ear reader, please indulge me here. My son turns eighteen today and I feel that I need to leave something for him. I feel like providing him some level of wisdom as he “becomes” a man (at least in the eyes of the Missouri Lottery and the county board of elections.)
But here’s the deal, I’ve got nothing. Surely there should be some nuggets in there. My dad dropped these nuggets all of the time. “Always buy gas on Front Street.” “cigarettes are cheaper at Red X.” Stuff like that. I’m coming up dry.
Your world is so different from mine at your age. We lived through the birth of the Internet. For you, the Internet provides the air you breathe. For me, we wouldn’t have a cell phone for five years. We carried change for phone calls. You face time with your teachers on a cell phone you’ve had since you were 12. You are always on. You are forever plugged in. I can speak the same technological language as you, but already in your 18 years, you speak it more eloquently than I do in 48. So, my advice to you on your 18th birthday is to… keep a spare charger in your car? That’s not nearly as poignant and I need it to be.
I owe you a map of how to navigate how to get from where you are to where I am. Not that I’m anywhere special, other than employed, married, and with an 18-year-old. But your destination may not include any of those. I can’t point you in a direction. I can’t tell you how to do it like I did it – because the world is not the world I grew up in.
Your world is all shades of grey and in order to navigate it, you need to do what’s best for you without the benefit of having many “right” answers. Be respectful of others, but don’t feel bad about putting yourself first. Look to help the world around you, but put your mask on first before assisting the person next to you. Heck, that metaphor of what to do in a plane crash doesn’t even work anymore because, yanno, the ‘Rona.
Educate yourself on the issues around you, but, at the end of the day, follow your gut. Be generous, but also save for your future. Don’t feel bad about splurging on something but keep a few dollars back for when you need new tires.
Do you see my problem? Previous generations had “Buy War bonds” or “Ask not what your country can do for you…” I’ve got “wear your mask when you go into Hy-Vee” and “be careful driving downtown because the Trump rally might be clashing with the BLM rally.” The world, it seems, shifted while we were raising you.
Now here’s the good news: You don’t need this advice. You have all the resources you need to be a man, raise a family, and be a good person contained in you, and you have all along. You’ve seen how I act, how your mother acts, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles and your friends. You’ve been studying good people this whole time and it has clearly sunk in. You’re quick to help. You’re kind. You’ve got a good head on your shoulders.
Just remember that we are here if you get stuck. We are here to give advice, but we are pretty worthless from here on out to give you the “right” answer. Turns out that we were making it up as we went along, and the best equipped person to tell you what to do is… you.
So, I’m sorry that I can’t give you 500 words of life advice that you can tape to your wall to always provide you a true north…. Except for that spare charger thing. Happy birthday.
(Get more–or less–words of advice from Chris Kamler on Twitter where he is known as @TheFakeNed)