Figuring it out

28 12 2018

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My son got his first college acceptance yesterday to the University of Pittsburgh. This was a well earned acceptance and he worked for every bit of it.

Of course, I am incredibly proud and grateful for all the factors that helped smooth out any bumps – some of them large ones – along the way to keep this part of his journey moving in such a positive direction.

Not to make this about me, but I haven’t fully processed yet the reality of not seeing him on a daily basis in 8 short months. It is the right thing, for sure – all those well written tomes about the unnaturalness of having a teenage son and his father living together ring true. It’s time for him to start this next chapter of his life and it’s time for me to take a small step toward the next chapter of mine.

That being said, I have been wrestling with this restless feeling since yesterday about this and haven’t quite figured it out – until this morning.

Don’t get me wrong – education is critically important. I would like to impress upon him that education is not confined (nor often even truly represented) by seeing your name on a diploma. I want him to go to college and really find the joy in learning about something that makes him think, debate and feel. I also want him to have those experiences that he will remember for a long time to come – good or bad as long as the bad ones are the type he can laugh about with friends twenty years ago and not the type that change his life forever.

At the same time, I want him to know that it’s ok to not know. It’s ok to be overwhelmed. It’s ok to feel lost or not quite as if you belong. It’s ok to question or to change your mind – again and again and again. I think we live in such a “milestone society” sometimes that we are overly focused on the “end game” and not the game itself. Those of lucky enough to go to college, often graduate with this expectation that “real life” has to start.

It’s all real. I mean – let me be honest – I’m not interested in having my 30 year old live in my basement. We need to work and struggle and figure things out. We need to act. But at the same time, it’s ok to allow ourselves to breathe a bit to figure things out. I am still figuring myself out. The truth is that some people may be figuring things out their whole life.

When we send our kids to college, it is often with the expectation that this is their time to “figure things out”. Yes – there probably is not a better time where you can do so without the added pressures that come along with balancing a job, family, loans etc. (not to say that elements of those don’t make themselves present during school, either). It’s just that it doesn’t have to be so black and white. You can have a job and figure things out at the same time. You can have a relationship and figure things out at the same time. You can raise a family and still figure things out as you go. In fact, how else does this really happen?

I would love for my son to go to college with the expectation that in four years, he will develop his ability to ask more questions rather than set the expectation that he has all the answers. I see this at work every day – and quite frankly, even outside of work – this propensity for always having an answer or opinion to something. What is wrong with saying “I don’t know – I need to think about it”? I know if we had more of that, we would have more valuable conversations and a lot less divisiveness.

So, my hope for him is that he enters college with the mind of the warrior entering the unknown and he exits it with the mind of the warrior entering the unknown – but with more passion and skills to figure it out.

Until next time,

Marc





Riding in Cars with Budding Adults

4 10 2016

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My 8th grade daughter was talking with me tonight in the car. It seems like the car rides are when the best conversations with my kids happen. That’s part of the reason I never really mind schlepping them from one place to another (though that’s my secret).

She asked me if, when I was in school, I ever had any friends that I thought might be gay. I said yes. I didn’t ask her why because it seemed like a pretty transparent question.

We talked a bit more about it, maybe for 5 to 10 minutes with zero uncomfortableness. I told her how different it is now than when I was in school if you are different – not necessarily easier but definitely it seems a bit more acceptable, at least where we live.

Luckily, for me, she is not a boy crazy 8th grade girl. Her friends are over the house right now as I write this playing Adele on the piano and planning a silly dance routine to videotape with their iPhones. I love that this is her experience right now and am very grateful for it.

I didn’t press our conversation any further than she wanted to take it at the time, (something I learned from first experiencing the nuances of teenage-parent relations from her older brother). However, later in the evening, I walked upstairs to her room before her friends got here and told her that I just want her to know that I don’t care who she ends up loving as long as she is happy and a good person.

It was sort of funny because she knew I would do that. She confided she had a crush on a boy a year ago or so but, to use her words, “I have no idea what I’m going to be like.” That is one of the greatest gifts a dad could hear – the freedom your own child expresses when facing her future – a moment free from the never-ending mound of expectations that accompany so many children transitioning into young adulthood.

This is something I am learning to give myself, finally, and if, decades earlier than for me, I can help make my kids think that their sense of self is not something that is given but rather is a given, then I can forgive myself most of the many, many mess-ups I make along the way.

A world of people who feel good about themselves would be a much different place than the one we live in today.

Until next time,

Marc





Youth is (not) Wasted on the Young

20 06 2015
Youth is (Not) Wasted on the Young.

Youth is (Not) Wasted on the Young.

You have probably heard the saying that “Youth is wasted on the young.” The idea is that younger people don’t know how good they have it or may take their youth for granted. I used to buy into that. Not any more.
I had an epiphany recently. I went to see a dueling piano band at Howl at the Moon in Philadelphia. They were fantastic. I love live music and the energy and talent was palatable.
When I first was there, it was not even 8 PM yet. I enjoyed listening to them play and the room was yet to be filled but represented people of different age groups – from 20s through much older. By 10 PM, the demographic noticeably changed where the room was packed with college aged kids. I have to say, that by the time they celebrated another person’s 21st birthday, I decided I did not have enough beer in me to deal anymore…that and the music selection noticeably changed.
It is important to know when to leave and by 10:30, it was time. I am not 21 and there is a difference. That being said, watching so many young people raising arms in the air while spilling drinks on each other, smiling, dancing – you get the picture – did make me reflect. When does this type of fun stop for the rest of us? Why does acting stupid and enjoying friends with song, dance and an adult beverage every now and then often get relegated to the wedding or Bar Mitzvah ceremony?
I don’t think youth is wasted on the young at all. I think those guys know exactly how good they have it. That’s why they are celebrating so much. Inherently, all they have to do is look around at their parents, their bosses, teachers – basically anyone born before 1990 and see how their lives are most likely to turn out. Carpe Diem is their mantra. Youth is not wasted on the young – it is ignored by the rest of us.
I say “it” and not “they” because I am really referring to the state of youthfulness. To me, the distinction between being youthful and “acting your age” is the same distinction between being confident but “not being arrogant or cocky”. It is subtle but distinct nuance.
I am not convinced that people really get that, particularly in our good vs. evil society that is referenced on Facebook, Fox News, CNN, etc. Admittedly, I think I struggled with this distinction for a long time. It was why I kept my hair short, my comedy relegated to a notebook never to leave my pocket, my music hidden in an iPhone app and my voice suppressed with the exception of a few friends.
Youthfulness is about expression and exploration and there is no reason at all that this needs to stop once someone enters “the real world.”. How does someone even experience the real world without expression or exploration? I think these two things are part and parcel of innovation, learning valuable lessons and living. It is really about ignoring fear. Exploring new things and expressing oneself are very vulnerable things to do. They often lead to embarrassment, failure and things that are not as acceptable as you grow older. But it is incredibly exciting at the same time. Maybe that is why some people say “life is a roller coaster” – it is scary but a thrill.
It is not a coincidence that so many successful artists and entrepreneurs are so damn young. They’re not smarter than people twice their age. They are just more fearless. They have chosen not to make excuses for their passions or their approach regardless of what people think.
We could do so much more if we didn’t think of youth as an age demographic and rather as a state of mind. I am hopeful. Now if we can get the rest of society to catch up, we could really do something.
Until next time,
Marc
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