5 Pieces of Advice Your Dad Gave You (That Are Total B.S.)
I've always been an advocate for talking with our elders because they've seen some shit and can be excellent warning devices for those of us who are willing to listen. However, there comes a point where generation gaps render certain advice useless, like "Never lend your good horse to a drunken pilgrim." But still they spout it off as if the world hasn't moved an inch since they were kids, leaving us to nod along while thinking, "What the hell are you rambling about? I wonder if he'll notice if I just get up and walk away mid-sentence. Because if not, I may have to resort to stabbing." Some of the worst offenders are ...
"Slow Down Before You Burn Yourself Out"
Why They Use It:
My peers and I work a lot of hours because we take a massive amount of pride in what we do. Because of that, there are periods where taking time off just isn't feasible. Our jobs are our lives, and there is no clocking out at 5 for us. Still, I have other friends who work two or more jobs, balancing and coordinating schedules that suck up every spare minute of every day. To a stranger looking in on us for the first time, they'd probably assume we were all cyborgs who run on diets of Red Bull and cocaine.
It's inevitable that someone is going to take notice and say, "You have to slow down and take a break. You're going to work yourself to death or into an ulcer." It's heard most frequently after we use our workload as an excuse to decline an invitation to something that they find personally important, like a birthday dinner or a family member's funeral. It's said with the best of intentions, and on some levels, they're absolutely right. Working so much that you leave little or no time for yourself can be a Hadouken crotch punch to both your body and your mind. Life isn't all about work. But ...
Or in this case, sort of an E. Honda type of attack.
We're living in a completely different atmosphere from what our parents and grandparents experienced at the same age. The older group worked through a looser economy where we still required actual humans to make products -- before technology took over and ED-209'd the shit out of the average laborer. And with the exception of the late '80s to early '90s recession, many of your parents lived in a financially solid world where high schoolers had jobs meant for high schoolers and adults had jobs meant for adults.
That simply isn't true anymore. Cashiers, gas station attendants, servers, fast food workers ... those jobs used to be dominated by teenagers because they are no-experience-necessary positions that many adults didn't want to take. There was a stigma attached that said, "If you're over 25 and working in this position, it means you're not smart enough to get a real job." Now, with the job market being like the porn star in one of those "I fucked 500 guys" videos, adults are taking whatever they can get. Young people are being pushed out, and the older workers are having to take two or three part-time positions just to make ends meet ... let alone save up for retirement.
"You just paid more for this than I have in my bank account. Have a great day!"
For many of us, slowing down simply isn't an option. For others, "slowing down" means working one shift at one job, rather than their usual two or three. That's not to mention the social idiocy of the people who call us lazy when we take time to relax, but then tell us to relax when we bust ass. Believe us, if we could build the life we deserve while still taking time to unwind, we would punch your dicks completely off for that opportunity.
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"Enjoy This Time in Your Life -- It's the Best You'll Ever Have"
Why They Use It:
You're a teenager. It's Sunday night, and you're looking around your room in a panic because you're just now realizing that you probably left your science book in your locker, and you have a test first thing in the morning. On top of that, your boyfriend has been acting like a jealous dick lately, and you're not sure if you'll even be together by prom. Your best friend thinks she might be pregnant, so you're talking out her poor life decisions with her every other hour while trying to scrape together what's left of your sanity. And just before you grab your freshly sharpened katana and start chopping the world, your dad smiles at you and says, "Calm down. It's only high school. Enjoy it, because one day you'll look back and realize that these were the best days of your life."
With a sigh, you put your sword back, if for no other reason than your dad just saw you with it and could pick you out of a lineup. He's just trying to reassure you that things aren't as bad as they could be. After all, you don't have any real responsibilities, right? It's not like you have to work and worry about bills. You don't have other humans depending on you for survival. Compared to what he does in life, you've got it easy, kid.
"See, this is why daddy drinks instead of eats."
