#2. "Get Out and Have Some Fun While You're Still Young"
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Why They Use It:
You finally have some time to sit around and do nothing. School is out for the summer, and you cashed in those two weeks of vacation that you've been saving at your job for exactly this moment. You put on your shittiest, most comfortable sweatpants, put a cooler of Red Bull beside the computer desk, and dive into a 36-hour marathon of Diablo III while rewatching Battlestar Galactica from scratch. As far as you're concerned, the whole world can put its tongue directly in your asshole.
A week into your slackerfest, your mom comes in and says in a worried tone, "How long are you going to sit at that computer? You really need to get up and do something. You're withering away in here. Go out and have some fun while you're still young enough to do it. There's a whole world of people you're missing out on."
WELCOME, FELLOW HUMAN!
You can't really blame her for bringing it up. She's concerned, and it's certainly not healthy to sit around day after day. At its heart, it's pretty sound advice. But ...
Here's where the generation gap turns into a generation canyon. By the time the Internet was common and mostly functioning, I was already a parent. I'm in this weird middle ground where I live most of my life on it, but I certainly remember what life was like before it existed. Back then, if you were an indoor kid, you either watched TV or played Nintendo. Every other form of entertainment, including socializing, was done outside the house.
That's what the advice giver is remembering in this example. They're stuck in the frame of mind that if you're not outside, you're not socializing. Even if you try to explain that you've talked to 10 times more people online than they did in the "real world" today, they tend to blow it off by thinking of those people as "not real." They think that if it's not face to face, it's not a genuine social interaction -- and that's just plain wrong.
"So ... I hear you have interests?"
Yes, it's a good idea to get up and exercise. Yes, it's good to speak to other humans in person. Yes, it's good to get some sunlight. But the days where socializing required you to leave your house are over.
As far as insinuating that you can't go out and have fun when you're older? That's flat-out wrong. There is no magical age where you lose the ability to leave the house or forget how to let loose. You may not feel like doing those things when you get to be their age, but that boils down to choice. I personally choose to be a homebody, but that has nothing to do with my age. It has more to do with my desire to hang out with scantily clad cartoon elves than other humans. Can you really blame a dude for that?
#1. "You Can Do Anything You Set Your Mind To"
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Why They Use It:
It's pretty obvious why people give this advice, isn't it? You want kids to keep trying, no matter what. You have to teach them perseverance, drive, and work ethics -- that anything worth having is worth fighting for. Anyone who tells a kid otherwise is a cruel piece of shit and deserves to be spanked with a limp cactus.
Hold the cactus for just a few minutes, because I actually do have a problem with this one. I think it sends false hope. We've set up this weird environment that refuses to teach kids how to handle failure. That's really bizarre to me, because failure is an extremely common, normal part of life. It's the foundation that learning and growing is built upon. The most successful people I know are the ones who embraced it as a teaching device and altered their plans and goals accordingly.
Damn you, John Travolta, for steering me wrong.
I think it's smart and necessary to teach kids that they should always strive to achieve their goals, but, realistically, there are limits to what we can do as individuals. The insanely hard trick is being able to recognize which of those we can overcome and which of those are true limitations. Let's face it: There are people out there who desperately want to be astronauts but aren't physically or mentally cut out for it, no matter how much training they undergo. Plenty of people want to be lawyers, but I can't imagine how much it would suck to realize after $100,000 worth of school that I can't win a case to save my own ass and now have to completely overhaul my career.
Am I going to tell my own kids that they can't be whatever they want? Hell no. But I'm absolutely teaching them to always have a backup plan that doesn't involve a pole and a thong full of dollar bills. I'm also teaching them that if they do happen to fail, it's not the end of the world. Learn from it, correct the mistakes, and try again. But if one of them finds himself living with me at age 30, still shooting for that big break in his techno grunge retro fusion band, it might be time to consider that this wasn't the career for him. At that point, I'll probably just let him borrow my thong until he finds his true calling in life.