Thursday, February 14, 2008

Not to Take Shots at Anyone

I heard a story that a 2o-something applied for a job at the bank I work for, and didn't take the job because they only offered them 2 weeks of paid vacation, and he wanted 4 weeks guaranteed. You know how the grapevine is around offices, so I'm sure the story has grown in proportion and stupidity over how many times it's been told. This would be much like the tales we all heard from our parents about the crap they had to deal with when they were kids, including massive snow, losing shoes, doing homework in the dark by counting rocks, etc. When my mom told me these stories, I laughed and said whatever because I was a teenager at the time and figured like any young person, I knew better than anyone. I then went to the town she grew up in, Vona, Colorado, population 40, and realized that she wasn't making a lot of this stuff up.

But it was after hearing this story that I realized that I'm now not part of the younger generation. I don't get the new popular music trends, I think most reality TV is absolute shit because it tries too hard (I like my reality TV absolutely train wreck style) to make people care about other people for some apparent reason, the clothes don't make sense, and I'm not too sure of the whole "let's get everything pierced or tatooed" approach. But I understand that many older generations say the same of their younger counterparts, so not being in on this doesn't concern me. What does is the theme of most young people that I meet in that they have expectations that everything should be available to them now, regardless of whether they work for it or deserve it.

My mom's generation worked very hard for things, but spent a great deal of time suppressing feelings and emotions because they were bad. Well, that's what it seems to be according to stories I've heard from her before she passed, but in dealing with my older relatives, they just don't seem to be in touch with their feelings or emotions but instead keep their poker face or happy face showing all the time. They fit the Baby Boomer tag if you had to label them, although I hate such tags. Some of my older cousins represent the next generation that came along, which represents the free thinking/hippie generation. Free your mind, free your soul, free your thinking, it's all about loving the earth and each other was the main mantra, but the problem you could see here was dealing with overly aggressive thinkers or the establisment. The hippies may have been free thinkers, but getting them to collectively meet up or try and change things seemed rather difficult unless it was a large party or a Grateful Dead show.

My generation came along in the corporate greed/prep generation where greed is good, labels are great, money is power, and power is good. Apparently, we forgot the rule that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and that wanting everything and feeding the greed just meant acquiring more stuff and more stress. But in dealing with the parents from boomers and hippies, most of us were either not told to deal with our feelings or do whatever your feelings tell us to do. There were remnants of the older times, as I do recall corporal punishment in schools and being spanked there a few times. Because many folks were exposed to hippies either as parents or teachers, many gen X people became free thinkers, idealists, and swore that no matter what happened, our kids wouldn't have to deal with any of the same crap we did growing up.

What this has caused this most current generation to do is have expectations that can't even begin to materialize. Parents are trying so hard to give their kids everything that they didn't have and protect them from the reality of the world, kids expect everything to be this easy. I hear stories about kids not receiving failing grades because their self esteem would be crushed, and parents suing schools to get their kids playing time on sports teams. It's no wonder that this generation has reacted like this, because parents have made it seem like this is how life works. It doesn't matter if you work hard or do what you are supposed to do, it's all about making sure that the kids get whatever they want. If you don't like something, sue somebody or bitch about it long and loud enough that it might change.

Before this seems like an essay on sour grapes here, my point behind this is simply that I think younger folks could really stand to learn some lessons about life - it's not always fair, working hard means you learn about effort and if this opportunity doesn't work there's another one coming, not everything needs to be handed to you on a silver platter, things may not make sense now but it will at some point. Why spare them the truth about life, that things don't work themselves out in a 22 minute timeframe like on TV and sometimes you can't waive your magic wand and make trouble go away. And no matter what you might hear, instant gratification only bring artificial joy. I learned a lot from not having things handed to me, and everything I have now is based on effort, hard work and taking advantage of opportunities.

But as I prepare to get married in April and have kids soon, I'm starting to understand some of the reasons why a parent may want to shield a child from the world. We live in a rather fucked up place sometimes, and there's lots of war, poverty, crime, greed, and other crud that sometimes defies explanation. You want to protect your children from this, because it's important that they feel comfortable and appreciated in life. That's great, but at some point, the world and life is going to rear it's head at them, and the sooner kids learn the truth about things, the better. I don't want to sound harsh, but honestly, is it more important to protect kids from the crap of the world or give them the tools and understanding to deal with the crap that comes up so they can handle it on their own?

I admit I'm just one person talking here, and I'm basing a lot of this on limited interactions with kids and some generalizations I've experienced. I don't want to sound like a crazy old guy telling kids to get a hair cut or get off my lawn, because I don't want to be a negative force. What I want the kids of this generation to understand is simply to live life and understand the golden rules as noted above. Life isn't fair, it may not make sense, some people may seem to be more lucky, bad stuff will happen, and there's crap going on in the world BUT life is a gift and it should be thought of that way. It doesn't matter if you become a famous person or someone that works in an office, it's important to contribute to society in the best way that you can by being the best person you can. I can't wait to be a father, because my kids will learn this plus a lot of other cool stuff...and I'll be proud of them no matter what because they'll understand what life is really all about.

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