Well, that's actually kind of the problem.
I've talked before in other articles about how adults use selective memory when recalling their teenage years, so I won't rehash it here. The overall point is that a teenager's life isn't comparable to an adult's. They're two completely different elements, so holding up the kid's and the parent's responsibilities side by side and saying that one has it easier than the other is one of the dumbest, most short-sighted things an adult can do. Feel free to spin-kick him in the throat the next time you catch someone doing that.
Let me assure you that the best time of your life is probably not going to be crammed into the 18 years that you spend living by everyone else's rules. The freedom that you obtain when you move out on your own is the first step in building up to the best time of your life. That level of control alone is pure bliss, and as you start to lock down your finances and grow as an individual, it will only get better from there. Anyone who tells you otherwise can suck a dick and a half.
Careful, grandma. You don't want to end up with dick-mouth.
But let's not forget the "enjoy it" section of that bullshit advice, because you can't make yourself enjoy something if you truly don't. If humans had that kind of emotional control, nobody would ever have a complaint again. They'd find themselves in a shitty situation and say, "Wait a minute. I know this spinal tap sucks, but what if I choose to enjoy it? Holy shit, why didn't I think of this before? I should have listened to my dad."
No, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't try to be positive when the world turns to shit. It doesn't mean you have to give in and accept that bad situations can't be made better. You should always try to better yourself and everyone around you. I'm just saying that, realistically, you can't just hit the "enjoy it" switch and ride the ensuing orgasm wave all the way to Dolphin Buddy Island. Life doesn't work that way, and trying to force it to will only end in frustration and katana wounds.
Advice That's Followed by "You'll Understand When You're My Age"
Why They Use It:
Let's talk about restraint and patience for a second. Not all that long ago, I had a hair trigger when it came to things like trolls and hecklers. I couldn't let them get the last word, because the thought of someone walking away from an argument and thinking that they'd bested me was too much for my testosterone-riddled mind to take. I had to win, the same way vampires have to project homoeroticism onto their late night snacks.
As this column grew and Cracked brought me a larger audience, more and more of those people showed up every week. For my own sanity, I was forced to learn patience and restraint. It wasn't something I chose to do -- it was something that I just got used to over time until it was no longer an issue. The only cure was time. Sometime later, I thought back to a conversation I had with my aunt about how to handle some of the assholes at school. She had said that the best way to deal with them was to completely ignore them, and that even though she knew I probably couldn't do that at my age, I'd understand when I was older. I immediately punched her lips off and went on with my life.
I went on to be one smooth-ass soccer player, baby.
Even though she knew that I wouldn't and couldn't do anything with those words, she said them because ... you never know. Maybe I'd take them on blind faith and not have to live through all that horseshit. And maybe I was the one teenage boy who could turn off that urge to fight back when a conflict popped up. I wasn't, and I only realized recently that she was totally right. I'm still not apologizing for the lips thing, though.
This is one of the rare times when the accuracy of the advice isn't important, because if it's unable to be understood by the recipient, it's worthless. It's just a collection of cryptic words, a ridiculous riddle on a treasure map that only makes sense in the third act of some badly written movie. I haven't seen The Da Vinci Code, but I'm assuming it's one of those. I should probably watch it before making that comparison, but I'm not going to.
Besides, I recently got kicked out of my movie discussion club for no reason.
Regardless, it's a cheap means of making the older person look wise by giving a warning about something you won't truly understand without another 20 years of experience. There's no way you can put any practical use behind that information because it's more for the advice giver's benefit than yours. Sadly, most of us will end up being that person, because it's a pretty cool long-haul magic trick when they finally come back to you in a couple of decades and say, "Holy shit, you were totally right about this thing!" Just make sure that, when that happens, you put on a cape and sing out, "Ta-daaaa!"
"Get Out and Have Some Fun While You're Still Young"
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?
"You Can Do Anything You Set Your Mind To"
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.
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