just Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. I certainly thought they would have won for at least Record of the Year for “Stressed Out.” Perhaps you’re not familiar with Twenty One Pilots, but I’m sure you’re familiar with their ubiquitous, mainstream (possibly groundbreaking) single, “Stressed Out.” You know, the catchy song with the refrain “Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days, When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out”? Anyway, I bring up this band because of their name, Twenty One Pilots. Even if you are familiar with them, I’d wager there is a great chance you’re not familiar with the meaning of their name.

As Rolling Stone reported last year, Twenty One Pilots take its name from “an Arthur Miller play, All My Sons, that Joseph [one of the band members] was reading at Ohio State, about a war contractor who knowingly sends off faulty airplane parts to Europe during World War II, afraid that he’d lose money if he fessed up to the mistake; the decision results in the death of 21 airplane pilots.” So naming the band Twenty One Pilots is a reminder to them that making the right decision in life can take more work.

I love that.

Like I said, I bet most people don’t know that story, but what a great message! In fact, our students need to hear that message more often—and an even more important one that the right decision is not always the easiest one. We have so many comforts in our lives and so many tools and resources to make our lives easier that sometimes we need to place more emphasis on the value of hard work, that nothing is worth having without it. And our students need to hear now more than ever the importance of making the right decision; they are faced with a myriad of choices and decisions in the face of peer pressure and social media that we never had to: I don’t believe we can’t even begin to comprehend how that feels and how hard it is to grow up in an environment that compounds the difficulty of making the right decision. Our students need to hear from all of us that we support them, that we value and applaud their courage and perseverance in their efforts to make the right choices. Because as many hard decisions they face right now, they will face that many more once they leave the supportive environs of home and high school. And so it’s our responsibility to help them understand as often as possible that they will be tempted to send faulty parts, but it is their responsibility to themselves and one another to do the right thing, to recall them—as hard as that might be.

And to clear up some other confusion from the Grammys if you had heard about them appearing in their underwear: before Twenty One Pilots had made it commercially, the band was watching the Grammys one evening and noticed that they were all in their underwear. One of them commented that if they were ever to win a Grammy, they should accept it in their underwear.  Not sure if that was them recalling faulty parts or sending faulty parts, but it certainly is an example of them being true to themselves.