If you are anything like me, you grew up preoccupied with your dreams, scrambling around a big city searching for answers, studying for exams “irrelevant to real life,” going to overpriced bars and restaurants, meeting guys, meeting girls, and trying to find meaning in your otherwise underwhelming life.
Then, if the pursuit of meaning weren’t working, you’d drown yourself in distractions, be it alcohol, relationships, empty sex, temporary relief in drugs, more school, or more work, until you would convince yourself you are okay.
We search far and wide for solutions. We learn the hard way that a particular relationship is eating us alive. We learn the hard way that being lazy will make us work three times harder later. If only we had chosen not to be lazy, we wouldn’t have to work ourselves to the point of exhaustion.
We learn the hard way to appreciate what we have, let go of things that are not worth it, to not let our emotions rule us, and to be careful.
We become utterly engulfed in the worries of today, drowned in our immediate situations, and we do not bother to look any further into the future. When we finally break out, we look to our friends. What do they know? Maybe they will buy us a drink, give us a hug or laugh at us for being emotional. These are all okay, but more often than not, temporary and to our disappointment, half-hearted.
What we need in our generation is a long-shot perspective, one that is aged and refined. The problem with the advice that our friends give us is that they are often naïve. We have all caught blank stares, a pat on the back or a switch to a new topic.
All in all, they mean well, but friends can’t help us in the way that we need because they are going through exactly what we are. It seems foolish, then, to think that your greatest resource is another person drowning, right there with you.
Our generation often overlooks the idea that our greatest resource is a phone call, or in my case, a taxi ride across the George Washington Bridge to mom and dad. When I was going to university in the city, I barely went home.
I don’t think this contributed to my general and frantic search for a path I could call my own, but in retrospect, I could have handled things differently and made wiser choices had I been more aware of the power of my parents’ words. “Don’t drink.” “Pay attention in class.” “You’ll pay for this later.” I should have listened.
You know how they say you learn from experience? It’s true. If experience were a person, it would be mom and dad. They not only have your likeness and maybe even your innate inclinations, but also, they have gone through the turmoil that is developing adulthood.
They are in their 40s, 50s, 60s, maybe even 70s years and that means they have many more life lessons under their belts than we. They have experienced much of the ins and outs of living, loving, learning, hurting, maturing and finding one’s self.
So, it was a surprise for me when I moved back to my parent’s house this October to listen to some of their casual, yet utterly inspiring, words, as they sat lamp-side munching on some home roasted almonds.
“Our love for you is one-sided,” they randomly told me on a crisp fall morning. “It is beyond your current capacity to understand the depth of our love and hope to protect you from anything that will hurt you.”
When I told some of my friends what my parents had said, they advocated for making mistakes, falling, and learning for myself, rather than listening to what my parents had to say.
I could agree with them, but then I thought about how much I regret being in a downward spiraling relationship for three years, how much I wish I could change my decision to spend my weekends partying until 4 am, or how much I wish I were writing the patent to that great idea I had two years ago instead of doubting myself.
If even a grain of insight from my parents could potentially make me fully realize my decisions, I would take it.To each of my three regrets, my parents commented without my even mentioning them. “We did not like that boy,” “Don’t destroy your beautiful brain with alcohol,” “Ideas are worthless without fruition,” they said, respectively.
Of course, I heard the back stories that my parents referenced, which made their discernments come to life. For our purposes, however, the important thing to note is that parents are more knowledgeable and willing than we give them credit for, and we seldom give them a chance to enlighten us.
Instead, we choose the hard routes and waste our energy and time picking up messes that might have been avoided, or at least, better handled.
I try to listen to my parents more often now, for career advice, struggles, relationships and what it means to grow up. Even if this is not what you are used to or even if you think it’s too awkward to start now, surprise yourself! In the end, blood is really thicker than water, and I believe that in this reality, unconditional love is the best foundation and the result of genuine intentions to guide you, carry you, support you - whatever you need or think you need.
If there is a challenge worthwhile, it is to lean into that kind of aged and refined wisdom. Trust me, you won’t get this kind of quality advice from your friends, unless you prefer grape juice to wine. Lean in on what your parents have to say - you are in for a pleasant surprise.
Top photo courtesy: A Bronx Tale